Easy Home Projects for the New Year

The new year has just begun and everyone is trying to recover from the holidays. Your home has probably seen some wear and tear since its fall tuneup, especially if you had a lot of guests for the holidays. You might even have some easy home projects on your list of New Years resolutions — after all, 58% of homeowners intend to spend contractor funding on homebuilding and improvement projects this year.

You may not want anything as elaborate as a home addition or kitchen remodel, but easy home projects can still be a lot of work. You may be unsure where to focus your time and money first. To help you out with that, here’s a list of the most important easy home projects for the beginning of the year.

From windows and doors inspection to fire protection, these easy home projects will keep you prepared for the rest of winter and the arrival of spring.

Clean Your Furnace Air Filter

Cleaning out your furnace filter is a critical task to complete at least once every month. Cleaning the filter removes dust buildup and residue from vapor and air particles that get stuck as air passes through the furnace system. By getting this buildup out of the way, your furnace has an easier time circulating the air in your home, which makes it easier to maintain the right temperature. It also results in decreased energy bills, which can be quite helpful after the holiday season. It’s a good idea to vacuum out heat registers and air vents for the same reason.

Check on Your Home’s Plumbing Systems

You may not need any immediate plumbing repair, but there are quite a few things that may need to be done for your home’s plumbing. If you use a water softener or conditioner, you should inspect this and see if it needs any salt added. Inspect the aerators on your faucets and shower heads and remove any mineral deposits that may have built up there. Finally, check on the drains in your tubs, shower stalls, and sinks and make sure they’re running freely; use chemicals or boiling water to unclog these if necessary.

Double-Check Your Home’s Fire Protection and Safety

Some more easy home projects to perform regularly are inspecting your home’s safety against fire and other hazards. Ground-fault circuit interrupters, carbon monoxide detectors, and smoke alarms should all be tested to ensure they’re in good working order. While you’re at it, make sure you have the appropriate types and number of fire extinguishers, and ensure they’re unexpired and ready where you might need them.

Clean Out the Garbage Disposal

After Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day, you probably have a lot of buildup leftover from ground-up food waste in your garbage disposal. To clean this out, run a generous amount of ice cubes through it to scrape that residue off the grinding system. Then flush it out with a mixture of boiling water and baking soda, similar to how you’d clear out a clogged sink drain.

Restore Any Wood Flooring

wood flooringWood floors are probably more versatile and warm than any other flooring style. However, with intense wear they can start to become faded and worn. This is especially a problem after all that holiday foot traffic. To restore your floor’s natural shine, polish it using a cleaning and polishing product made specifically for the kind of wood you’re working with. Your floors should be polished at least once every year, although every six months is better.

Check on Your Pool

You probably finished closing your pool before winter arrived, but some basic pool maintenance could still be in order. Check on yours by giving it a quick inspection, sometime when the weather isn’t too harsh. Clear any debris off of your pool cover, and double-check to make sure it’s still properly fitted. While you’re at it, consider adding a long-lasting mid-winter algaecide, or some enzyme chemicals to break down non-living organic contamination.

Cover Your Air Conditioning Unit

This should be something you get done in the fall or the start of winter, but if you haven’t done it yet, it’s not too late. Clear any snow, leaves, or debris off and out of your air conditioning unit. Then install a plastic cover on it to protect it from the elements until next spring.

Check Your Basement for Leaks

Winter is the perfect time of year to discover recent or unnoticed leaks in your basement walls. After a heavy snowfall when it’s just started to melt, go downstairs and look around for water collecting on or in the walls, corners, cracks, and floors. Continue checking back every now and then until the snow has completely melted. If you didn’t find any leaks, you’re probably good to go for another year. If you did, you’ll want to get in touch with a basement repair company before too much longer to get professional advice.

Inspect Your Roof and Rainwater System

Roof replacementroof replacement (1) doesn’t exactly fit in with easy home projects, but inspecting your roof certainly does, and it’s important. On a warmer day with no snow, go outside and give it a look. Watch out for missing or damaged shingles, noticeable leaks, piles of leaves or other debris, and bent trim or gutters. Make sure your downspouts and waterways are in good repair, too. Problems like this are best addressed before the snow and ice hit, but if you haven’t expected your roof already, now’s the best time to get that done. After you’ve finished your own inspection, if anything seems questionable, ask a professional roofing contractor to inspect it for you and tell you what needs doing.

Inspect Your Large Appliances

Your kitchen and laundry appliances were probably used heavily over the holidays, and the first part of the year is the best time to inspect them for problems. It’s a good idea to clean your refrigerator every now and then. While you’re at it you should vacuum the fridge and freezer coils and clean out the drip trays. The drain in your dishwasher should be cleaned, and your oven may need cleaning as well. Your dryer vent may need to be cleaned out too, especially after drying out snow-drenched clothing for two months.

Clean and Polish Furniture and Lights

roof replacement (2)You probably deep-cleaned your entire home sometime before Thanksgiving, but it might be time to do it again. This is especially a good idea if you had guests eating some meals in the living room, and even more so if some of those guests were children. Look under couch and chair cushions for food particles and debris. Vacuum upholstered furniture, and dust and polish any wood furniture you have. Dust off light fixtures and lamps, and replace any lightbulbs that are burned out. You’ll love how fresh and clean your home feels after cleaning these little, oft-forgotten areas.

