This Isn’t Your Average Woodland Cottage

“We spend so much of our lives in boxes,” says Alexis Borsboom, owner of this cottage nestled among the trees on Mayne Island, BC.

The unique shape is just one reason she and her husband moved in. The rest of the story lies inside its walls – and begins with the walls themselves.

That’s because they’re made from cob: a combination of clay, sand and straw that’s mixed with water and then sculpted by hand. The couple fell in love after meeting in a cob-building workshop; later, they purchased the home and built a life constructing cob structures together.

With soft edges throughout and a wooden staircase, the interior of their home seems like something out of a dream – but subtle nods to 70s decor make it feel familiar.

Cob is a little like adobe. But unlike adobe, which is formed into bricks and hardened before building, cob structures are sculpted while the mixture is still wet.

Working with raw earth means there’s not much need for loud equipment on a cob site. And because most of the necessary materials can be gathered from the surrounding area, constructing a cob has very little ecological impact.

This construction style also informs the natural, organic shapes you’ll find throughout a cob home, like arched doorways and a space perfectly sized to fit the wood-burning stove.

The kitchen, which sits just off the living area, is a cozy space with enough room for the essentials – plus a breakfast nook for enjoying a morning cup.

Upstairs, a gently sloping ceiling gives the bedroom and workspace a uniquely homey vibe. And just above that ceiling sits a wide, undulating roof. It’s crucial – it protects the home from wind and rain. With a strong foundation and the right roof, a cob-style home can last forever. But “if it’s left out in the elements, it will turn back into dirt within a year,” Borsboom says.

The door on the second story leads out to a small deck that’s perfect for catching the magical sunsets off Canada’s western coast.

Alexis describes cob-style homes as a “gentle and beautiful way to live.” We couldn’t agree more.

Related: 

  • Quiz: What Does Your Dream Cabin Look Like?
  • Before & After: Low Country Cottage Renovation
  • From Scraps to Sanctuary: A $700 A-Frame Cabin

Step Inside the Castle a Dad Promised to His Son

Many kids dream of owning their own castle, but John Lavender – owner, designer and builder of the Highlands Castle in Bolton Landing, New York – made his son Jason’s childhood fantasy a reality. After telling his (then) 3-year-old son that he would build him a castle, Lavender delivered on his promise, constructing it from scratch himself. Nestled in the beautiful Adirondacks and overlooking the coast of Lake George, the stone castle sits on nine acres of land and feels as though it was plucked from a medieval English countryside.

Construction on the Highlands Castle began in 1982, and ever since, Lavender has been in the process of constantly building and renovating it to perfection. Currently, the structure stands at an impressive 12,000 square feet and features 3 beds, 2.5 baths as well as a two-story tower sitting area, and a “great hall” with floor-to-ceiling windows that give you a picturesque look at Lake George. The castle also has a music/library room, sitting room, den and a covered terrace that gives you magical, panoramic views of the lake. Lavender also incorporated a sense of play into his castle design, adding a secret passageway to the downstairs bedroom, patio and entertainment room.

To give it a sense of old-world authenticity on the interior, the castle is filled with antiques and collectibles at every turn – ranging from beautiful pieces of furniture to sculptures to hand-carved wooden knights – that Lavender started procuring five years before he even purchased the land.

“I went out and purchased antiques year after year. And I started to just put them in storage,” Lavender says. “I … was committing myself to fulfill the promise [of building the castle].”

Attention to detail was important in the design and construction of Highlands Castle, which features over 800 tons of stone (placed painstakingly one at a time), custom woodworking and stained-glass doors, all lending to its antique Gothic style. Thankfully, however, the home does include some modern amenities that make castle life suitable for the 21st century, including an open concept and up-to-date kitchen, luxurious bathrooms with custom tile work, and spacious bedrooms fit for a king or queen.

The best detail of the castle, however, is the unmatched view of Lake George, which Lavender says he never takes for granted.

“There’s a lot of people will ask the same question: ‘Do you ever like get tired of looking at the view? Or do you ever not look at it and just forget to look at it, take it, you know, just for granted?’ And the answer is no. I mean, I can sit here and tell you that several times a day I will give thanks just for my time that I’m able to spend here,” he says.

