If you see winter as a time for staying indoors and celebrating the holidays, then the fall season is a perfect time to get started on the home improvement projects that will help you enjoy your winter festivities.
In fact, if you wait until winter to start your renovation project, you may run into some serious roadblocks, says George “Geep” Moore, a contractor and chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Remodelers.
“Particularly in areas with ice and snow, you want to get your [renovation] materials delivered and stored early in the season, because once the weather turns bad, it could make it tough or impossible to get them,” he says.
So before Old Man Winter comes to your town, you might want to consider the following home improvement projects.
Fall Project #1 – Roof Repair or Replacement
Let’s face it, there’s nothing that kills the holiday spirit quicker than the drip, drip, drip of a leaky roof. And the last thing you want is Santa and his reindeer (or a snow pack) falling through the roof. So, before the heavy winter weather comes pouring down, you might want to think about a fall roof job.
Moore says the fall timing couldn’t be better. “For one thing, the heat of summer is gone and it’s a whole lot easier on the guys doing the work. Roofs can get incredibly hot in summer,” he says. Moore adds that extreme heat could also increase the time frame of the project, as workers’ pace may be affected by the heat.
As for a winter roof project, it’s doable – but potentially difficult. More says that roofs can be repaired or replaced in winter, but in most parts of the country, the weather is simply not conducive to it. And if your roof is leaking or not up to holding the weight of snow, roof replacement or repair could be dangerous, he says.
“For those reasons, fall is a good time to do roofing projects,” he says.
Fall Project #2 – Flooring
There’s nothing like new flooring to bring a room or home to life. Whether it’s new wood, carpet, or even tile, your winters will likely seem a bit cozier with a fresh floor. And fall might be the perfect time to install it.
Here’s why: “Some types of flooring adhesives need the temperature of the house to be between 75 and 80 degrees. It’s for that glue to adhere properly,” says Moore. “Cold air can be a little more damp and can stop the glue from drying properly, so you could have a bonding problem.”
This means that the cold winter months might not be the best time to install flooring, depending on where you live.
And even if you have central heating, the risk of any cold air coming into your home is still something to consider.
“You wouldn’t want to be opening and closing your door in winter if you live in a very cold climate. That could let in a lot of cold air,” says Moore.
So, unless you want the sound of loose tiles or other type of flooring to accompany your holiday tunes, you might want to give a contractor a call and get started on this project during the fall.
Fall Project #3 – Window Replacement
Can you imagine having rain, snow, or hail pouring into your home through a series of large holes in your walls? Probably not. So, if you want new windows for your holiday season, now – while the weather is mild – might be the time to get on it.
In fact, according to Moore, fall is a lot easier than winter to do window installation.
“You can replace windows in winter, but you may have to control the elements,” he says. “By that I mean building a temporary wall, so to speak, with poles and polyethylene to keep the walls and interior protected.”
And that’s not all. “Then you might have to build a small frame on the outside as a shield from the elements to be able to work,” adds Moore. “As you get further and further north, where it gets colder, it’s going to be tougher.”
If you want to avoid this trouble, calling a contractor and planning your window replacement(s) during the fall might be smarter. It can also protect you from potential damage to your home’s interior in the event that rain or snow gets blasted inside, says Moore.
And we don’t know about you, but being showered with rain or snow, while inside your home, doesn’t exactly sound like holiday fun. Well, maybe a little.
Fall Project #4 – Heating Systems Check
If there’s one thing you want your home to be in winter, it’s warm and cozy. And a key ingredient to being warm and cozy is heat – as in hot water and warm air. So before the chilly weather comes wandering in, it’s important to make sure these things are in good working order, says Moore.
Let’s start with the water heater. “You want your water heater completely protected from the elements. They can be put in the attic, or further north, in the basement. You also want the water pipes completely protected and insulated from the cold,” says Moore.
Next thing to take care of? Your heating unit. “Every fall you should fire up your heater to make sure it’s in working order,” says Moore. “Check the filters, the gas flow, and the flame. Make sure you have a proper flame, with the right amount of gas and oxygen.”
If you aren’t sure how to do this, call a pro. Often, you can get a yearly contract for this service, Moore says. “With a service contract, if they do have to replace or repair any parts, you usually get a break on the rate. And it doesn’t cost near as much to make a repair during a service call as it does if it breaks down in winter,” he says.
And really, isn’t the holiday season filled with enough extra costs?
Fall Project #5 – Concrete and Mortar
Have you been meaning to pour a new concrete patio or driveway or build a new fireplace, but haven’t quite gotten around to it? Well, you might want to take advantage of the fall weather, otherwise the cold dampness of winter may make these projects more difficult, says Moore.
“We use the rule of thumb that we want [the weather] to be 40 degrees and rising. If it’s not 40 degrees, including at night, we don’t pour concrete,” says Moore. “It’s due to the fact that there’s moisture in the concrete and it can freeze.” And if it freezes, it won’t set properly.
The cold air also doesn’t play nice with brick work that uses mortar.
In fact, when it comes to anything that uses a water solution with mortar, the colder it is, the slower it’s going to set up, explains Moore. He adds that “the damp cold air won’t hold much more moisture, so the moisture just won’t leave the concrete to let it set up.”
Fall Project #6 – Painting
There’s nothing like a fresh coat of paint to bring a fresh new feeling to your home. Whether it’s inside or out, new paint can really make for a warm and fuzzy holiday season.
But what doesn’t go down well with the holiday meal is a side of paint fumes or dripping walls. And those are just two reasons you may want to get on this project in the fall – especially if you live in a part of the country where the temperature drops dramatically, day or night, says Moore.
“Most paint products will want the temperature to be between 70 and 90 degrees to dry properly,” says Moore. And while you can control the inside temperature, Moore warns that if a lot of cold air comes in through the doorways or windows, it could adversely affect the paint job.
The real concern, of course, is exterior paint. “You probably want above 40 degrees, not dropping below 40 at night. There are some paints that are made for that, but most of the paints we use today are latex or acrylic and are temperature sensitive,” says Moore. The problem arises, he adds, when the paint freezes, and as a result does not dry properly.