With these easy home projects out of the way, you’ll have taken care of all necessary home maintenance for the winter. Next, we’ll look at some easy home projects for actually improving — not just maintaining — your home.

Fertilize Your Yard

You read that right: fertilizing your lawn shouldn’t wait until spring. Although this project is best done right after fall ends, it’s still okay if you’ve put it off this long. Fertilizing your grass, shrubs, and trees before the winter ends can give your landscape a much-needed boost when the weather finally gets warmer. It helps keep everything well-nourished during the harsh winter, which your plants will appreciate. And when the snow and ice finally go away, you’ll appreciate the jump start on your home’s springtime curb appeal. The best thing about these types of easy home projects is that they only take a few hours and maybe $50 for fertilizer.

Repaint the Interior of Your House

Some people think that there’s nothing a little paint can’t fix, and they just might be right. If the holiday hustle and bustle have left scuff marks and stains on your walls, they’re probably due for a new coat of paint. Best of all, winter is the perfect time to get some indoor painting done, since you’re limited in the easy home projects you can do outdoors. At around $30 per gallon, indoor house painting offers a higher return on investment than most easy home projects, which makes it even better when harsh weather won’t let you do anything outside.

It’s a good idea to use white paint in your house for a number of reasons. First of all, white paint covers stains and other marks more effectively than some colors. Even better, while you may need multiple coats of any other color to get it to look right, often a single coat of high-quality white paint is all you need. Finally, painting your walls white provides a blank canvas for potential home buyers’ imaginations, if you’re thinking of selling soon. If you can’t paint every room in the house, remember to emphasize those areas that are most prominent or need work the most.

Install a Programmable Thermostat

Home technology has made some very dramatic advancements in recent years, with everything from vacuum cleaners to refrigerators getting surprising enhancements. Even so, for the average homeowner, most appliances aren’t that much different than they were thirty years ago: chances are your refrigerator doesn’t have an LCD screen built-in, even though that’s a feature on select models now.

But there’s one exception to this rule, and that’s the programmable thermostat. Unlike most high-tech home upgrades and automation systems, programmable thermostats aren’t much more expensive than their manual counterparts, and they’re practically a must-have in any sellable home. If your house doesn’t have a programmable thermostat installed already, now’s the time to set one up. Not only does having one save you the trouble of trying to remember when to adjust the temperature, but you’ll likely save money on heating costs because it sets itself automatically. You won’t ever have to worry about accidentally running up a high electric bill while on vacation because you forgot to reset the thermostat.

Install Backsplashes on Your Sinks

Most winter home improvement projects involve little upgrades that make a big difference. One of these more affordable options is installing backsplashes in your kitchen and bathrooms. Besides adding some personality to your kitchen or bathroom, it will protect your walls and other structural areas from water damage.

Add Crown Molding to Your Ceilings

People tend to assume that adding crown molding to their home’s walls and ceilings would be costly and difficult, but it’s really a fairly accessible project. Crown molding itself isn’t usually expensive, and if you have a few basic tools and a couple of spare weekends, you can easily install it yourself. The most complex tool you’ll require is a table saw, but if you don’t own one, you may find one for rent at your local home improvement store.

Insulate Your Attic

roof replacementOf all the home improvement projects you could put your time and money into this winter, adding insulation to your attic may pay off better than any other. Besides helping to dramatically lower your energy bill, you may be eligible for tax credits. And while insulating an entire attic seems too expensive for most people, it can actually be accomplished for as little as $400 if you do it yourself. Before you go all in to get this done, though, you should have an energy audit of your home conducted. This will tell you how much energy your home consumes, where your time can best be spent on improving it, and how your attic is really contributing to your energy costs.

Upgrade Your Home’s Doors

Homeowners often underestimate the visual impact doors can have upon guests and potential home buyers. If your home’s doors are looking a little dull or outdated, there’s probably no need to replace them: just replace the doorknobs with modern, trendy ones, repaint them in interesting colors, or even add molding to flat doors to make them more visually interesting.

Increase Kitchen Storage Space

It doesn’t matter whether your kitchen is almost-too-small or oversized: more storage is always a good selling point. If there are empty spaces or corners in your kitchen that could be utilized with open shelving, this is a great investment in your enjoyment of your home, whether you intend to sell or not. You can even embellish plain and boring shelves with decorative brackets and other elements to add personality.

Paint Your Old Fireplace

You would be surprised what a coat of plain white paint can do for a crumbling, old-fashioned brick fireplace. You’ll want to clean it thoroughly first to get rid of any grime. Then apply a high-quality primer that blocks stains to help hide any leftover soot. To ensure your fireplace gets a beautiful facelift that stands the test of time, use a high-quality, high-gloss paint. No doubt Santa will be delighted by it next year.

Few projects are more fulfilling or profitable during the winter than home upgrades and maintenance. Find a few ideas here that speak to you, and then get to work. You’ll love the way your home looks and feels after putting a few of these easy home projects to the test. And if you plan to sell in the near future, your home’s future owners will love it, too.

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