Related:

  • Living Legacy: Making a Family Home in a Historic Mansion
  • 1800s Estate Proves History Is Anything But Drab
  • This Urban Castle’s Magical Design Will Have You Spellbound

4 Ways to Cozy Up Your Kitchen for Fall

The season has changed, and so follows your home decor. Decorating for the chillier fall months means incorporating warm and inviting colors and textures into your home’s interior design, specifically in the kitchen.

Try these four tips to create a cozier kitchen for fall.

Weave in dark textiles

Fall means decorating with gorgeously textured throws, pillows and table linens. Introduce your kitchen to an autumnal palette using dark, natural window coverings and similar table linens for a cozy effect. This look juxtaposes raw texture with soft details like fresh fruit, warm place mats and smooth surfaces.

Bank on butcher block

Found most often in farmhouse-style or rustic homes, butcher block is great for countertops and tables because it’s durable and looks better the longer you have it.

If you’re thinking about switching out your countertop, consider butcher block for a warm, inviting feel. If you don’t want to commit to a full countertop, try a large cutting board or table to add earthiness to your kitchen.

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Photo from Zillow listing.

Add pops of color

If your kitchen has a blank space or accent wall, consider painting it for an inviting scene. For the fall season, you can choose to use warmer, darker colors like a deep red, warm orange, or olive or brown tone.

Don’t want to paint an entire wall? Select a piece of art or two featuring deep and rich colors to create a cozy ambiance. You could even paint your cabinets or counters.

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Photo from Zillow listing.

Nurture indoor plants

Houseplants are always good go-to decorations because they require little upkeep and add a touch of freshness to any space. They are particularly useful in the fall because they can double as herb gardens or unique decor.

Install a small indoor garden on your window sill or on a shelf near a window to have easy access to fresh rosemary, sage, and basil, even when the weather might not call for gardening.

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While these suggestions may seem small, they are great touch-ups to boost your festive theme this fall season. Add one or two, or mix all of the design tips for a home-sweet-home feel.

Related:

  • Our New, Old Kitchen: How We Rose to the Remodeling Challenge
  • These Stylish Floors Will Make You Rethink Your Renovation Plans
  • 5 Retro Decorating Trends That Deserve a Comeback

Originally published October 2015.

7 Perfect Kitchen Upgrades for a New Look Without Remodeling

Kitchen renovations require time and money, often taking several months to complete and costing tens of thousands of dollars. If you don’t have the financial resources for a full-on renovation, there are a variety of ways you can give your kitchen a new look for a lot less. From refacing cabinets to replacing lighting, a few cosmetic tweaks can give you the kitchen you’ve always wanted.

Cabinets

Many homeowners are turning to kitchen refacing as an easy way to update their cabinets. Refacing involves replacing the doors, drawers and hardware and covering the entire exterior of the cabinets in a brand-new veneer. If you’re happy with the layout and function of your kitchen, but aren’t so keen on the aesthetic feel, consider cabinet refacing.

“It’s for people who have kitchens from the ’70s and ’80s that have solid wood cabinets,” says interior designer Anna León, who has a background in kitchen refacing with Home Depot. “They can take off the original doors and put on modern doors.”

The cost, which typically starts at around $6,000, depends on the size of the kitchen and the materials used. With an array of options available – such as woodgrains, painted wood and pressure-fused laminate doors like Thermofoil – you can transform a kitchen’s facade easily. Contemporary Thermofoil doors also come in a variety of fun looks, including glossy, matte and woodgrain.

While a full kitchen gut and renovation may take several months to complete, cabinet resurfacing typically takes three to five days.

Painting cabinets is more affordable than refacing, costing around $3,000 to $5,000 for a professional to do the job, according to León.

Or, you can always DIY, which is the most affordable option, but it’s laborious and takes a great deal of time.

“Painting cabinets is great, but it’s all about the prep work,” says Richmond, VA-based interior decorator Lesley Glotzl. “You have to prep and paint them perfectly or they’re going to chip or peel. You can’t cut any corners.”

