Bob Vila's 10 November "Must Do" Projects

For many homeowners, November marks the beginning of a season filled with friendly house guests, crazed holiday cooking, and cozy nights retreating to the comfort of the indoors. It's also the last chance for cold-region dwellers to finish any last-minute outdoor maintenance and garden projects. Get ready for whatever this month holds by taking on my "must do" projects.

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  1. Repair Concrete Cracks


    Cracks in concrete patios and walkways can occur when the ground below shifts. Not only is the result unsightly, but it can lead to chip outs and crumbling concrete. It's important to repair such cracks before winter, when frozen water can get inside, expand, and make things worse. To fix the concrete, take a chisel to the crack and break away any loose debris. Clean the area, then apply a concrete repair mix, following the manufacturer's instructions. 

    Related: 7 Fall Fix Ups to Do for a Winter-Ready Home

  2. Prune Trees After Leaves Fall


    Many gardeners recommend waiting until late fall or early spring to prune trees, as doing so during early fall can stimulate new growth as plants go dormant, which leads to problems down the line. Once the leaves on the trees have dropped, it's time to prune overgrown or damaged branches. Make sure to check the forecast before you trim and choose a clear day; wet conditions put plants at greater risk of fungal diseases.

    Related: Winterize Your Lawn and Garden in 7 Steps

  3. Install a Programmable Thermostat


    When used with a little planning, a programmable thermostat can help you shave dollars off of your winter heating bill. Set the smart thermostat to lower the temperature automatically when no one is home or when the house is asleep, like during the work day or at bedtime. You can also program it to turn up the heat as your morning alarm goes off or before your car pulls into the driveway. Lowering the temperature at key points throughout the day helps cut costs—and by using a programmable thermostat, you eliminate the annoying task of having to manually change it yourself.

    Related: 7 Things to Do Right Now for a Warmer Winter

  4. Check Attic Insulation


    Attic insulation is your home's first line of defense against drafts and inefficiency. Without proper insulation, up to 25% of the heat you pump into your home will escape through the roof. When choosing insulation material, consider the age of your home, and the region in which you live. Energy Star recommends a different R-value (that's a measure of how well insulation keeps out the cold) depending on the harshness of your winters.

    Related: Slash Your Electric Bill with 11 Savvy Hacks

  5. Ensure Fire Safety in the Kitchen


    Americans are getting ready to put their ovens and stovetops to the test this month. Here's an important consideration for your holiday prep: More cooking fires occur on Thanksgiving than on any other day of the year. Make sure you're ready for whatever comes your way by adding a fire extinguisher to the kitchen, and letting the cooks know where it's kept. Also check the pressure of existing fire extinguishers, and replace any old or damaged units.

    Related: 9 Ways to Boost Your Fire Preparedness

  6. Hang the Lights


    There's some debate over the correct time to hang the Christmas lights. That said, traditionally Thanksgiving weekend marks the time when many Americans flip the switch. There's one simple benefit to hanging lights in November: Warmer weather makes the job more comfortable. Whenever you choose to decorate, check all cords for fraying, and dispose of any damaged strings. Plug in the lights to ground fault circuit interrupter outlets to reduce the risk of electrical fires, and turn off the decorations before you go to sleep.

    Related: Bob Vila’s 8 Tips for Hanging Holiday Lights

  7. Clean the Dryer Vent


    Over time your dryer vent and hose accumulates lint and debris, reducing airflow. This results in longer drying times, lower efficiency, and sometimes even a fire or carbon monoxide poisoning. To prevent this from happening, it's crucial to check the dryer vent each year. While there are do-it-yourself kits and attachments on the market to remove lint buildup, the job is harder than it may seem. Some homeowners end up compacting the lint instead of removing it, which can make the problem even worse. For that reason, it's best to call in a professional for this job. 

    Related: The Dirty Dozen - 12 Places You Probably Never Clean But Definitely Should

  8. Seal the Drafts


    As temperatures drop, drafts in windows and doors can make your home feel cold and unwelcome. It's no boon to household efficiency, either. When heat escapes from windows and doors, it means you pay more to heat your home. Give yourself a leg up on winter by sealing drafts, cracks, and holes with weatherstripping, caulk, or spray foam to prevent the chill from harming your house.

    Related: Drafty Windows? Solutions for Every Budget

  9. Prep Pipes for Winter


    When exposed to extreme temperatures, under-insulated pipes—especially those that run along an exterior wall or an unheated garage—can freeze and cause major problems. To protect pipes, first ensure that your walls are adequately insulated, and consider wrapping specialized heating tape around particularly vulnerable areas, such as water pipes that run along exterior walls. Heating tape can be plugged into an outlet, which will heat the water in your pipes to prevent freezing and bursting. Avoid installing heating tape inside walls, ceiling, or floors, where it can pose a fire hazard.

    Related: 7 Ways to Avoid Winter's Worst Home Disaster

  10. Paint the Fireplace


    Although ignored during the warmer months, the fireplace becomes the heart of the home throughout fall and winter. Consider upgrading a brick fireplace with a simple paint job. First wash the bricks with soapy water and a scrub brush. Then use masonry primer to cover the entire surface. After the primer has dried, apply a coat of acrylic paint in the color of your choice and enjoy fireside fun all season long. 

    Related: 7 Mistakes Not to Make With Your Fireplace

    Zillow Digs home in Palm Beach, FL

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