The run-up to the holiday season is a good time to be taking care of home improvement projects. Friends and family will be dropping by a bit more frequently, so they'll be able to see the fruit of your labors.

Even if your home isn't a major social setting, if you're like most of us, you tend to spend a bit more time indoors in the winter, so you might as well be making the most of your home for the people living in it: you.

Seal the driveway and fix those cracks in the sidewalk

Salt on the roads and frequent temperature changes can break down your entrance ways. Make a good impression on the outside of your home and avoid curious looks from guests thinking "was that crack always there?"

Home theatre area

You've got a big screen television and a great sound system. But what about the stand the TV rests on? How about the decor? You may want to look at custom cabinets or storage for your DVDs and related items. Is the couch your guests will be sitting on looking a bit worn? Upgrade and replace as needed. You may also want to consider mounting your flat screen television on a wall for more effective use of space and a sophisticated look. 

The kitchen: the most used room in the house

When you've got company over for the holidays, even if the main event may be in the living room, people naturally gravitate towards the kitchen for an extra cup of cocoa or a gingerbread cookie from the pantry. Think about new cabinets, solid slab countertops or a coat of paint that brightens up the room can create a welcoming feel. And if you've upgraded your kitchen utilities like your dishwasher, you'll have an easier time after the party is done.

Bathroom fix-ups

New tiles and re-grouting can add a fresh look to your bathroom. Maybe it's also time to add touches like a new mirror, shower curtain or bathroom mat.

Designer fireplace and maintenance

A lot of holiday parties tend to center around the fireplace. Custom fireplaces that double as art installations are becoming more popular. More homes are also including them in other parts of the house besides the living room, such as in the kitchen or master bedroom.

If installation is a bigger job than you were thinking and you've already got a working fireplace, at least get your maintenance done, cleaning it up, checking connections and ventilation and ensuring cracks in the mantle or other areas get sealed properly.

Give yourself a home improvement schedule

You're not going to want to deal with dust and packaging from home improvement projects while your guests are arriving. Give yourself plenty of time to work through your improvements, and don't bit off more than you can chew. Give yourself a realistic list to accomplish and if you can't get it done before New Year's Eve, well, there's always next year.

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