Photo from Zillow listing.

Backsplash

Creating a new backsplash is an easy way to freshen up your kitchen. Be sure to choose a timeless material that will complement your cabinetry, and avoid mixing styles and periods. For instance, if you have ’70s-era cabinetry, you won’t want to pair that with something trendy like subway tile.

If you’re a confident DIYer, tile your backsplash. Or for $20, you can paint it in a bold high-gloss paint that you can easily wipe down after cooking.

In Glotzl’s home, she installed a beadboard backsplash and painted it in a high-gloss blue.

Shiplap is an affordable and durable option as well, and it’s not difficult to DIY. Glotzl also recommends using vinyl wallpapers from companies like Osborne & Little as a backsplash, as they come in an array of fun textures, colors and patterns.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Countertops

For countertops, head to your local stone yard and choose a granite at the lower end of the price range. Formica – a more affordable option than natural stone – has a lot of cool countertop options in patterns like Greek key or textures like barn wood or grasscloth.

If you’re short on counter space and aren’t looking to add more cabinetry, consider buying a premade island or bar-height table that you can float in the center of your kitchen.

Or, if you have a more contemporary kitchen, consider purchasing a stainless-steel food prep table from a restaurant supply company. Just make sure you have at least 36 inches between the cabinets and island on all sides for easy traffic flow, advises Glotzl.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Shelving

If your cabinets don’t have lip molding on the interior, remove cabinet doors to create open shelving and show off your beautiful serving dishes.

Or, if you have an empty wall, create your own shelving system with floating shelves from a retailer such as Pottery Barn or IKEA. Just be sure you install brackets underneath the shelves if you plan on loading them up with dishes and cooking wares. Glotzl recommends Van Dyke’s Restorers for shelving support.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Lighting

Lighting can dramatically change the look and feel of any room. Tear out harsh fluorescent lighting and replace it with can lights.

Make food prep easier by having an electrician install under-cabinet halogen fixtures or ambient Light Tape. Over the kitchen sink is the perfect place for a statement piece like a sculptural pendant light.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Pulls and knobs

If you’re going the cabinet-refacing route, you’ll have plenty of new pulls and knobs to ponder. You can find them at online retailers or local shops.

If you’re painting your cabinets – or even if you’re not – new pulls and knobs can go a long way toward creating a new look in your kitchen. This simple solution is one that works particularly well for renters.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Appliances and plumbing

Dated appliances paired with updated cabinetry will make your kitchen feel incomplete. New stainless-steel appliances are the finishing touch. For less than $500, you can get a new stainless-steel electric range; for less than $700, a brand-new top-freezer refrigerator.

“Compared to everything else you have to do, it ends up feeling like pocket change,” says León.

You can easily update your faucet for under $100 (although, of course, you could spend a lot more). And a new farmhouse sink could be yours for less than $400.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Related:

  • 5 Signs You Need to Upgrade Your Kitchen
  • Maximizing Space in a Small Kitchen
  • Pro Tips for Making the Most of Your Kitchen Remodeling Budget

Originally published January 2018.

Enter If You Dare: Inside a Real-Life Haunted House

With no city lights for miles, The Pillars Estate stands alone in the darkest of nights.

Inside, guests are greeted by dim candlelight, a windy staircase and a gentleman from Scotland.

Tony McMurtrie purchased the Civil War-era estate in Albion, NY when it was ready to be torn down. Restoring it to its former glory over the past decade, he’s carefully curated every detail – from the grandfather clocks to the silver.

“I don’t know where it comes from,” he explains. “I just like that time and that era.”

His love of antiques and a refined way of life hasn’t gone unnoticed. Cora Goyette moved to Albion from England and bonded with McMurtrie over their shared appreciation of European culture.

Today, she takes care of the 13,286-square-foot house as if it were her own, hosting tea parties and events in the grand ballroom.

But unlike McMurtrie, Goyette won’t stay at The Pillars alone. In fact, most of McMurtrie’s friends refuse to spend the night.

