It’s Time to Start Getting Your Cottage Winter Ready

/ By Cowan Insurance Group

When the leaves start to turn, and the air becomes crisper, it’s time to start thinking about closing your cottage for the winter. It’s always nice to get back home and into your regular routine, but there’s something special about spending time at the cottage. It can be a bittersweet process, but there are a few things you can do to make preparing your cottage for the winter go a little more smoothly.

Our expert insurance advisors are here to help.

Here are five tips on how to get your cottage winter ready this fall.

  1. Preventative maintenance will save you both time and money:
    • Make sure the roof is in good repair to prevent water from entering
    • Caulk doors and windows
    • Ensure the gutters are clean and the walls are in good condition at ground level; make sure no dead plants are accumulating in the area that might attract vermin
    • Trees that are encroaching on your cottage should be trimmed; taking this step will prevent a pine tree branch from breaking into a window
    • Block air vents in the bathroom, dryer, and kitchen to keep birds and squirrels away
  2. Plumbing maintenance:
    • Shut off the water: The damage caused by a frozen or broken pipe can be devastating! Additionally, you do not want to encourage the growth of mould. Disconnect the cottage’s water line and turn off the pump.

    • Drain the pipes: Over the winter months, improperly drained pipes, pumps, and tanks can freeze, crack, or burst, resulting in expensive spring repairs. Here is what to do to drain the pipes in your cottage:

      • Turn all taps to the open position; whenever possible, use a compressor to remove any remaining water
      • You can empty the water from the pump by opening the drain valve
      • Turn off the hot water tank and drain it using a hose
      • By flushing the toilet, you can empty the toilet tank
      • Make sure the water pump is purged
      • Ensure that the dishwasher and washing machine are free of water
      • Pour two cups of plumbing antifreeze into the drainpipes (sinks, toilets, baths, dishwashers, etc.)

      If you have never drained your cottage’s plumbing system, you’ll want to have a licensed plumber guide you through the process.

    • Sump pump: If your cottage has a sump pump, make sure it stays in good working order all winter long, or you could experience flooding when the snow starts to melt.

    • Septic tank: If you have a septic system, follow the manufacturer’s service recommendations and timelines. If the septic system is due for inspection, don’t put off inspections until the spring to avoid costly and preventable problems during the winter months.

  3. Heating:

    If your cottage has a furnace, keep the temperature set to around 10°C to prevent pipes from freezing. Make sure all your electrical appliances are unplugged. Turn off the power if it is not needed in your absence.

  4. Unwanted guests/visitors:

    Unwanted wildlife and pests can wreak havoc on your property while you are away. Take all your food home with you, including food in jars or cans. Defrost the freezer, clean the fridge from top to bottom and leave the doors ajar.

    Check your cottage for any openings that small animals can squeeze through. To prevent unwanted visitors from getting into your chimney, use a chimney cap or cover.

    Unwanted human guests can sneak into the yard, grab your patio set, or break a lock if a big screen TV or other valuables are in plain sight. Be sure to store your BBQ, boats, garden hose, and any other valuables in a secured storage area and avoid leaving any valuables in view of windows.

    If possible, ask a neighbour to check on your property once a month to ensure there is no damage done by nature or otherwise.

  5. Notify your insurance company:

    It’s a good idea to check in with your insurance broker before you lock your cottage doors for the winter. Your insurer may require that certain precautions be taken, such as installing an alarm system and monitoring property at specific intervals throughout the winter months.


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