Fall Home Maintenance: Closing the Cottage | Onlia

Fall Home Maintenance: Closing the Cottage

Tips to close your cottage with protection & peace of mind.

Alex Kelly
by Alex Kelly
The end of summer is near, and the days are growing shorter. Whether you've been at the cottage for weekends or hanging out for extended stay, fall is the time to start packing up your seasonal home, making sure all is safe and sound before the winter hits. Properly closing your cottage will give you peace of mind during the winter months, while also preserving it for future summers to come – which means you don’t want to miss any important steps.
Keep reading for key areas to focus on to make your summer shut-down a breeze!

Water damage and leak protection

The changing temperatures and freezing water of winter can pose some of the most significant risks to your cottage. Shutting off the water, draining the system, and wrapping any non-winterized pipes will prevent freezing and bursting. Make sure all exterior water sources and hoses are shut off, with hoses disconnected and stored. 

If your cottage uses a septic tank, winterizing it is also essential – talk to the manufacturer or expert for the recommended way to do this. Check your sump pump to ensure it’s functioning correctly, with a fully charged backup battery. On the occasion of an early spring thaw, a sump pump is critical for keeping your cottage dry! 

Protect your cottage from leaks and ice build-up by cleaning out all the gutters and downspouts. Installing gutter guards is a great idea if you anticipate more leaves falling after your initial clean up. Remember to take a look at your roof, repairing any shingles or soffits that may pose a leak. Look out for trees around the building – dying trees or branches may pose a risk to the roof, should they come crashing down over the winter.

Fire safety and prevention 

Preparing for worst-case scenarios is the best way to protect your cottage (and investment) over the winter. As part of your clean up, remove all loose papers, old rags, and other flammable materials from the property to prevent fires. Common flammable materials may include barbeque propane, boat fuel, old paint, and varnish. 

Fire prevention goes beyond the main cottage – check surrounding outbuildings, like sheds or boathouses, for anything flammable. If you have a leftover summer woodpile, stack logs and kindling about 30 feet from the main cottage or sheds. Rake up leaves and dead brush, disposing of it properly. These extra steps help manage ignition sources should things spark up in the house.

Fall is a great time to inspect wiring throughout your seasonal home, as animals may have chewed through lines over the summer. Identifying issues now will help you catch electrical problems before they spark up. If you leave the heat on over the winter, turn the dials down to a low temperature. If you completely turn off all power to the cottage during the winter, be sure to unplug all appliances before you go.

Check out the status of your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, swapping in new batteries if necessary. Verify your fire extinguisher is operational and fully charged. These steps may feel unnecessary if the cottage will remain unoccupied over the winter, but guarantees your home is equipped with the proper safety gear if something goes awry.

Peace of mind

Closing the cottage can mean leaving no stone unturned, or in this case, no item left out. Take care of your water toys, outdoor furniture, and cottage vehicles by properly cleaning and storing them for the season. Your barbeque should also be stored in a shed or garage to protect it from the elements. 

Any items that can't be brought inside should be secured, safeguarding it from strong winds as well as potential theft. Waterfront property owners should try to haul out floating docks to protect them from ice build-up and water level changes, prolonging the deck's life.

You’ll also want to make an effort to close off your cottage to unwanted visitors, like rodents. Plug any holes and repair any gaps to dissuade pests from climbing in to keep warm. If they do get access to the house, the first place animals will search for a winter snack is in your kitchen – so clear out food from the cabinets, fridge, and freezer. Once the kitchen is clean, defrost and unplug your fridge, leaving the door ajar for ventilation. Store linens and towels in plastic bins, keeping critters from making nests in your closets.

While working on the interior of the house, pack up any valuables or sentimental items. Taking them home will ensure they are safe should there be a flood, leak, or break-in. Snap photos of both your cottage interior and exterior, as well as the surrounding property, just in case anything happens while you’re away. Pictures can support any potential insurance claims, and allow you to plan for spring updates or track any changes in the area.

Leaving a summer home unattended for up to six months may make some owners uneasy. Manage that stress by hiring someone locally to check on the property. Regular visits make it seem the home is occupied, deterring thieves. Winter caretakers can also shovel the snow and report on any damage, allowing you to take care of issues as they arise rather than months down the road. 

If your cottage has electricity over the winter, a smart home system may ease your worries. Connected flood monitors, smoke alarms, intruder alerts, and camera features provided a real-time picture of what is happening at the cottage while you are far away.

‘Til next season

How you close your cottage now will determine how smoothly the spring opening goes. Be kind to your future self and put the work in now, as preventative maintenance is always better (and cheaper)!

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