“A spirit really is within the house,” Goyette says without blinking an eye. “It’s quite serious.”

From mysterious footsteps to children’s voices and a piano that plays itself, strange happenings have been reported since McMurtrie started restoring the house.

Some believe he’s unlocked a haunted past, while others remain skeptical.

Originally published October 2015.

Video and photos by Awen Films.

Related:

  • Video: Get Ready for Four-Legged Halloween Fun
  • 5 Haunted Homes You Can Own Today
  • For Sale: A ‘Slightly’ Haunted Home

How to Throw the Perfect Pumpkin-Carving Party

Nothing says Halloween like carved pumpkins, festive treats and fun costumes. Try these tips for throwing the perfect pumpkin-carving party with all your friends.

1. Create a casual atmosphere

Head out to the backyard, set up a few long folding tables with tablecloths and let the fall atmosphere be your decor. Play some music to get the party started.

2. Assemble a self-serve buffet

Don’t worry about serving a full meal that creates a lot of work for you. Instead, set up a self-serve buffet stocked with enough goodies for the evening, so you can enjoy the party. Think of a few simple savory dishes, add some fun and festive sweets – you’ve got it covered. Include a drink station with a few options in dispensers. Label them, set up a stack of glasses and let your guests enjoy.

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3. Set up carving stations

Arrange a simple but structured carving station so your guests can enjoy the main event. Stock a table with an assortment of carving templates for those who want something other than the traditional jack-o’-lantern face. Don’t forget tape – you’ll need to hold the templates in place while you carve.

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On other tables, place cute buckets your guests can scoop the pumpkin seeds and pulp into. Then put out smaller containers to hold the carving utensils. Just add some pumpkins and you’ve provided everything your guests will need.

4. Hold a carving contest

What good would pumpkin carving be without a little friendly competition? Have some judges and a variety of prizes on hand for the event. Think outside the box with the awards and go beyond just the “Best Pumpkin.” Think in terms of “Most Creative,” “Most Adventurous,” “Scariest” and so on.

5. Commemorate the evening

All that hard work should be documented! Make sure you gather up the carved masterpieces for a group shot at the end of the evening, and don’t forget to share the party photos with your guests after the fact.

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Get out those pumpkins, set the tables and crank up the music for the best pumpkin-carving party around.

Need some more inspiration? Check out our video tutorial for easy ways to make your space spooky in no time.

Related:

  • Sharpen Your Pumpkin Carving Skills With a Pro
  • 5 Tips for Haute Halloween Decor
  • Set a Fabulous Table for Fall

Originally published October 2016.

This Studio Came From a Feed Store

A California couple decided to move east and preserve this Tyringham, Massachusetts, studio. Decades before that, it was a studio of a different kind.

In the 1920s, a local sculptor converted his backyard silo – originally purchased as a kit from a feed store – into a place where he could perfect his craft.

Large mill windows let in plenty of natural light for him to create. Today, that same light casts an ethereal glow over the second-floor bedroom.

Down the spiral staircase, a wood-burning stove and vintage decor give the first floor charm from a bygone era.

The two-story studio sits just behind Santarella, a dwelling lovingly dubbed the Tyringham Gingerbread House – appropriate, since it looks like it’s from a storybook.

The 450-square foot home has one bedroom and one bathroom, and unique features like Gothic doors and repurposed barnwood.

Today, the couple describes the studio as a sculpture in itself. We think the sculptor would agree.

What Kind of Bugs Are in Your House?

Pests are everywhere, and having a few in your home is pretty much inevitable. But knowledge is power when it comes to critters, says Dr. Nancy Troyano, director of technical education and training at Rentokil Pest Control.

When you know how to recognize and prevent an infestation, you can keep unwanted visitors at bay. The first step is learning which pests might become an issue for you.

Here are the top pests to watch out for, according to Troyano.

Wood-destroying bugs

Termites and carpenter ants eat away at the foundation, and you have to call a professional to remove them. They’re usually hard to see, but you can still find evidence that they’re around.

In the Northeast, subterranean termites build mud tubes that you can usually spot. Look for brown staining around the house, both inside and out, and pay special attention to baseboards in the basement.

