Closing Cottages for the Winter: Everything You Need to Know

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The last days of summer are upon us, and for many people that also means a few last trips to the cottage before the cold weather – not that we’re wishing for that anytime soon!

Once you do the more obvious things around the cottage – like washing and storing outdoor furniture, deflating tubes and toys, bringing in the boat and dock – are taken care of, what do you need to do next when it comes to closing cottages for the season? With the basics out of the way, there are other maintenance and chores to get out of the way before you can fully complete a cottage closing in preparation of Winter.

Why You Need to Close your Cottage Properly

Before we talk about how to ensure your cottage is closed up properly for the cold weather, you might be wondering why closing cottages up over the winter is something you have to undertake as a cottage owner in the first place. It can be a ton of work to ensure your cottage is closed up securely, but the benefit is large – you don’t have to worry about unexpected damage from animals, water or otherwise when your cottage is closed properly.

What Could Happen if You Don’t

Ensuring you have your cottage closed up safely is so important, as discussed above, but what could happen if you don’t close your cottage? Let’s talk about consequences of not doing so.

Animal Damage

  • Critters are aplenty in cottage country and rural areas all over Canada. When it gets cold outside, just like us humans, these furry and feathered friends seek warm, dry places to pass the season by. This can cause your cottage problems when these critters burrow into damaged siding, uncapped chimneys, or other gaps in your cottage where something small could crawl its way into your home away from home and create a huge mess for you to clean up in the Spring.
  • Consider a one or a few mice, for example. Not only do these little critters get into your food but they can also gnaw away at electrical wiring and carry and spread diseases. Not what you want to deal with when you come back to open your cottage for the season next year.

Weather-Related Damage

  • If you think animals are the only ‘pest’ you have to worry about – think again. Mother Nature can wreak havoc on your cottage when you aren’t there in the Winter if you don’t seal things up properly when you close the cottage up for the season.
  • When the mercury drops, your pipes can freeze easily if you aren’t prepared. Most non-winterized cottages have no insulation, so the risk of frozen or damaged pipes is very real for many cottage owners. Having your pipes freeze can cause them to burst and that is one of the most common causes of property damage in the Winter and will cost you as well. In fact, according to Homeadvisor’s True Cost Guide, it can be anywhere from $1000 to $4000 or more to fix this kind of problem. That’s why you want to make sure that the cottage closing goes as planned to keep your cottage (and your wallet) intact.

Common Question About Closing the Cottage Up

Does every cottage need closing up?

The short answer to this question is…sort of. Most cottages built in the last decade or two are typically what we call winterized. When the cottage is winterized, that means there is enough insulation, and a heat source, to utilize the cottage in all four seasons. Typically, this saves you from some more of the intense projects on the to-do list, but you will still want to prepare – especially the exterior of your property and the seasonal toys and furniture that need to be stored properly.

What about storing my boat, ATVs or Jet skis?

Cottages often come with fun “toys” that offer kids and adults plenty of fun alike – but you need to make sure no furry friends or pests decide to enjoy them over the winter! Ensuring you have a warm, dry place for your toys to stay over the winter is definitely one key to storage success, but you’ll also want to consider covers or wraps to keep things out. If you’re storing the items on your property, you’re going to want to do a final walk around of sheds, garages and any other locked up areas to ensure you have things safely locked away.

Can I do all this myself? Or is this for experts only?

As a cottage owner, when you buy your recreational property, you will be undertaking more work all year round, not just at the end of the season. So, with that said, you can definitely tackle a cottage closing on your own, though the first time you undertake this batch of chores might feel like a lot. From year to year, you will find these chores come more easily to you as you learn the specific ins and outs (and quirks!) of your cottage! If you aren’t handy, you may want to take in some advice and tips from the pros about how to handle certain elements of closing your cottage.

I don’t want to do my cottage closing alone – are there any services that will do this for me?

Of course, as in all things, you can pay someone to get things done for you. There are services like Cottage Coppers and The Cottage Plumber that can ensure your cottage closing is handled by the pros and the only finger you’ll be lifting is to pick up the phone to call the experts.

When should I start my cottage closing up for the season?

The answer to this question both depends on if your cottage is Winterized and when you typically stop heading up to your property. However, anytime after the kids head back to school but before Thanksgiving, is ideal for starting to close the cottage up. Something to consider is the fact that you could cover off these tasks over several weekends as well, and perhaps it will allow you to get in one or two more afternoons on the dock!

Steps to Closing Your Cottage

Before you begin tackling this list of cottage closing tasks, assessing your individual cottage’s needs for closing up is very important. Take an afternoon to walk around and assess any damage, issues or cracks around your property that might have happened to things like the roof, chimney, the foundation, or eaves troughs. Once you know what needs to be fixed, take time to do those repairs before you close up, so you don’t have to deal with them in the Spring. Once that is complete, dive into the rest of the to-do’s!

Inside

  • Empty food out of and clean the cupboards of debris and food particles
  • Empty, defrost and unplug your fridge
  • Thoroughly wash and store away dishes, cutlery and serve ware, getting rid of anything damaged or duplicated
  • Remove things like loose papers or old rags to prevent fires, and store chemicals safely or remove from the premises
  • To avoid rodents from moving in while you’re away, make sure you remove any linens from the property and if you’re extra concerned about things like mattresses and upholstered chairs/couches, ensure you place plastic wrapping around them. You can even get mattress bags typically used for moving and seal the mattresses in.
  • Take your linens home to wash and store for the next years’ enjoyment. Secure your windows and doors. Close curtains or blinds, and if you’re worried about intruders getting into your property while you aren’t there, installing a doorbell camera or security system can be a great peace of mind.

Outside

  • Repair any broken screens or windows
  • Inspect the outside of all your buildings for little holes big enough for animals or pests to get inside. Plug any of these gaps you find with steel wool or expanding spray foam. If you discover large holes you may want to call a pest control company to attend to them.
  • Clean your barbecue and cover it.
  • Disconnect and remove the propane tank. Store them both in a protected area.
  • Disassemble your dock and store safely. Paint the crib with rust-proof paint to be ready to put it in come spring.
  • If you have a septic tank, book a pump-out or cleaning before your last trip to the cottage. If your system does not yet need a clean or pump, add some approved “good” bacteria to help break down the waste over the winter months.
  • Skip draining gas from your boat motor. Instead, use a fuel stabilizer to keep things running smoothly. You can pick some up from Canadian Tire or a local auto store.
  • Store boat motors, lawn mowers and other items with engines in a dry, weatherproof place such as a shed or inside your boathouse. Cover anything that may rust over the winter with a coat of oil.
  • Stack canoes, kayaks, paddle boards and any other large water sports equipment somewhere safe and out of sight, and chain together with a solid padlock for good measure.

Final Thoughts About Closing Cottages for the Season

All in all, the biggest thing to remember about transitioning your cottage from Summer to the Fall and beyond is to consider the elements, the pests, and of course, the individual needs and repairs your cottage may need. You also want to start early, so you have plenty of time to take care of any fixes your cottage may need. Not to mention, giving you the chance to enjoy the very last of Summer at the cottage.

Get in Touch With Us!

Kim is a lifelong Clarington resident who has been helping families buy and sell real estate in this amazing community for over 15 years. Kim is focused on the best client experience possible. She believes in supporting her clients from the time they meet to well after the ‘sold’ sign goes up. Kim treats every client like a friend, and every deal like it’s the most important one she’s ever done. 

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