Bob Vila’s 10 “Must Do” Projects for October
This month brings colorful leaves, cool breezes, and Halloween trick-or-treaters. It's also the perfect time to finish outdoor maintenance, brush up on your fire safety knowledge, and winterize your lawn before the cold temperatures really set in.
Brrrr! Most of us are past the point at which we can spend all day puttering around outside, taking care of lawn and garden tasks. For that reason, most of our must-do projects for this month are indoors and focus on getting the house (and your family) ready for winter. DIY tasks like caulking, fireplace maintenance, and insulating the attic are all about keeping you warm, and lowering your utility bills. Because October is also Fire Safety Month, we certainly can’t neglect the smoke detectors this month.
1. Patch Concrete
Cracks, chips, and crumbling sections of concrete driveways, walkways, and porches will worsen over the winter, and when that happens fixing the damage will cost you. Make repairs now before the weather takes a turn and you’ll save time and money. To fix cracks in concrete, first remove loose debris, then apply your repair material with a trowel or float and let the mixture cure. Our researched guide to the best concrete crack fillers will help you select the right product for your project.
2. Insulate the Attic
While temperatures drop outside, you can still stay warm and keep your energy bills low with proper insulation. Attics are one of the biggest culprits when it comes to winter energy loss, so prepare yours for winter by installing loose fill or batt attic insulation before the cold weather hits.
3. Redo the Mudroom
October means it’s time to pull out the boots and heavy jackets, but you’d better have a place to store your wet and muddy outdoor apparel. If you have a mudroom, update it with a fresh coat of paint or an added storage bench. Those without mudrooms could place a boot rack in the entryway and clean out the hall closet to make room for the coats. Cold-weather dwellers with ample space should consider investing in a boot dryer, like Peet’s 4-shoe electric shoe and boot dryer, an upgrade you’ll be especially grateful for come January and February.
4. Winterize the Lawn
If you tend to your lawn now before it goes dormant for the winter, it will grow back better than ever come spring. Spread a thin layer of fertilizer—too much will burn the grass—and fill in thin patches with “cool season” grass seed. Also be sure to aerate your lawn to prevent thatch build up and keep air, moisture, and nutrients flowing to your lawn’s roots. The Yard Butler manual coring aerator, one of the top picks from our editors’ hands-on tests of the best lawn aerators, can help you get the job done without spending a bundle.
5. Reverse Your Ceiling Fans
Heat rises, which is why it’s a good idea to change the direction of your ceiling fan in the fall. You want it to turn clockwise now, thereby pushing hot air down and helping it circulate throughout the room. This change is easy to make on newer ceiling fans, which usually have a switch that reverses the blade direction.
6. Clean Your Carpets
Carpeting can harbor a lot of dirt, dust, and even mold. As you seal up your house for winter, make sure you’re retreating to a clean environment. Give your carpets and rugs a deep steam cleaning, or hire a professional to do so. If your carpets are beyond repair, you might want to replace them—or consider installing hardwood or vinyl floors.
7. Seal the House
It takes more energy, and more money, to heat a drafty house. That’s why it pays to address drafts before you even switch on the furnace. Inspect window frames and door jambs, both inside and out, for holes, cracks, or crumbling caulk. Install weatherstripping to fill gaps in door frames and windows, and apply fresh exterior caulk where needed to seal up your home. In a few months’ time, you’ll be glad you took the time to keep whistling winter winds at bay.
8. Check the Detectors
October is National Fire Prevention Month, so take the time to review your home safety plan. Do you have smoke detectors installed in every bedroom, and outside sleeping areas? How about in the basement? Install additional smoke detectors if needed, and then make sure they’re always fully powered by checking batteries monthly. (Of course, you’ll also want fire extinguishers at the ready on every floor of the house.)
9. Prep the Fireplace
Chances are pretty good that your fireplace wasn’t used much during the summer, so give it a thorough maintenance checkup before you light the season’s first fire. First, visually assess the chimney from the outside—chips, cracks, or corrosion are signs that you’ll need to call a repairman. Inside, check the flue for soot buildup, and ensure the damper closes and opens with ease. If ash and creosote are present, cleaning the fireplace will ensure that your fire burns safely.
10. Pick Out a Pumpkin
With Halloween on the horizon, pumpkins are everywhere, maybe even in your backyard garden. Whether you paint them, carve them, or leave them au naturel, they’re a sure sign of fall when placed on your doorstep. Power tool fans can make a jack-o’-lantern in no time with a Dremel cordless rotary tool and the Dremel 191 carving bit and the 194 carving bit. (See Dremel’s website for carving instructions.)