The Top 5 Fall Home Maintenance Projects For The Best Returns

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The following is a guest post from Andrea Davis from HomeAdvisor, a company that helps find homeowners home improvement pros. 

Before winter arrives, you should think about the crucial maintenance items for your home. If you don’t take care of these ahead of time, you could face expensive repairs in the spring. Rather than spend thousands of dollars next year, spend some money now so your house is safe and prepared.

How do you know which projects to tackle? Some areas may need more attention than others, and you can hire a home inspector if you’re uncertain. If there aren’t any glaring problems, at least care for your doors, windows, roof, lawn and chimney.

If you plan to sell your home soon, have an awareness of buyers’ desires. You don’t want to spend money on a project buyers will ignore. We found the top five fall home improvement projects from our database of millions of projects that stand out among the rest to help you out.

Top 5 Fall Home Maintenance Projects, 2008 – 2013

#1 Install new windows: average cost $4,876

Installing new windows comes with many benefits, especially if your home has single-pane windows. They risk leaking air and letting in the sun’s rays, which fluctuates the indoor temperature and causes the HVAC to turn on frequently. This increases your utility bill, so why not replace them?

Double-pane windows offer substantial energy-efficient benefits, last for a long time and pay back quickly in utility bill savings. They easily replace your single-pane windows without much hassle or added expenses. The investment brings your home into the 21st century, helps the ecosystem and appeals to homebuyers.

#2 Remodel a bathroom: average cost $8,800

Kitchens and bathrooms are major areas of interest for homebuyers, so keep them in top form year-round. The extent of your remodel depends on its needs, which will also influence total costs. Short of gutting it and starting from scratch, some suggestions include:

  • Refacing cabinets
  • Refinishing bathtubs and sinks
  • Installing new flooring
  • Replacing faucets
  • Installing a new shower
  • Adding more storage
  • Repainting the walls

#3 Clean and inspect chimney: average cost $308

Chimney maintenance saves the expensive trouble of a fire and a cold home in the winter if it’s your only heat source. Some steps to take to keep it in top condition are:

  • Checking the masonry: If there are any cracks or loose joints, chimney professionals will fix them with cement so the chimney remains sealed.
  • Looking at the damper: Traditionally, dampers close and open without issue. If it gets stuck or has cracks, pitting or rust, you need a new one.
  • Examine the flue: If the flue liner has any cracks or defects, loose or bumpy joints, then it needs repair so the fire and heat can’t damage it and cause potential hazards.

More extensive signs your chimney needs repair include: blockages, flashing and water damage. If your chimney has creosote or soot deposits, have them cleaned out immediately to avoid further damage and fire hazards.

#4 Install electrical switches, outlets and fixtures: average cost $213

Since you’re going to use electricity a lot over the winter, your electrical outlets and fixtures might be too few or outdated. Older homes especially have this problem with only two prongs, whereas most newer electronics have three. Take this opportunity in the fall to call out an electrician and audit your outlets, switches and fixtures and update any if needed. It’s also an opportunity to check for wire damage or stress on your power breaker. Otherwise you could run into outage issues during the winter.

#5 Install, repair or replace plumbing or fixtures: $347

If you have a water heater working overtime this winter, your plumbing fixtures need to withstand below-freezing temperatures. Older homes might have fixtures susceptible to rust, bursting and other problems. You should check your pipes for any signs of wear and aging. If you’re uncertain about how to proceed, check with plumbers in your area to see if they can look at your pipes. You don’t want a flooded room halfway through the winter and go without water while waiting on repairs.

While these are the top fall projects, how do you decide which ones you need done versus what to set aside? One foolproof measurement is return on investment–some investments have short-term returns, while others pay back in the long-term. Depending on whether you plan to sell your home or live in it for many years, this could be a major factor.

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Top 2014 ROI Projects

Return on investment (ROI) relates to how much you invest in a project versus what comes back in the buyer’s offer. So which projects best increase the value of your home?

According to Remodeling Magazine’s assessment of 35 popular projects in 101 cities this year, some top projects to consider are:

  1. Entry door replacement (steel): 96.6%
  2. Deck addition (wood): 87.4%
  3. Attic bedroom: 84.3%
  4. Garage door replacement: 83.7%
  5. Minor kitchen remodel: 82.7%

Energy-efficient improvements also have high resale value. This includes cheap investments like LED and recessed lighting to more expensive improvements like efficient appliances, double-paned windows and solar panels. If you need to calculate which ones work best for your budget and have the most value, use a cash flow opportunity calculator, which determines cost against how much it pays back in utility bill returns, tax breaks and other savings.

Specific Fall Home Maintenance ROI

So what is the return on investment for the top fall home maintenance projects? Some have proven resale value statistics, and others don’t. Here are some statistics and tips:

  • Installing windows will not only save energy, but you could see investment returns of anywhere between 70 and 90 percent.
  • According to Remodeling Magazine, bathroom remodeling yields a resale value of anywhere between 64 and 73 percent, depending on whether it’s midscale or upscale.
  • Perform your chimney cleaning and inspection on an annual basis, and you’ll likely see an 80 to 100 percent return on investment as your fireplace continues to keep your house warm over the winter.
  • Updating your electrical switches, outlets and fixtures prepares you for the winter, defends against any possible outages and keeps you safe from electrocution. While it’s hard to measure the ROI, the one-time investment could pay back over many years.
  • Updating and installing new plumbing fixtures as needed is also immeasurable in ROI, but doing so protects your home from pipe freezes and flooded rooms. It’s also prevents expensive emergency expenditures.
  • Focus on depersonalization and energy efficiency. For example, painting the walls white and installing affordable energy-efficient appliances will pay back in home offers.