Other hints are blistering paint, loose siding, piles of droppings or a substance that looks like sawdust.

Homeowners in the Southwest and California should look out for drywood termites. They create colonies in the wood instead of the ground, and they need very little moisture. Watch for piles of droppings or swarms of termites flying out of the wood.

Cockroaches

Cockroaches are a big problem in crowded cities and apartment buildings. While they don’t actually cause damage to a home, they do require professional extermination – and they’re just gross.

Cockroaches are attracted to food and garbage, and they’re usually brought in from the outside. Secondhand or rented furniture is a big culprit of cockroach infestations.

The one “upside” to roaches is that they’re big, so you will definitely know when you have a problem.

Nuisance pests

Most unwanted critters are pretty harmless – just annoying.

After the Zika outbreaks, mosquitoes are generating more concern than in the past. Standing water creates a breeding ground for these pests, so try to minimize the water that collects around your home.

Bed bugs are a big issue in cities, where it’s easy for them to be brought in by furniture, clothes or people – and they’re notoriously hard to get rid of. Homeowners with pets should also be wary of ticks and fleas.

Rodents

Bugs aren’t the only unwelcome guests you may encounter – keep your eye out for rodents, too.

Bird feeders are a “mouse buffet,” says Troyano, so keep an eye on those. Mice are also drawn inside to escape the cold, so homeowners in colder climates should make sure their homes are tightly sealed.

Then there are our flying friends: bats. Bats are usually found in homes with attics or chimneys, because they like to hang out in dark, cavernous areas.

You can easily lure out one or two bats, but if you have a big problem, you’ll want to call a professional. A word of warning about these winged creatures: They can carry rabies, so be careful with any DIY measures you undertake.

What to look for where you live

The types of pests you encounter largely depend on where you live.

  • Tropical, humid places like Florida are breeding grounds for water-loving pests like mosquitoes.
  • In wooded areas, you will find spiders, ants and beetles.
  • In the desert, you’ll have to worry about snakes and scorpions.

The type of home will also determine what kinds of pests you get. Log cabins are the most pest-prone homes, Troyano reports, and can attract beetles, termites and bees. Houses with vinyl siding or brick tend to be safer bets.

Older homes are also a concern, because they are full of cracks and crevices where pests can enter or take up residence. Spiders and silverfish love these nooks.

New construction homes come with their own issues. When wooden beams are exposed to the elements during construction, they gather moisture, which attracts fungus beetles. These tiny beetles are very common and will go away on their own once the material dries – but that could take up to a year. The fungus beetle has been nicknamed the “new-house pest,” says Troyano.

How to prevent pests

The good news is that most pests are easily lured out of the home.

Troyano trains people on the biology and behavior of pests. Rather than putting down a pesticide, she says, you can “outsmart” the bugs. “If I have an ant problem, and I know what they like to eat, I will take away their food source.”

Don’t forget to think about how the critters are getting inside. Plants and trees can act as a superhighway for pests. “I’ve watched ants walk along tree limbs into a home,” Troyano says.

Here are Troyano’s top tips for keeping your home free of unwelcome intruders:

  • Don’t let them inside. Keep your house sealed up nice and tight. Use window screens, seal window and door frames, and plug up other exterior entry points.
  • Keep your home’s exterior tidy. Mow grass regularly, trim shrubbery and trees to prevent branches from touching your home, and keep mulched beds away from the house.
  • Watch for water pools and drainage issues. You don’t want water pooling up by your home’s foundation. Make sure your gutters direct water away from the house. Similarly, you don’t want hills sloping toward your house. You’ll also want to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in your yard by keeping an eye on stagnant pools of water, like birdbaths.
  • Inspect your house inside and out. Regularly check for signs of pests.

Related:

  • 12 Tasks to Tackle Before Fall Arrives
  • Is Your Home Trying to Kill You?
  • DIY: Fixing 3 Common Household Problems

Originally published August 2016.

Is Your Home Trying to Kill You?

