Home Improvements for the Holidays

Home Improvements for the Holidays

Local contractors say there is time to spruce up your house and yard.

Adding built-in shelves, like these by Wentworth, Inc., can transform an entertainment space in time for the holidays.

Adding built-in shelves, like these by Wentworth, Inc., can transform an entertainment space in time for the holidays. Photo by Geoffrey Hodgdon/Wentworth, Inc.


Adding a new backsplash, counter and lighting in a kitchen such as this one by Wentworth, Inc. can transform a room in time for holiday entertaining.

“The weather in the fall is generally ideal so it can be a great time to take on … projects.”

— Michael Winn, President, Winn Design + Build


Smaller projects like those in this Vienna bathroom by Winn Design + Build include updating plumbing, changing electrical fixtures and painting, and can be completed before the arrival of holiday guests.

Changing temperatures and falling leaves are a signal the holidays are near. From Thanksgiving through the New Year, homes are filled with guests and schedules are stacked with parties. Getting one’s home guest ready by the holidays may be daunting, but it’s doable with proper planning and realistic expectations, say local contractors.

Now is the time to begin projects that don’t require elaborate planning, building permits or products on back order. “A window and door replacement project could be completed before the holidays if you started the process right away,” said Michael Winn, president of Winn Design + Build.

Fall is a perfect time to begin projects that depend on outdoor elements, he noted. “The weather in the fall is generally ideal so it can be a great time to take on those exterior projects,” said Winn. “Be ready, be decisive and start now. The fall is a great time to undertake exterior improvements such as new siding, trim, roofing, painting and landscaping.”

He added that he recently “renovated a front porch, [adding] new windows, new trim and exterior painting. A fresh coat of paint can do wonders and satiate your remodeling urges until after the holidays when you have the time to tackle something a bit more ambitious.”

While there probably isn’t time to complete an extensive kitchen remodeling project, Winn says that smaller projects like adding new countertops, updating plumbing, changing electrical fixtures, painting and refinishing wood floors can be completed before the onslaught of holiday entertaining and breathe new life into a tired bathroom or kitchen.

“A bathroom may be a candidate if it’s a ‘pull-and-replace’ [meaning that] the layout remains the same and the materials you select are stock or have a quick lead time,” said Winn. “If you’re not already well into the design process, your kitchen or renovation is probably best postponed until after the holidays.”

Still, minor cosmetic improvements can give the illusion of a major change. “We recently designed and built a new entryway with built-ins for a client that creates a welcoming first impression for guests as well as needed storage for the owners,” said Bruce Wentworth, president of Wentworth, Inc.

A pragmatic approach to a project is an important factor in increasing the likelihood that it will be ready in time for holiday entertaining. “If homeowners start early and have a realistic scope of work, it could be done,” said Wentworth. “Quality work is important with home improvements and fast is not always part of that formula.”

Architect Kai Tong of Hopkins and Porter Inc. in Potomac, Md., recently finished a project that he says offers a strategy and timeline that, if started now, would easily result in having an entertainment space by the holidays. His client wanted space for his television and sound equipment, so Tong designed a custom built-in unit for media and display.

“The design was intended to be the visual anchor of the new entertainment space, and to be harmonious with an existing lighted cove ceiling, adjacent columns and other architectural features in the room. The medium-stained cherry wood furthered that harmony,” said Tong.

A millwork shop completed the design within six weeks. During that time, audiovisual specialists wired the space while the Hopkins and Porter team completed other renovation work, including preparing the wallpaper and removing existing wall sconces.

Tong said that overall, there was “very minimal on-site disruption.”

Securing a contractor to begin a project could be a stumbling block, but not one that is insurmountable. “Most of the better contractors are in-demand and have production backlogs of two to six months,” said Winn. “If your project is small and your timing is flexible, you may be able to squeeze [it] into their schedule. Many contractors have ‘gaps’ in-between their projects, while they’re waiting for a permit to be issued or if they finished a project ahead of schedule. They may be able to accommodate your project if the timing is right.”