You should also factor in necessity, urgency, energy efficiency and location when determining which of these projects to work on this fall. For example, your chimney might be top priority if you live in the Northeast but less of a priority in the deep South.


Whether you invest in one or more of these projects out of necessity or for their resale value, practice safety and consider hiring a professional for the more complex projects. Winter is coming!

Related Reading: Why Real Estate Should Be Part Of Your Retirement Strategy

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Catha Mullen

Catha Mullen

Catha Mullen is passionate about helping people make healthier financial decisions, which is why she joined Personal Capital. Personal Capital helps people live better financial lives by providing technology-enabled advisory services, in addition to free financial software. She's got an MBA from Stanford and AB from Princeton.
Catha Mullen

Latest posts by Catha Mullen (see all)


  1. Financial Samurai

    I’m surprised remodeling the kitchen wasn’t in the top five. I’ve always heard that it’s Kitchen, bathroom, windows, then floors.

    I’ve got an old house in SF that hasn’t been updated since 1946. Definitely gotta redo all the electricity!

  2. Carl Cantrell

    Great post! Thanks for sharing this information and I totally agree with the ROI particularly on cleaning/ inspecting chimney annually as well as the electrical stuff. There’s really a huge difference if you do routine check up at home. It really saves you a lot of money! Thanks again and happy new year!

  3. Stephen Davies

    I Think this blog of Window tinting spokane will definitely renew my home. This is the best way to stay safe from harmful rays as well as harmful activities.
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  4. Kirk Enterprises, Inc.

    I am surprised to see this top 5 home remodeling project. But These 5 projects also play an important role to boost the value of our home.

  5. Chase Wilson

    Interesting! I live in a pretty old house, but I really like the style of it. I don’t want to remodel anything, but the house is just extremely cold during the winter! Even in the spring and fall it gets cold really quick. Our heating bill is really high, too. Do you think that if I replaced my windows with double pane windows it would heat the house up and reduce energy costs?

  6. Deanna R. Jones

    Thanks for the tips! You made a really good point about how updating the electrical switches and outlets in my house can prepare it for winter. It seems like many fires can be caused by faulty wiring. Making sure that my electric system is checked by a professional and updated seems like a really great way to make my home more safe throughout the year.

  7. Braden Bills

    I’ve been needing to install electrical switches and outlets for my home, but I don’t know if I can do it on my own. I’ve heard stories of people getting a nasty shock for working with wiring while not knowing what they’re doing. I think I’ll hire a professional for this one! Thanks for sharing!

  8. Waste Clearance

    Advises you gave are still applicable now in 2016, except with the numbers. As working in a company in the waste removal business, I can say we have many clients who need house clearance after renovation. It is like any other home improvement work which needs to be done by professionals.

  9. Skylar Williams

    In the past I have done many of those repairs or additions. My upcoming project is adding a deck to my home. I’m going to need a lot of supplies though. I’m hoping I can do most of it myself, I may need a professional.

  10. Baylor

    I have learned lots of thing about Summer Home Maintenance you have very well pointed out i really appreciate your effort i am looking forward the same
    What are some ways to get rid of cockroaches and ants inside the house?
    How do I decorate my bedroom? The size is quite small. It fits one wardrobe, single bed and a book rack.

  11. Replacement Windows Chicago

    Replacement windows are a great decision for a fall home improvement project. It’s best to get it done before the winter starts.

  12. Rony Jahid

    When I read this article I thought that, I replace everything in my old home. Because all ideas are much interesting. I got too much helpful tips about my kitchen & bathroom. So I want to remodel this areas. thanks for valuable tips.

  13. eMoov

    Though improving the bathroom has the highest cost, it can give the best advantage when it comes to increasing the value of your property as well. Having an improved bathroom will make you and your family’s lives more comfortable. Remember that bathroom is one of the most used parts of your house. It is just right to keep it in its best condition.

  14. Joyce Henry

    You have listed here with 5 home maintenance projects having best returns. I would like to tell that if we do any kind of home improvement properly, then it will definitely give best return on investment in future. But in maximum cases, many people try to do these home renovations on their own. As they are less skilled and having less knowledge on maintenance, hence the overall result may not be so effective as it is supposed to be. Hence, from my point of view it is better to hire a professional renovator because his experience and skill will make it possible to transform our home into an investment that will give best return in future.

  15. Kathleen Culpepper

    How creative and resourceful is this! Never would have thought to put these pieces together. Thanks for sharing

  16. Ridley Fitzgerald

    Thanks for the great tips for planning a home remodel this year. We’ve actually been looking at window replacement, so it’s great to know that they pay back the cost quickly! Our windows are old and cracked, and the screens are falling off. I think it’s time for new ones.

  17. Washington State Kitchen and Bath

    Glad to read this article. These tips are really helpful especially to those people who are planning to remodel their house. Those who have difficulty on renovating their chimney will learn many things from this article.

    • Jamie Balkin

      Glad to hear it!

  18. lawn mowers

    Here is described The Top 5 Fall Home Maintenance Projects For The Best Returns.
    I wanted to make something like that for my own especially since I’m planning on upgrading my seating space near the house. Lawn mower is a machine utilizing one or more revolving blades to cut a grass surface. This is the best choice for home improvement..!!

  19. can i move to new york

    The post about Top 5 Fall Home Maintenance Projects For The Best Returns proved very helpful for me indeed, i appreciate it.

  20. Hilton Plumbing

    Great blog, so informative. Glad to read this article. These tips are really helpful especially to those people who are planning to remodel their house. Those who have difficulty on renovating their chimney will learn many things from this article.

  21. Subarna Akter

    Very useful, Thanks you for sharing great information.


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