As the last bit of snow melts off my front porch, all of the wear and tear of the winter weather is apparent in the chipped paint and rotted wood stairs. Add those repairs to a growing to-do list that includes installing a fence, landscaping and replacing a window.
All of those projects will cost a few dollars and require some advance planning, but figuring out the best time to get started is a little daunting. It doesn’t have to be, according to Dan DiClerico, a home expert at HomeAdvisor.
“Timing with home improvement or home maintenance is really everything. If you get the timing right, you’re going to save yourself time, aggravation and maybe a little money,” he said. “You have to consider the weather, the cost of materials, which fluctuate throughout the year, and labor availability. Those three factors drive the timing around certain projects.”
One of the biggest challenges for home renovation is a persistent shortage of labor contributing to longer wait times and higher costs for projects, according to Houzz, a home remodeling and design website. General contractors, remodelers and design-build firms surveyed by the company noted an increase in subcontractor costs leading to higher overall project costs for clients in the past year.
“While there are perfect times of year to do this or that, ultimately, the schedule of the project is conditional on the schedule of the professional you’re about to hire,” said Nino Sitchinava, principal economist at Houzz.
No matter what projects homeowners plan on tackling, Sitchinava advises that they educate themselves on estimated costs and set aside an additional 20 percent over their budgets. A homeowner doing repairs should talk to several local contractors to gauge their availability and get a few bids.
Weather is going to dictate the timing of a number of projects, such as installing a fence.
“Obviously, you don’t want to be digging post holes in frozen ground,” said Don Vandervort, founder of HomeTips.com, a home improvement website. “Lots of projects require planning and getting permits, which can take an unexpected amount of time, so plan ahead.”
If you want to enjoy your wood deck or pool in the summer, Vandervort recommends that repair and restoration work on those items be completed in the spring. The same goes for upgrading your air conditioner, which is best addressed before sweltering temperatures take hold. By then, HVAC specialists are likely to be booked solid, leaving you little wiggle room for scheduling your project.
To get ahead of the rainy season, DiClerico suggests that homeowners consider fixing their gutters in early spring. Many gutters take a beating in the winter. You at least want to make sure the leader pipes aren’t clogged and the water is staying five feet away from the house, DiClerico said.
“Spring time is the perfect time to give your whole gutter system a once-over to make sure that rain isn’t going to find its way inside your home,” he said. “You may not have to go all in for a complete overhaul or bring in a professional. Just be careful on that ladder if you’re going to do the cleaning yourself.”
If you are looking to replace a few old windows, summer is a good time to save money on the job, because manufacturers tend to slash their prices around June and July, DiClerico said. It can take a while to order windows, so Vandervort recommends getting a jump-start on the process.
Summer is also ideal for servicing your furnace as well as your repairing your fireplace or cleaning the chimney. More furnace and fireplace professionals are available during the summer months because people tend to wait until it gets chilly to tackle heating-related projects. That’s not to say that you can’t wait until early fall to clean your chimney, but you might have to compete with more homeowners to schedule the job.
Early fall is when you want to start preparing for winter, Vandervort said. He advises homeowners to replace worn weather stripping or storm doors and consider caulking any drafty areas.
“You want to begin making your home cozy and comfortable for the winter, so you can get maximum benefit and enjoyment both in terms of energy savings and comfort,” Vandervort said.
DiClerico said early fall is also an ideal time to freshen up the exterior of your house and get the best painters. By then, the college students whom some companies hire for the summer months have gone back to school, so you’re likely to get more skilled painters. For optimal adhesion of paint, manufacturers also recommend the application of exterior paint when the temperature is 50 to 90 degrees and not too muggy, DiClerico said.
Waiting until the fall to complete certain exterior house projects could also help you avoid the severe labor shortages of the summer months.
“If you want to replace a roof or siding or get some porch work done, summer time will be the hardest time to find any of those specialty trades,” said Sitchinava at Houzz.
Another ideal fall project is lawn care, because the weather conditions are best for fertilizing and aeration. The weeks between Labor Day and Columbus Day present the best weather for lawn maintenance. You’re not doing your lawn any harm with a spring application of fertilizer, but DiClerico said people tend to overdo it during that period.
Toward the end of the winter, you should take a look at pruning your trees, DiClerico said. This could wait until early spring as well, but as the cold weather draws to a close, any weaknesses in the limbs that developed over the winter will be evident and ripe for trimming.
Interior painting is another project that is best executed in the late winter, when manufacturers offer the best deals on paint.
Winter is also a good time for kitchen and bathroom remodeling because of material and contractor availability. These are projects that you definitely need to start planning at least three months ahead of time, but executing the work during this season could save you time and aggravation, DiClerico said.