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5 perfect home improvements for this fall

There is something special about the fall months. Despite the cooler weather and shorter days, the season seems to bring a sense of renewal. Kids head back to school, and everyone else settles into a more predictable routine than that typically marking the summer months.

However, it's not only a season to update schedules and activities. Right now is also the perfect time to make improvements to your home. When the winter storms hit, you'll be glad you made these five upgrades.

1. Keep the chill out with replacement windows

The U.S. Department of Energy reports windows can account for up to 25 percent of your heating costs. That may be because some studies suggest as much as 10-15 percent of a home's energy is lost through the windows. A home with single pane windows is particularly prone to this heat loss.

If your windows are past their prime, now is a good time to install replacement windows. The government estimates using ENERGY STAR qualified windows can save the typical home between $126-$465 a year over single pane windows and $27-$111 per year over double-hung glass windows.

2. Replace or repair roofing before the winter weather hits

If you live in a state hard hit by last year's brutal winter, your roof may have sustained damage that could affect its ability to stand up to this year's onslaught of snow, wind, and cold. Heavy accumulations of snow could have weakened your roof structure and ice dams may have damaged shingles.

Before the next snow falls, have a qualified roofer inspect your home for potential problems. Depending on the extent of any issues found, you may be able to repair the damage or you may have to replace the entire roof.

3. Clean and replace worn gutters

Another casualty of last year's harsh winter may have been your gutters. Ice dams, icicles, and high winds could damage gutters and cause them to leak or overflow. As a result, you could get water pooling by your foundation that may eventually leak into your basement.

During the fall months, you should be cleaning your gutters of leaves, twigs, and other debris. While doing that, check for loose joints, sagging sections, or rust. All are indications your gutters should be repaired or replaced. Another giveaway is to watch your gutters in action during the rain. If water leaks through them or overflows the top or back, then you know there's a problem.

4. Update your mudroom

While those first three home improvement suggestions are more about keeping your home safe and secure, these next two are all about turning your house into a home you'll love. First, let's talk about your mudroom, or lack thereof.

A mudroom addition can be a great improvement for any house. Busy families need a place to remove muddy or wet boots and shoes as well as a landing pad for bags, keys, and other items that may otherwise end up cluttering the kitchen table or main living space.

While having a separate space custom built as a mudroom may be ideal, you could also create a DIY mudroom at any entrance. For example, you may want to set up a bench where children can sit to remove shoes, install hooks for coats and bags, and arrange a table where miscellaneous items such as keys and mail can be dropped.

5. Give the fireplace a facelift

Finally, stay cozy inside this winter by putting your fireplace to good use. If you plan to use wood in your fireplace, hire a chimney sweep to inspect it first to be sure it is safe. Or if you don't want to hassle with wood and soot, consider installing a gas insert which can provide heat and mimic the look of real fire without the inconvenience of ashes.

Even if you don't plan to actually use your fireplace, give it a little TLC this fall. This Old House reports a fireplace is among the top three features desired by new homebuyers. Make a dated fireplace a show stopper by staining the brick, covering it with tile or adding pillars. Painting or reconfiguring the mantel is another way to breathe new life into your home and create a focal point that will wow your family and guests alike.

Now is the time to make much needed improvements to your home. You'll likely be inside much of the winter. Wouldn't you rather be enjoying the heat in your updated home rather than shivering in drafts while looking at outdated spaces?