Home is where you feel comfortable and safe. It’s where you tuck your kids into bed and lazily watch hours of Netflix on the couch.

Without your care and vigilance, however, your home may develop conditions that can make you severely ill – or even kill you.

Here are five ways your home can potentially harm you and expert advice on keeping these issues from affecting your household.

1. Mold

Though mold isn’t a pathogen (a disease-causing agent), it’s still an allergen that you don’t want hanging around your house.

“When people say they have a mold allergy or they have a mold condition, it’s an allergic reaction,” says Peter Duncanson, director of business operations for disaster restoration specialists ServiceMaster Restore. “[Molds] generally considered toxic are ones like stachybotrys, which are black in color – but not all black molds cause the same reactions.”

Molds, including black molds like stachybotrys, form if moisture concentrates in an area where a food source is present, such as skin cells or paper. You know you have mold growing in your home if you smell an earthy, musty scent. Though mold exposure won’t severely harm the average person, repeated exposure is not advised for your health.

“The buildup [of mold] causes a more violent reaction, and those reactions are generally respiratory in nature and pulmonary, so you have trouble breathing,” Duncanson explains. “A very severe reaction to mold can be anaphylactic – you can’t breathe, and you go into an anaphylactic shock.”

Luckily, you can prevent mold by keeping your home dry, running the exhaust fan when taking a shower, and purchasing a dehumidifier for the basement in the summer.

If you do find black mold (or what’s commonly referred to as toxic mold) in your home, don’t panic. Contact a professional who can safely remove the mold and eliminate the water source feeding it.

2. Exposed asbestos

Asbestos was a commonly used building material up until the mid-20th century, when it was determined to be a very dangerous carcinogen that causes mesothelioma cancer. Though builders aren’t legally allowed to use asbestos in building materials and other products anymore, traces of it are often found in older homes.

“Asbestos is not harmful to you if you don’t disturb it,” Duncanson says. “The problem arises when you start cutting or doing demolition and asbestos becomes airborne.”

It may be tempting to DIY an open-concept living space in your vintage bungalow, but if your home was built before the 1980s, seek the advice of a professional before you start knocking down any walls. The latency period of mesothelioma cancer can be years, so problems may not arise until much later in your life.

Handling asbestos is a dangerous task, and professionals have the equipment to remove it safely without risking your health.

3. Carbon monoxide poisoning

Carbon monoxide poisoning, which kills thousands of people each year, occurs when there’s too much carbon monoxide in your blood. This can result in tissue damage or death.

Improperly ventilated appliances like stoves, water heaters and gas appliances can release carbon monoxide. Improperly cleaned chimneys cause smoke to circulate throughout the home – this can also give you carbon monoxide poisoning, according to Andy Kerns, a home maintenance researcher.

To protect yourself from carbon monoxide poisoning, properly ventilate appliances and clean heat sources like wood-burning stoves every year before use. Call a professional if you have any doubts about the safety and security of your appliances or ventilation within your home.

4. Fire

Seven people in the U.S. die each day from house fires, according to the National Fire Prevention Association. Most of these house fires are the result of normal, everyday use of appliances, candles and cooking equipment. The most surprising fire starter, however, lives in the laundry room.

“Dryer lint can collect in the dryer and become an electrical fire starter,” says Kerns. “Dryers are the number one cause of house fires.”

To prevent house fires, ensure that your appliances have the right rating before you plug them into outlets. Always extinguish candles after usage and carefully watch the stove when cooking.

5. Slippery bathroom surfaces

The bathroom is often ranked as the most dangerous room in the home. Wet, slippery surfaces often lead to falls – and result in anything from embarrassment to a fractured hip.

“Bathtubs, especially, are an area where you can fall and hit your head,” notes Kerns. “A lot of people get pretty severely injured in the bathroom, particularly when they’re older.”

As we get older, bathroom safety gets more pertinent, so it’s a great idea to install things like grab bars or a walk-in tub for ease of use as you age. Be sure to wipe down any wet surfaces, and place bath mats by the sink and tub to prevent bathroom falls.

