Five home improvement projects to tackle now

Terence Loose

Summer is the time for backyard barbecues, road trips, and ball games, right? Well, later in the season, it's also a great time for certain home improvement projects.

Why? Because the generally mild late-summer weather lends itself well to projects that could otherwise expose your home, new project, or yourself to bad weather, says Dean Herriges, National Association of the Remodeling Industry president.

That means that waiting to tackle your home improvement projects till winter—when damaging or dangerous storms can hit—could spell disaster for you and your project.

[Looking to tackle a big project this season? Click to find the right home contractor now.]

Check out these five home improvement projects you might want to squeeze in before the mild weather is over.

Project 1: Prepare for Winter

While spending precious summer moments preparing for the winter season may sound like a drag, you'll be glad you did come December or January. Besides, many of the projects that make for good winterizing are projects best done in warm, dry weather.

For instance, replacing old windows with new double-pane windows (made of two glass panes with an airtight space between them) might be a good project. These windows, says George Moore, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Remodelers, can help keep heat in, thus reducing heating bills while keeping you cozy.

[Need help fixing or replacing your windows? Click to find the right contractor.]

And because you'll need to take out the old windows to replace them with new ones, you'd probably prefer to have big holes in your walls during the summer months, opposed to during cold or snowy weather.

But what if you can’t afford new windows? No problem. Replacing the caulking—which seals cracks against air infiltration—in older-style windows is a great move, says Moore. "It's easy and also a very energy efficient task that can stop the moisture and air from getting in," he says.

Here are a few more projects to get done before Old Man Winter comes to your town, according to Moore:

Insulate your attic: This not only helps to keep your home cool in summer, but can help keep it warmer in winter. Just be prepared for a pretty hot job - summer can really heat up your attic. Also, wear protective clothing: long pants, long sleeves, gloves and eye protection.

Check your heating system: Whether it's a fireplace or furnace, make sure it's in good condition. When the first cold snap hits, it could be dangerous to be without a heating system, especially if you live in a part of the country that sees freezing temperatures during the winter. Also, if you want a professional to do it, their availability and pricing is usually better in summer.

[Need to fix your heating system? Click to find the right home contractor now.]

Weatherproof your doors: If you can still see the great outdoors through the space between your closed door and the doorjamb, it's time either for a new door or for weather stripping. This is a foam or rubber insulator that attaches to the jammed door to keep cold air out and warm air in.

Project 2: Roof Installation or Repair

Let's see...what's the main purpose of a roof? Oh yes, to keep you dry. And in most areas of the United States, that means your roof is working overtime in the winter and catching a break in the summer.

It also means that late summer or early fall is a great time to repair or replace your roof, says Herriges. Obviously, it does rain in summer in many places in the country, but bad weather is thankfully easier to predict—and therefore prepare for—in summer months, he says.

As a result, the likelihood of getting caught with your "shingles down" and exposing your home to rain is more manageable.

You should also be happy to know that reputable roofing contractors are generally very good at watching weather patterns, says Herriges. So if a big blotch of rain does show up on the radar during your roof repair, they should be able to protect your home (and the project materials) while it blows through.

[Want to install a new roof? Click to find the right contractor now.]

Finally, he says summer is a good time for roof repairs because many roofing materials require an outdoor temperature of at least 40 degrees. Why? Because in low temperatures, adhesives can freeze, and materials that go under shingles (underlayment) can become brittle and break. This, of course, could compromise your roof.

Project 3: Painting

Is it time for a whole new look and feel to your home's interior or exterior? Aside from buying all new furniture, there are probably not many projects that will totally reinvent your living space like a fresh coat of paint.

And now is a great time for this project, whether you do it yourself or hire a professional, says Moore.

A good first reason to tackle this in late summer, he says, is temperature. Paint typically likes to dry in temperatures above 40 to 50 degrees. And without proper insulation, the exterior walls could be a lot colder than the interior walls. This means those exterior walls could have problems drying, says Moore. This could lead to some walls being a different shade, or even faint stripes.

Probably not your goal, right?

Another great thing about summer painting, he says, is you can ventilate your house by opening windows. This way, you may avoid some nasty—and potentially dangerous—fumes.

Finally, summer's extra natural light and longer days will give you a better idea of the true color you're putting on your walls. This could help you avoid waking up to a shade much different than you anticipated.

Project 4: Air Conditioner (AC) Upgrade or Replacement

Isn’t it ironic how all winter long you crave the warmth of summer, then when it gets here you run for the air conditioner? And isn't it sad when the AC doesn’t blast you with that winter-cool air you want?

ACs are complicated gadgets, says Herriges, so having an AC professional check it out to make sure it's in optimum condition is always a good idea, whether it's for late-season heatwaves or next summer.

Here are a few potential problems you may want a professional to check, says Herriges:

Refrigerant leaks: Your AC needs a refrigerant to carry heat from your house to the outside. If a leak occurs and this chemical is low or gone, you'll be sweating faster than you can say summer heatwave.

Inadequate insulation: The more your house heats up, the harder your AC works to cool it back down. So insulating your home is a way to help Mr. Cool do his job.

[Click to find the right HVAC contractor now.]

Faulty component: Your AC has many different and specialized components, like fans, coils, filters and motors. It's a good idea to have these checked by a professional to make sure they're in good working order - or a late heatwave might discover these issues for you, and you probably won’t enjoy that.

Electrical problems: ACs use a lot of electricity and have a lot of wiring. And this wiring doesn’t particularly get along well with heat (more irony!). So, making sure all connections are clean and wiring is intact is a very cool thing to do.

Project 5: Erecting a Fence

Late summer might be the best time all year to enjoy your backyard. Of course, there’s nothing that says "summer bummer" more than watching your neighbor do the same. Yes, good fences make good neighbors, and now is a great time to install a fence.

Why? Because that fun backyard weather is also good fence-building weather. And even if a late-summer shower does happen your way, there’s no need to worry, says Moore.

"The materials used for fences generally are made to be out in the elements [fair and foul weather], so there's no pressing time frame," he says.

There are things to be wary of, however, such as property lines. Moore explains that no part of your fence can go over that line. That means not just the posts, but the underground footing you dig for them.

And speaking of digging, Moore says to be sure you know where all electrical, gas and water lines are. Your project will go downhill fast if you crack one of those open. Best-case scenario: Something gets wet. Worst case: A lot of things blow up. Moore says if you hire a reputable contractor to install your fence, he or she will contact utility companies to check the property lines.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to remove a reference to Freon. Thank you to our commenters for pointing it out.