Bob Vila’s 5 “Must-Do” October Projects
Make the most of these beautiful, brisk October days by getting your home and garden ready for the coming winter—and tackling a few fun weekend projects while you're at it.
October is a month filled with simple pleasures: cooler temperatures, yard sales, leaf-peeping, apple-picking, and every kid’s favorite holiday, Halloween. But it’s also the time to tackle some fall home maintenance to make sure you—and your home—are prepared for the months ahead.
1. READY YOUR HOME FOR WINTER
While the weather is still pleasant, check the foundation for cracks, and caulk around the areas where masonry meets siding, where pipes or wires enter the house, and around the windows and door frames to prevent heat from escaping (and humidity and moisture from entering). Next, take a look at the roof. Check for any loose, curled, or missing shingles, because ice, rain, snow, and wind, as well as rapidly changing temperatures and humidity, will only make problems worse. And while you’re checking your roof, be sure to clean out the gutters and downspouts. Flush them with water, inspect joints, and tighten brackets if necessary. Remember: Clogged gutters are one of the major causes of ice dams. Lastly, check for any signs of peeling, missing, or blistering paint. Left uncorrected, peeling paint will cause the siding itself to deteriorate, leading to expensive repairs come spring.
Related: 10 Fall Home Maintenance Musts
Inside, it’s important to do everything you can to make certain that your home is weathertight and that your furnace is operating at peak performance, particularly because the cost of heating accounts for nearly 50 percent of your home’s energy costs. Sealing drafts around windows and doors, and installing sufficient insulation—particularly in the attic—are two economical ways to keep your indoor temperatures and energy costs in line. Having your heating system checked by a licensed contractor is a smart fall habit, too. Heating systems, no matter the fuel, will work more efficiently, last longer, and have fewer problems if properly serviced. At the very least, make certain to clean or replace filters.
This is also a good time to seal your driveway, give your outdoor deck and patio some TLC, and prepare your yard equipment for winter storage. Click here for a complete Fall Home Maintenance Checklist.
2. KEEP ON GARDENING
Although summer blooms have faded, there’s no reason not to have color throughout the fall. If you’re looking to plant something now, there are several options, from pansies and mums to kale and ornamental grasses. Check with your local garden center or nursery to see which varieties are best for your region. If you have a cool-season grass, an application of slow-release organic fertilizer now will provide your lawn with the strength it needs to make it through winter. Yes, the weather has cooled and your grass is no longer suffering in the same way it did over the summer, but it still needs a good drink weekly to keep it moist. Keep mowing as well, but lower the mowing height a bit—to about 2 inches—so you are cutting the blades a little shorter than usual. Do so until you’ve noticed growth has stopped and the lawn has reached dormancy.
3. TACKLE A WEEKEND PROJECT
Although some projects require a certain level of skill and expertise, there are many that do not. If you have basic skills, some tool know-how, and the ability to follow instructions, there are plenty of things you can do to improve both the look and comfort of your home this weekend. Whether it’s easy ways to boost your home’s curb appeal, or simple ways to transform a piece of furniture, build a bookcase, enhance a hall or entryway, or create clever kid’s room storage—you’ll find it all at Weekend DIY Projects. Be sure to check back every Friday, when new projects are published.
Related: Pumpkin Carving 101
4. CELEBRATE HALLOWEEN
Whether you carve, drill, etch, stencil or paint your pumpkin this Halloween, be sure to have fun experimenting with different concepts and techniques—and make it a family affair. Pumpkin carving can be a great way to familiarize kids with basic tools and safety. Of course, there is more to the holiday than pumpkins, so put your DIY skills to good use decorating the house and yard with some ghoulish creations, from fake tombstones and gauzy spider webs to sheet-draped ghosts. Or, maybe just a scarecrow!
5. BE FIRE-SAFE
October is Fire Safety Month, so this is the perfect time to make sure your home—and family—are safe. New homes are now required to be constructed with an interconnected alarm system, but with Kidde’s radio-connected alarm, owners of homes built before 1993 can enjoy the same safety benefits. And smoke detectors are essential. Regardless of whether they are hardwired, interconnected, or battery-powered, you should have smoke detectors on every level of your home, particularly in the kitchen, in hallways near bedrooms, and the basement. Purchasing a fire extinguisher is one of the best investments a homeowner can make. Should you ever need to use it, just remember the acronym PASS: Pull the pin to release the handle; Aim the extinguisher at the base of the fire; Squeeze the trigger; and Sweep the discharge stream at the base of the fire. For more, consider 9 Ways to Boost Your Fire Preparedness.