Bob Vila’s 10 “Must Do” Projects for December

Our top priorities this month: Winterization, end-of-year organizing, and prepping for holiday festivities and guests. Tick these tasks off this month’s list, but don’t forget to spare some time for friends and family.
happy young people at front door holding presents Photo:

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December is all about friends, family, and food (there, we said it!), which is why this month’s tasks focus on keeping your home and its occupants safe, warm, and happy. Begin with some basic furnace and pipe maintenance to ensure that heat and hot water won’t fail. Then, tackle some kitchen cleaning and home safety to-dos in preparation for an onslaught of guests, whether they’re staying for a week or just for dinner. Though your impulse might be to rush, rush, rush to get everything done, be sure to slow down and enjoy simple holiday pleasures with your loved ones.

1. DIY Your Own Decorations

iStock-1188783652 must dos December making felt christmas ornaments

Here’s a family-friendly—and budget-friendly—DIY project: Gather around the table to make your own holiday decorations. It’s a wonderful way to spend time together, and you can save money by making your own ornaments from repurposed materials, backyard branches, or outdated decorations in need of new life.

RELATED: When Do You Put Up and Take Down Christmas Decorations?

2. Hang Holiday Lights

iStock-615632932 must dos December couple hanging holiday lights outside

If your house isn’t twinkling with bright holiday lights just yet, make sure to install them safely when you do. Work with a partner if possible, or use an extension pole to reach to the roof and keep your feet planted on the ground. Remember to plug outdoor lights into circuits protected by ground-fault interrupters (GFCIs) for electrical safety. Looking to purchase some lights for your home’s exterior? See our recommendations in our researched guide to the best outdoor Christmas lights.

RELATED: How to Hang Christmas Lights Outside

3. Protect Your Home from Burglars

iStock-1212406152 must dos December man checking smart security camera

There’s a slight uptick in home burglaries around the holidays, so take precautions if you plan to travel. Call the post office to hold your mail, and ask a neighbor or friend to park in your driveway or even shovel your walk while you’re away. Or install one of many high-tech security gadgets now on the market to monitor your home while you’re out of town.

RELATED: Here’s What to Do if Your Amazon Package Is Stolen

4. Change the Furnace Filter

iStock-1308363658 must dos December changing furnace filter

This monthly chore takes mere minutes, but changing the furnace filter is one of the most important things you can do for your own comfort and the life of your furnace. Set a reminder on your calendar or phone, or change the filter when the electricity bill arrives each month. Want to set and forget your furnace filter deliveries? Our guide to the best furnace filter subscription services will steer you in the right direction.

RELATED: Buyer’s Guide: The Best Furnace Filters

5. Deodorize Your Home

iStock-1338702572 must dos December woman and son setting up air filter

Many families have guests on the way this month, so it’s important to keep your home smelling fresh. Replace baking soda in the fridge or freezer, decorate with fragrant evergreen branches, or invest in an air purifier with a HEPA filter to remove impurities, like mold and dust, from the air.

RELATED: Buyer’s Guide: The Best Air Purifiers We Tested This Year

6. Protect Your Pipes

iStock-182775294 must dos December insulating copper pipes

In colder regions, frozen pipes are one of the biggest and most expensive winter disasters. Take the following precautions to keep yours from freezing and subsequently bursting. First, ensure that exterior walls and garages that house water pipes are properly insulated. If your home is at high risk of frozen pipes, you might keep thermostats set at the same temperature, day and night. Finally, consider installing heating tape on the roof and in gutters with a timer to turn off automatically when not in use.

RELATED: Solved! Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Frozen Pipes?

7. Deep Clean the Kitchen

iStock-1142449586 must dos December deep cleaning fridge

Thanksgiving dinner has probably left its mark on your kitchen: in the oven, microwave, toaster, and refrigerator, that is. Now is a great time to give your appliances a deep clean. Not only will they look better, but they’ll work better, too. Don’t forget to clean dusty refrigerator coils to improve your energy efficiency and lower your utility bill.

RELATED: How to Clean Every Appliance in Your Home

8. Check for Tax Credits

iStock-1354077707 must dos December man doing finances

Every year, there are a variety of tax credits and deductions that homeowners can take advantage of for a bigger refund come spring. Make sure that you get what is coming to you before the year is out: Donate unused goods, for instance, and check the IRS list of credits and deductions for individuals.

RELATED: How to Turn Donated Goods Into a Bigger Tax Refund

9. Add Interior Trim

Young man uses nail gun to install crown molding in home.

Crown molding and wainscoting add a timeless quality to any room. If your living room, dining room, or bedroom needs a change, consider installing trim along the ceiling and floor, and around the windows and doors. This relatively quick project is easy to DIY and gets you a lot of bang for your buck. In the bathroom, you might even go the extra mile by adding trendy beadboard along the lower half of the wall.

RELATED: How to Install Beadboard

10. Finish the Basement

iStock-483546981 must dos December finished basement

Although winter keeps most people indoors, few homeowners spend much time in an unfinished basement. Improving a basement is a popular project for December, when it can be completed with little interference with day-to-day life. In less than a month’s time, you can assemble a room you’d love to really spend time in year-round.