No one wants to say goodbye to their cottage for the winter, but as the days get shorter, the air gets crisper and the leaves continue to blanket the ground, it’s the ideal time to do just that. While some cottages can be used year-round, many are three-season only. These are the ones that need to be prepped for the winter months so you can head back without issue once the warm weather returns!

Just like your home, your cottage requires proper care and maintenance to ensure it can be used and enjoyed for many years to come. This is why it’s well worth the time and effort to shut it down properly, so you can hopefully mitigate any issues by the time you return in the spring. 

If you’re a cottage owner, be sure to check these 10 tasks off your list as you prepare to leave your home-away-from-home for the winter months.

Winterizing Cottage Water Lines

1. Ensure your pipes are ready for the cold

To keep your pipes from freezing, and potentially bursting, be sure to turn off your main water supply and ensure your pipes are drained. Once the water supply has been turned off, simply turn on a faucet to see if water comes out—if no water flows out, you’re good to go.

To further prevent pipes from freezing and potentially bursting, turn your heat down to 10 C. This helps keep frost from building up and can help prevent issues with your pipes. If you’re not wanting to pay the energy costs in the months you’re not at the cottage, you can turn the heat off completely as long as your pipes are properly winterized. Call in a plumber to look at your pipe systems, and they’ll let you know the best way to protect them.

2. Seal up any soft furniture

Mattresses, couches, and any other soft furniture around the cottage is susceptible to rodents during the colder months. Mice love to create nests in the cushioning, so you’ll want to wrap these items in thick plastic—something they can’t chew through. You can also add some scented dryer sheets, as the strong smell can deter unwanted critters.

Protect Cottage Doors and Windows from Winter

3. Secure all windows and doors

Make sure to close and lock all your windows and doors properly.. While you’re doing this, if you notice any drafts or leaks around the w frames, be sure to caulk them. This is a cost-effective way to reduce your heating bills over winter. Also make sure all blinds or curtains are closed.

4. Clear gutters

Gutters full of leaves and debris can lead to serious problems. Clogged gutters can trap excess water when it rains or snows, causing water to back up and potentially leak through the roof. Or, when the temperature drops, the excess water can freeze and cause gutters to pull away from the house and create overhead hazards.  

Check the safety of your fireplace

5. Secure the fireplace

If your cottage has a wood burning fireplace, be sure to clean it out thoroughly at the end of the season and close the damper vent. Get rid of all the ash and check for any damages while you’re in there. Even if you clean your chimney regularly, you should still have it inspected by a qualified chimney sweep once a year. Certified chimney sweeps are trained to recognize chimney deterioration and venting problems and can assess your fireplace chimney’s condition. If you have yet to get your fireplace professionally cleaned, before you shut your cottage down for the winter is the perfect time to do so.

6. Check septic tank doesn’t require maintenance

Many cottages have a septic tank. If yours is one of them, follow the service recommendations and timelines set out by your manufacturer, which is generally to service the tank every three to five years. If it’s time for yours to be serviced, contact a professional to ensure your septic system is running properly before shutting down your cottage for the season.

Clean up the kitchen

7. Clean out the kitchen

To deter any unwanted guests, like insects and animals, from settling into your cottage while you’re away, be sure to clear out all your cupboards and remove all food, including cans and dry food. You’ll also want to defrost the freezer, clean out the fridge, and bring everything home with you. 

8. Remove all valuables and personal belongings

Make sure items such as outboard motors, fishing equipment, water skis, canoes and kayaks, chainsaws, generators, ATVs, and electronics are securely locked. It’s also good to make sure your property is free from alcohol, firearms, or weapons—better to be safe than sorry. You can add an extra layer of security by installing a motion-sensored light and camera system. Most systems can be operated through your phone or computer, meaning you can get real-time alerts if something happens on your property. 

9. Unplug all appliances as needed

While it’s important to keep some things running, such as a sump pump to prevent any flooding, help prevent electrical fires and other issues while you’re away from the cottage by unplugging larger appliances like the fridge, freezer, microwave, washing machine, and dryer.

Take pictures before you leave so you can see any damage when you get back

10. Take pictures before you leave to identify any damages when you return

Be sure to take photos of everything before you leave so you’ll have evidence to show your insurance provider should any damage happen while you’re away. This will help make for an easier process in case you have to submit a claim.

11. Outside duties

Finally, take one last look at the outside of your cottage and complete any outdoor duties. Perhaps this includes bringing your dock inside, cleaning and storing boats, dock ornaments, ladders, life jackets, ski equipment, or BBQ equipment like propane tanks.

With the unpredictability of weather events and other natural hazards, it’s best to follow the above precautions to avoid any unwanted surprises. It’s also recommended to notify your insurer when you’ll be leaving your cottage unattended. 

Your cottage is your summer sanctuary, not to mention a big investment, so make sure to take proper care of it! 


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