But before you throw the turkey in the deep fryer and binge on a Lifetime holiday movie marathon (you know who you are!), take a few minutes to protect your home against winter's chill.
This month's tasks are all about guarding against the elements—and the unforeseen. But fear not: We've got you covered with our handy checklist of home maintenance chores to tackle this month. Read on for details about where to start, and whom to call if you need reinforcements.
1. Check your smoke detectors
Daylight saving time officially ends at 2 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 5. That's the perfect time, according to the American Red Cross, to test your smoke alarms and change the batteries (which you should do twice a year).
DIY: Just press the "test" button on your alarm, and ensure it sounds. If you don't have alarms, install them ASAP (at a minimum, you should have one on every level of your home, in all bedrooms, and adjacent to sleeping areas). Your local building codes might have additional requirements.
Call in a pro: You don't need a pro to test your alarms, but if you have an issue and need to replace one, an expert can help. Outsourcing the installation of hard-wired smoke detectors will run you $80 to $120, depending on your location.
2. Take stock of your emergency preparedness kit
If the recent hurricane and wildfire season has taught us anything, it's that you can never be too prepared for a natural disaster. Get ready by testing and replacing the batteries in your flashlights, stocking up on extra batteries and candles, and grabbing a few extra lighters and boxes of matches to have on hand in an emergency.
Update your 72-hour kit—or make one if you don't already have one. Make sure you have some food stored: Fill up a few 5-gallon jugs of water and stock up on canned goods in case you go without power during a winter storm. And if you have a camping stove, give it a tuneup and make sure you have enough fuel to cook without power.
DIY: Kick-start your emergency kit with a starter set from the American Red Cross, or go deluxe with a kit from Costco, which will feed you for two years.
3. Block out pests
When temperatures drop, rodents and no-see-ums seek out warm places to hunker down (just like us). But unlike us, many of them can fit through holes the size of a quarter. Take this opportunity to give the exterior of your home—and especially your roof—a once-over. Replace damaged tiles and attic vents, and seal any holes around pipes and cables that run into your house.
DIY: Use wood putty, flexible brick, or concrete caulking to patch holes. And make haste, since filler takes longer to cure during colder months.
Call in a pro: If you need an assist, hire a painter ($20 to $35 an hour) or handyman (an average of $77 an hour) to patch exterior holes.
4. Replace weatherstripping
Check weatherstripping and caulk for any small gaps, particularly around windows, doors, vents, trim, or siding. For larger cracks or holes, use expanding foam, which you can find at any home improvement store.
"This can make a huge difference in keeping you warm and toasty during the winter months and saving a lot of money in utilities," says Krystal Rogers-Nelson, home safety and maintenance expert at ASecureLife.com.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you'll save 5% to 30% per year in energy costs by reducing drafts.
DIY: Turn off the lights in your place, and walk the perimeter at night with a flashlight; run the light along doors and windows to illuminate large cracks. Take a piece of your existing weatherstripping with you to the hardware store to ensure you buy the right replacement.
Call in a pro: A home audit that finds all the nooks and crannies where energy escapes costs nearly $400 on average. Painters ($20 to $35 an hour) will seal gaps with caulk. Handymen (an average of $77 an hour) can install weatherstripping.
5. Check for radon gas
"This is not an annual requirement per se, but it’s on my checklist for homeowners who haven’t measured it," says home inspection expert Lisa Turner, author of "House Keys: Tips and Tricks From a Female Home Inspector."
High radon levels (above 4 picocuries per liter, or pCi/L) is a proven carcinogen, and levels increase in the winter with doors and windows closed, she says.
DIY: Instead of calling an inspector (who could easily charge you upward of $500), go to your favorite home improvement store and buy a test kit for $20. The kit works well—just be sure to follow the directions carefully. And be aware that radon usually is concentrated in the lower levels of the home.
Call in a pro: If your test comes out higher than 4pCi/L, call a radon expert who will install a vent and blower in your basement along with a gas level monitor. Beware, though—radon gas remediation isn't cheap. It could run you anywhere from $700 on up to install a mitigation system.
6. Schedule a pre-Thanksgiving plumbing checkup
Now's a great time to call a plumber to clear your pipes before Thanksgiving guests start pushing uneaten turkey and stuffing down your garbage disposal. (That's part of the reason plumbers call the day after Thanksgiving "Brown Friday.")
"A lot can go wrong with your drain lines when you are cooking and cleaning and not paying attention to what goes down the drain," says Janet O'Dea of Powers Plumbing in San Diego. "The well-meaning family members who offer to do the dishes sound so nice until the line gets clogged with mashed potatoes."
DIY: To avoid a clog in the first place, put kitchen scraps (especially starchy foods, which expand) and other debris into the trash and use your disposal for crumbs only.
"Grease should never be allowed to go down the kitchen sink drain, because it will coat the pipes and create sludge," O'Dea says. "We recommend that you put grease into an old container like an empty orange juice or soup can, let it congeal, and then throw it in the trash."
Call in a pro: Consider calling in a professional licensed plumber for a preholiday inspection. But if you wind up with a real problem, a professional drain cleaning will likely run you a couple of hundred dollars.
7. Get ready for holiday visitors
If you plan to entertain this holiday season, get your pad prepped. Launder your guest linens and towels, stock up on toiletries for your guest bathroom, wash your china, and polish any silver you plan to use.
Break out your holiday decorations early, toss any broken ornaments or trinkets, and inspect or purchase holiday lights. And while you're feeling productive, get ready for winter's onslaught: Stock up on cold weather essentials such as salt or ice melt, snow scrapers and shovels, and firewood so you (and your guests) won't be caught unaware during the first big snowstorm.
DIY: If you're overwhelmed, consider following a holiday cleaning plan that breaks down major tasks into easy-to-tackle chunks.
Call in a pro: A professional preholiday deep cleaning will likely cost between $200 and $400, depending on the size of your house.