With Thanksgiving just a couple days away (and guests sure to descend upon your home over the festive season), it's high time to take care of all the small-scale home improvements you've been meaning to handle all year long. From sprucing up your floors to fixing those squeaky door hinges and getting rid of those unsightly stains, we've got a list of small, quick fixes that will make your home shine on Thanksgiving Day and the rest of the year. And if you have a little extra time on your hands, there are some bigger fixes you could tackle as well. (Also, check out AOL Real Estate's comprehensive Home Improvement Guide.)
Quick Fix: Get Your Windows in Order
When walking up to your home, your front windows are usually the first thing guests will notice, so make sure they're squeaky-clean and glistening. Ideally, they should be washed twice a year, but most people simply don't get around to it -- and those who do don't always do it right.
According to Brent Weingard of Expert Window Cleaners in New York, the popular way of washing windows -- scrubbing them with spray cleaner and wadded up newspaper or paper towels -- is not the best way. "Rubbing isn't a good idea: You're just moving dirt around from one spot to another and putting a static charge on the glass, which attracts dust and dirt," he told This Old House. "As soon as you finish, the window looks dirty again." Instead, Weingard recommends that you use a squeegee and a squirt of dishwashing liquid in a bucket of warm water (the less suds, the better).
Also make sure your windows open and close properly. This is especially important during Thanksgiving so that cooking fumes don't make the whole house hot and stuffy. If your windows are stiff or they "stick," a little silicone spray lubricant (widely available at hardware stores) on window skids will grease them adequately enough to "unstick them." Spray it onto a rag, then wipe along the tracks. It doesn't matter whether they’re metal, wood or plastic.
Quick Fix: Silence Those Squeaky Door Hinges
A lot of guests plus a lot of cooking equals a lot of going in and out of rooms. The last thing you want is to hear are those squeaky doors all day long. The perfect fix: Spritz a little WD-40 (an oil- and water-displacing spray widely available at home improvement stores, groceries and drug stores) onto the hinges and move the door back and forth to work in the lubricant. No time to run out on errands? That's OK, too: Rubbing the hinges with petroleum jelly should also loosen them nicely.
According to Real Simple, if these tricks don't work, you can also lift the hinge pins about halfway and lubricate them using some 3-In-One (a general purpose lubricating oil with a precede drip spout). Home Envy, however, recommends skipping the WD-40 and 3-In-One altogether and using a non-drip motorcycle chain lubricant like Castrol Chainlube, which lubricates hinges and has anti-wear capabilities for long-term non-squeakiness.
DO NOT, under any circumstances, use cooking oil as a quick fix, Home Envy warns: It will only get sticky later.
Quick Fix: Restore the Floors
DIY Life recommends a quick, low-cost method when you need the look of newly refinished wood floors: All you need is a small can of clear polyurethane, gloves, clean rags and a mop. Sweep the floor and mop it with very hot water. Put on the gloves and apply the clear polyurethane to clean the floors with a rag, starting from the farthest point from the exit and working your way in until the entire surface has been covered.
Though this method is far less durable than true refinishing (which is timely, expensive and laborious), it does fill in fine scratches, restores the floor's original "gleam" without harming the floor, and works great in a pinch. Good Housekeeping also recommends the same method using a hardwood floor refinisher like Orange Glo.
According to Home Guides, the best way to fix scuffed, scratched and torn linoleum is using acetone and seam sealer. Dampen a soft, clean cloth with acetone (lacquer thinner also works) and wipe the damaged area to remove all surface dirt. Fill the tear or scratch with liquid seam sealer (available widely at hardware stores). Place a flat, heavy object over the repaired area and leave to dry.
This Old House outlines an easy, six-step process requiring only a few materials and tools to get your tile floor looking like brand new in less than an hour.
Quick Fix: Make Your Home Stain-Free
From chocolate stains on couches to wine spilled on carpet, stains in the home happen -- and happen frequently (in our households, anyway). Fool your guests into thinking that you have a spill-free family by properly treating the stains in your home (dousing a food stain with water and club soda just doesn't cut it anymore).
DIY Life recommends using professional stain removing agents such as Oxi Clean or the Laundress Wash & Stain Bar, both widely available at drug stores and grocery stores. Blot them -- don't rub them -- into the stain (this works best with food and wine stains). Carefully dab the liquid with an absorbent material like a cotton cloth or paper towel, and watch the stain disappear. Ink stains, however, work best when dabbed with rubbing alcohol, then dried with a blow-dryer at its lowest setting.
Have a leather couch? Leather requires a gentler formula, experts say. Manhattan Cleaning suggests a homemade paste of one part lemon juice and one part cream of tartar. Apply and let sit for about ten minutes, then put another layer of paste on top. Remove with a wet, wrung-out cloth dampened with Castile soap, and then buff dry with a cloth. Voila! Clean, stain-free leather -- minus the potentially harmful and damaging chemicals.
Quick Fix: De-Clutter Your House
This may sound obvious, but it's a step that's easily overlooked! You need to clear away all the unnecessary tchotchkes and things you don't need that have somehow collected in the kitchen, living room or family room over the years.
Good Housekeeping says that prior to the holiday season you must corral all that out-of-control junk into a spare room or closet, if possible, or in a hidden corner. And don't be scared to simply discard items that you don't need anymore: Those old magazines, for example, or that broken lamp you swore you'd get fixed (four years ago). You might find that under all that clutter is a clean, sleek, organized home.
Bigger Fix: Revive That Doorbell
How are you going to know your guests have arrived when the doorbell is busted? Many times, doorbells can fail due to constant use or bad weather -- but it's also possible that the chime or transformer have stopped working. If you have a little more time on your hands to fix up your home, then we'd strongly suggest getting your doorbell in order in time for the holiday season.
This Old House has a step-by-step guide on how to fix your doorbell (and a handy list of tools that you'll need).
Bigger Fix: Lawsuit-Proof Your Walkway
Years of slamming the pavement between the sidewalk and your door will no doubt do some damage to those concrete steps. If you have a couple of extra days, it's a good idea to patch and resurface those cracked steps before your guests descend. You don't want anyone's memories of their visit to include bruises or broken bones!
The DIY Network has an excellent step-by-step guide on how to resurface and patch your home's walkway this holiday season.
Bigger Fix: Get Your Bathroom De-Molded and Re-Caulked
If you have overnight guests, you'll want your bathroom to look like it's in tip-top shape.
That mildew-blackened caulk and mold around your bathtub and shower will simply not fly. (Not to mention, it's potentially harmful.) If you have some time, add a thin layer of fresh caulk over the mildewed caulk the day before guests arrive, letting it cure before anyone uses the shower, This Old House suggests.
Do It Yourself also recommends using a mild bleach solution to kill mold around the bathtub and prevent its immediate regrowth. You can use an old toothbrush to clean and scrub in crevices.
More on AOL Real Estate:
Find out how to calculate mortgage payments.
Find homes for sale in your area.
Find foreclosures in your area.
Find homes for rent in your area.
Follow us on Twitter at @AOLRealEstate or connect with AOL Real Estate on Facebook.