November is here, and that means the leaves have just about all left the trees, but hopefully are not still stuck in your gutters! The holidays are just around the corner and it's a terrific time to get your home ready for some company, too. Here's where to begin.
Weekend #1: Chimney and Fireplace Maintenance
Ok, so it is officially darker earlier, making the evenings perfect for relaxing with the family by a roaring fire. Before you get those embers crackling, make sure the flu, damper, and firebox have received thorough seasonal maintenance. A buildup of creosote can lead to a very dangerous chimney fire.
If you don't already have chimney  caps, have them installed at the time of service to keep any wayward wildlife from using the chimney as a convenient entrance into your home. Now the only unexpected visitor will be Santa Claus. Remember, when storing firewood outside, make sure it is not directly up against the house -- that's exactly where mice and termites like to hang out and find their way into your home.
To find a certified chimney sweep, go to the website for the Chimney Safety Institute of America .
Weekend #2: Shovel, Snowblower Service, Sand and Ice Removal Ready
Winter has yet to arrive but that doesn't mean snow won't start tomorrow. Gather all of your snow removal supplies and check that they are in top operating shape. To make sure your snow shovel isn't going to give you a back ache, consider a shovel with the bent and angular handle to help take the load off. Have your snow blower serviced and fill the tank with fresh gasoline. Remember that gas is only meant to last 30 days unless you add fuel stabilizer to it. Then it will be good all season. Stock up on supplies of calcium chloride for de-icing , mixed with some sand. That combo won't hurt your concrete like sodium chloride. Keep a shovel and a supply of de-icer in your mud room or entrance just in case you wake up to a winter wonderland.
Weekend #3: Thanksgiving Table Ready!
We are just days away from the feast to end all feasts, Thanksgiving! Now is a perfect weekend to get the house ready. Wash all china and stemware that is going to be used and give that silver a good polish. The kids are home, so have them lend a hand as well. If your home allows, set the dining table for the big event now. It will save you much needed time over the next few days. If that isn't feasible, press your table linens. Instead of draping them over the couch to avoid wrinkles, roll them up using wrapping paper rolls, or the center rolls from bolts of fabric. This will keep them tidy, small, and most important, wrinkle-free. As Thanksgiving arrives, make sure your turkey is defrosted. The best place to do so is in the fridge; put it in there two days before the holidays just to be sure. Avoid the desire to self clean your oven. If there is a problem, they tend to break down after a cleaning cycle -- so save it until after the meal, just in case.
Weekend # 4: Prepare an Emergency Storm Survival Kit
Like the Boy Scouts' motto, be prepared. Now is a great time to gather any home improvement supplies you might need for a winter or seasonal storm emergency. This actually is not a bad idea to have organized all year. Get a waterproof, airtight container and pack it with a warm blanket, flashlight, and portable radio, extra appropriately sized batteries, candles, books of matches, canned food items that will not spoil, can opener and enough water for three days. You can add extra items like a deck of cards for entertainment. Although you will most likely never need this, just having it on hand will leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy!