How to close your cottage for the winter
Two muskoka chairs overlooking the lake

Summer is… dare we say it… coming to an end. As we come to terms with trading in our swimsuits for fall jackets, we also need to start thinking about properly closing the cottage for the season. We’ve outlined our top tips below for getting your cottage winter-ready.

  • 1. Spend one afternoon inspecting everything. Take a walk around the property and assess any damage that might have happened to things like the roof, chimney, the foundation, or eaves troughs. Doing this a little earlier on will allow you to fix anything before closing (which means not having to deal with it in the spring). Be mindful of any small spaces or cracks were little critters could get into – you won’t want to have to clean up after them in the spring.
  • 2. Fireplace. If you have a fireplace, have it inspected and cleaned out at the end of the season and close the damper vent.
  • 3. Unplug major appliances as needed. Things like the fridge, freezer, microwave, washing machine, dryer, etc. We say as needed because, while it saves you time, shutting off all power at the fuse board might not be the best option. Some things like the sump pump should remain on to prevent any flooding.
  • 4. Adjust the heating as necessary. Some people prefer to turn the heat off completely, but turning it down to 10 degrees or so will help prevent frozen (and bursting) pipes. If you have gas heating however, make sure that’s shut off before you leave.
  • 5. Shut off the main water supply and drain all the pipes before you go. To double check, turn on a faucet to make sure no water comes out, and you’re good to go.
  • 6. Pump out your septic system. The general rule is to do this every 3-5 years, so if it’s around that time for your cottage, now (early fall) is the best time to do it.
  • 7. Be mindful of liquids that will stay in storage over the winter as some might not be able to handle extreme cold. For example, paint stored in the garage might have to be brought inside, while gas for the boat can stay in the boathouse!
  • 8. Clean and unplug your BBQ from the propane tank. This one is pretty self-explanatory – just disconnect the propane tank and store it in the shed or garage.
  • 9. Take photos of everything! Just in case any damage happens to the property during the winter, you’ll have photos to show your insurer, making the process smoother if there’s a claim.
  • 10. Get creative and make a dinner using all of the “lasts” of food in your fridge or pantry. This way, you won’t have to take them all home. If you are unplugging the fridge, leaving the door open slightly will help prevent mildew build-up.
  • 11. Lastly, check that everything is locked. Everything from bunkies, garages, boathouses, sheds, and the actual cottage. Try and make sure expensive stuff like your boat(s), paddle boards, kayaks, lawn equipment, and so on, are out-of-sight.

After you’ve done all of these steps, it’s important to check up on the property throughout the winter and check for any ice buildup on the roof, etc. If you can’t make the trip, ask a neighbour who’s up there during the colder months to check for ice or clear any snow. Some cottage communities will also hire a shared maintenance service that you can join in on!

Your cottage is home to some of the best memories with family and friends, so make sure it’s protected. Most insurance companies can list your cottage on your home policy as a secondary property, but you can also purchase separate insurance for it. Properly insuring your cottage and maintaining it during the winter months will help the longevity of your weekend home so you can keep the good times comin’!

Protect your home and the things you love most.