Tips on Closing Down the Cottage

By: Sylvia Smith

Tips on Closing Down the Cottage

Tags: Cottage, Closing Cottage, Seasonal Cottage, Buying a cottage, selling a cottage, muskoka cottages, Parry sound cottages

Wow in just of few weeks we will be thinking of closing or getting our cottages ready for winter.  It has been a wild year but thank god we had our cottages to escape to.  

If you are new to seasonal cottage upkeep and maintenance you may be feeling a little nervous about closing down the cottage.  I will be offering my favourite tips on closing down a cottage but if you are feeling stressed it may be a good idea to hire someone to do it for you or walk you through the steps in closing down a season cottage. 

When Should You Close Down Your Cottage?

Closing down the cottage after Thanksgiving for the winter tips
Most cottagers target to close down their cottage just after Thanksgiving weekend but it all depends on the weather.  Ideally, you want to have everything ready for the winter way before the first snowfall.  

Cottage Closing Checklist

Fall time to start thinking about closing down our cottages until the spring
Taking the appropriate time to winterize the cottage is critical to ensure that you do not run into unexpected and unpleasant expensive repairs in the spring.
  1. Drain all water pipes – it is critical that you ensure that water is completely drained from pipes to guard against pipes freezing and bursting in the cold winter months.  Don’t forget to shut off the main water valve too. I would also recommend placing some anti-freeze down your pipes as an extra precaution.
  2. Leak-proof the hot water heater – make sure to drain and turn off your hot water heater to ensure you don’t have a damaging winter leak.
  3. Defrost your refrigerator and freezer – remove all food and clean the fridge and freezer to reduce the likelihood of attracting wildlife into the cottage.  Unplug and leave the doors open to reduce the likelihood of mildew and mold.
  4. Septic tank preparation – what you need to do will depend on the height of the water table and if pipes run uphill or downhill.  Follow the manufacturer’s recommendation and if in doubt call an expert.
  5. Wildlife proof your cottage property – when temperatures drop rodents and insects will eagerly seek shelter in your cottage if they can get in. Take a couple of precautions to reduce the likelihood of them entering such as re-seal old caulking, make sure that vent screens are not damaged, close your fireplace chimney flue, and take other precautions to keep them out.  I have found that dryer softener sheets also help with keeping the insects out and keep the cottage smelling fresh through the winter months – take them out of the box and spread them around the cottage. 
  6. Secure your dock – if you leave your dock in the water you will need to secure it to ensure it doesn’t get damaged through the winter.  As the water rises in the winter don’t forget to give plenty of slack to the weight chains to allow the dock to rise as water levels rise.
  7. Also secure all items that are left outside over the winter – if you have items that are too bulky or cumbersome to bring indoors or you do not have enough indoor storage space – make sure you secure them outside with ropes or chains.  As it is not uncommon for paddle boats, tables, canoes, etc. to drift into the lake in the spring thaw. 
  8. Will you leave your hydro on or turn it off? Some cottage owners leave their power on all winter for security systems.  This is a personal choice but if you do disconnect your hydro do not forget to also unplug each appliance – to reduce the likelihood of appliances getting damages with power surges.
  9. Lastly, make sure all cottage insurance is current and up-to-date.   Insurance is not always top of mind and definitely not the most fun topic when owning a cottage but it sure comes in handy when your cottage property gets vandalized or damaged.

Final Tips to Get the Cottage Ready for the Winter and Spring

Here are some tips that aren’t as critical from a security and safety perspective but doing these in the fall will make life easier when it comes time to open the cottage in the spring.
- Place anti-damp packets in each room to reduce winter humidity – or place a small bag of charcoal open on a plastic bag in the main living air to reduce the humidity and the musty smell from building up in the cottage over the winter.
These tips will greatly reduce the likelihood of running into unpleasant surprises when you arrive to reopen the cottage in the spring.