Tips for Closing Your Cottage for the Winter

Make sure your cottage is ready for those long winter months so you can enjoy it next spring.

With the summer winding down, it’s almost time to say good-bye to the cottage until next spring. Sad though the parting may be, you can’t just up and leave your place for the winter. Taking care of these tasks now will make your next cottage opening go smoother.

Shut Down the Water System

With the winter comes freezing temperatures. If you don’t properly shut down the plumbing system, you run the risk of water freezing in the pipes, causing them to burst.

First, shut off the main water supply and drain the pipes completely. You should also cut water to your water heater and drain it as well. Then, turn on a faucet to make sure the job is done.

There will always be traces of water left in the pipes, so it’s worth wrapping them in insulation to reduce the chance of freezing. You can buy premade insulation tubes at the hardware store which require no cutting or gluing to install. Put these on any pipes that run through a ‘cold zone’ in your cottage, like an uninsulated crawlspace or garage.

Remove Any Leftover Food

You don’t want to leave anything tasty in your cottage over the winter, as even canned goods can attract wildlife. Give your fridge and cupboards a good clean, leaving the doors open to air them out.

Turn Off / Set Your Heating System for Winter

Should you shut down your cottage’s heating system during the winter? That’s up to you. It can be very expensive to keep it running all winter long, especially up north. But keeping the heat on at a low temperature (around 10 degrees) will help minimize the potential for damage from ice and snow, such as pipes bursting, frost build-up, and roof damage. Ultimately, you should decide whether this precaution is worth the added energy costs.

Close the Gaps

When the temperature drops, your local wildlife will be looking for a warm place to stay. Make sure your cottage isn’t it! Seal up any holes in the foundation that could invite critters in. If you have a fireplace, but sure to close the chimney cap or cover. You can also leave mothballs around the perimeter of your cottage to discourage mice and other critters from entering.

Unplug Major Appliances

Some people shut off power to their cottage at the fuse box, but Mike Holmes advises against this, since that’ll shut down the sump pump and leave your basement susceptible to flooding. Instead, unplug your major appliances individually or turn the power off to these appliances at the electrical panel.

Check the Roof

The roof is one of the most important areas of your cottage to check before winter, since it’ll have to stand up to the weight of the snow and ice. You want to make sure it’s secure to prevent it from buckling or caving in. Inspect for damaged shingles, and trim any over-hanging or dead tree branches that could snap off and fall onto the roof.

You should also take time to clean the gutters. Leaving them full of debris all winter means they’ll block water from draining, which can accumulate in an “ice dam” that packs more snow onto the roof. Wait until all the leaves have fallen and give them one final clean before you leave.