Your cottage has given you the best years of its life – and the best years of yours – so give it some love back by properly winterizing your cottage. We’re not going to lie, cottage maintenance takes some work, but if you know what you’re doing, you won’t have to work overtime. Closing your cottage for its long winter’s nap is invariably important if you want to avoid any nasty surprises come spring.
We’ve created a checklist of things you have to cover before you close down for the season. This should put your mind at ease so you can put your cottage to rest. Of course, every cottage will differ slightly based on amenities’ and facilities, but this list should cover the basics for a range of homes away from home.
We’ll walk you through the winterization process, beginning with outdoor prep, which you’ll probably want to take care of first. (The weather can change fast in cottage country.) Next, we’ll move indoors and make sure your cottage interior is in ship shape for the snowy season.
Let’s get started.
Outside Winter Cottage Prep
1. Store outdoor furnishings and appliances. We’re talking patio furniture, barbeques and any portable ornamentation, like bird baths or lawn and garden ornaments. Store them in a secure, locked building, like a garage, boat house or storage facility.
2. Paint any bare areas, plug any holes and seal any cracks around the outside of the cottage. This will help protect the structural integrity of your cottage through the freezing and thawing that are part and parcel of late fall and early spring.
3. Cover your chimney opening so you don’t acquire any furry friends over the winter. Raccoons and other small animals love to nestle in here for the season. Also look for other small openings that could serve as a winter home for animals. Popular spots include under the eaves, around the foundation and under the deck.
4. Make sure the snow gets cleared of your pathways and roof at least once during the winter. A build up of snow – even on a seemingly structurally sound roof – can become perilously heavy, especially if there’s a deep freeze after a stretch of rain. We recommend putting sturdy boxes over skylights and vents to protect them from heavy loads of snow – or from overzealous roof cleaners. (Yes, we recommend hiring someone to do this dangerous work for you, unless you have the safety gear and experience to do the job yourself.) Likewise, it’s a good idea to make sure your driveway and walkways are clear in case there is an emergency and you have to get to the cottage quickly. A plowed driveway also lets possible thieves know someone is monitoring the house, thereby acting as a deterrent.
5. Along a similar vein, ask a friend or employ someone to check in at the cottage regularly, just to ensure everything is alright. In the event anything has gone awry, you can deal with it right away.
Inside Cottage Prep for Winter
1. Unplug your electrical appliances as well as your electrical devices. Even when they are turned off, a lot of these contraptions will draw a ghost feed of power. Over the winter months, this will add up and result in an extra expense – and owning a cottage is enough of an expense!
2. Similarly, turn off your electric baseboard heater. Not only will this save you money, but it could also save your cottage. Baseboard electric heaters are one of the most common causes of cottage fires. If you have central heating, turn it off or down.
3. Get your water in order – and by in order, we mean turn it off and flush it out. Turn off the supply of water, then drain the pipes and the hot water tank. Also, leave the taps open. This allows them to breathe. Make sure your toilets are off and flushed. Bail out the water in the bowl and add some pink (or other environmentally friendly) anti-freeze to the bowl and tank. ALWAYS add the anti-freeze. In fact, add them all your drains. There will always be a little water left over and it can blow up your sink and toilet.
4. Close your fireplace’s damper chute and clean out your fireplace.
5. Do a complete sweep of your kitchen, taking away any food that can attract unwanted guests, which can range from small rodents to bears. Also, be sure to prop open your fridge and freezer doors. Even a perfectly clean fridge will be musty and smelly if it is shut up all winter.
6. Heist your own stash of valuables so that, in the event of a burglary, they are not there to take. If you are going to leave valuables there, be sure to cover up the windows to prevent peaking. Thieves are much more likely to put the effort into breaking into a cottage when they are sure of the score. If they can’t see the goods, they are not as likely to bank on the break in, and are thereby less likely to bother.
Preparing your cottage for the winter may seem like a lot of effort now, but it will save you a lot of time and effort (and surprises and possible heartache). Use this checklist as your first step to winterizing your cottage. It will ensure both it and you have a happy and safe snowy slumber.