Keep tabs on your home

Taking the time to slow down and keep your home safe is essential for any homeowner. Give your home a monthly, semiannual and annual checkup to keep it in tip-top condition for years to come.

“Given how busy our lives are, and all the different things we have to keep track of in our digital environments, it’s harder and harder to keep some of the physical maintenance issues top of mind. I think a lot of people tend to let things go until there’s a problem,” says Kerns. “Don’t leave it up to your memory. Have a good, reliable organizational system that keeps you up to date.”

Related:

  • 12 Security Tips for Living Alone Safely
  • Suds and Duds: Laundry Room Maintenance 101
  • 7 Safety Upgrades and Tech Tools for Seniors Living Alone

Originally published May 2017.

12 Tasks to Tackle This Fall

The days are getting shorter, and the nights are getting cooler. The kids are trudging off to school again with their backpacks, and leaves are falling from the trees.

Yep, it’s official: Fall is here. Now’s the time to finish up any pre-winter maintenance projects and get your home and yard ready.

Take care of these 12 tasks to get your home clean, warm and cozy for the cool days to come.

Exterior prep

1. Fix cracks in concrete and asphalt

Depending on where you live, these may be the last weeks this year when it will be warm and sunny enough to repair driveway and sidewalk cracks.

2. Clean out the gutters

No one loves this job, but we all need to do it annually. A few hours of work can prevent big problems later on.

While you’re up on that ladder, visually inspect your roof for damaged shingles, flashing or vents. You can also inspect the chimney for any missing mortar and repair it by tuck-pointing, if needed.

3. Turn off outdoor plumbing

Drain outdoor faucets and sprinkler systems, and cover them to protect them from the freezing weather to come.

4. Start composting

If you don’t already have compost bins, now’s the time to make or get some. All those accumulated autumn leaves will bring you gardening gold next summer!

5. Clean outdoor furniture and gardening tools

It may not yet be time to put them away, but go ahead and clean your outdoor furniture and gardening tools so they’re ready for storage over the winter.

6. Plant bulbs for spring-blooming flowers

Plant bulbs in October, as soon as the soil has cooled down, to reap big rewards next spring. If you’ve never planted bulbs before, select a spot in your yard that gets full sun during the day.

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Interior prep

7. Prepare your furnace for winter duty

If you didn’t already do it last spring, consider getting your furnace professionally serviced in time for the cold season. At a minimum, visually inspect your furnace and replace the furnace filter before you start using it on a daily basis.

8. Clean the fireplace and chimney

Clean out the fireplace, inspect the flue, and ensure the doors and shields are sound. Have the chimney professionally swept if needed. Now’s also the time to stock up on firewood!

9. Keep the warm air inside and the cold air outside

Inspect your windows and doors. Check weatherstripping by opening a door, placing a piece of paper in the entryway and closing the door. The paper should not slide back and forth easily. If it does, the weatherstripping isn’t doing its job.

Also, now’s the time to re-caulk around windows and door casings, if needed.

10. Light the way

Bring as much light into your home as you can for the colder, darker months. To accentuate natural light, clean your windows and blinds, especially in rooms that get a lot of sunlight.

Add lighting to darker spaces with new lamps. And consider replacing traditional incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient bulbs.

11. Create a mudroom

Even if you don’t have a dedicated mudroom in your home, now’s a good time to think about organizing and stocking an entryway that will serve as a “mudroom” area for cold and wet weather.

Put down an indoor-outdoor rug to protect the floor. A fun and rewarding weekend project is to build a wooden shoe rack, coat rack or storage bench for your entryway.

12. Home safety check

Replace the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide monitors. A good way to remember to do this is to always replace the batteries when you change the clock for daylight saving time.

Create a family fire escape plan, or review the one you already have. Put together an emergency preparedness kit so you’re ready for any winter power outages.

Once you finish with your autumn home checklist, you can enjoy the season in your warm, comfortable home.

Related:

  • This Checklist Is the Key to Taking Care of Your Home (Without the Stress)
  • 4 Ways to Cozy Up Your Kitchen for Fall
  • 9 Updates Your Home Needs Every 10 Years

Originally published September 2016.