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How to Close Your Cottage for Winter

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Blog by Ragan Zilic Lovegrove | November 2nd, 2016

Well it’s that time of year again – the trees are growing bare, the days are getting colder, and the possibility of snow is becoming all the more real (we just had a little snow last week). Like many of you, I look forward to spending the winter season settled down in front of the fireplace with a glass of wine and a good book (or Netflix queue), but there are a few things we cottagers need to do before we settle in for those long few weeks/months of snow and ice. It’s time to close up the cottage for the winter.

Whether your cottage is winterized or not, taking the time to close it up properly at the end of the season not only helps to protect your investment, but it ensures that your triumphant return in springtime isn’t marred by unexpected repairs (or unwelcome residents).

With that in mind, here are a few reminders of some of the things you need to do to close your cottage for the winter. If you just bought your cottage and this is your first time closing up, this list should help you get started.

1. Turn off the Water

This is particularly important if your cottage is not winterized. Any water left in your pipes can cause them to burst when it freezes. You will need to shut off the water and make sure to let it all drain out. This goes for the pump and the hot water heater, too.

2. Close all Windows and Doors

If you have a screened in Muskoka room or gazebo, you might want to consider using sheets of acrylic (like Plexiglas®) to cover the windows to protect them from snow or other damage. Since doing this ourselves, we have much less to do in the spring to remove the buildup of snow, ice, leaves and rubble.

3. Bring in the Docks

There are a lot of things you can put off if you want to stay at the cottage as late as possible, but this shouldn’t be one of them. Call some friends or your maintenance person (see below) and get the docks out sooner rather than later so you’re not struggling to do it when the snow and ice and minus-30-degree weather takes over. 

4. Pack up Everything

It might seem like a nice idea to leave the beds made and ready for your pending return to the cottage, but I can guarantee you’ll just end up washing off dust and dirt in the spring. Wash all of your bedding and store it in plastic bags or containers; they’ll stay much fresher in storage, so when you come back to the cottage, you’ll be making beds rather than doing laundry.

5. Put All the Toys Away

A great rule of thumb when you’re closing up: if it’s outside, put it inside. Move all patio furniture, boats, kayaks and anything that could blow away to a safer spot. An empty cottage has lots of extra storage space, so consider storing your outdoor items in your Muskoka room, under the cottage, or anywhere else that keeps them protected from the elements (like your freshly closed-in gazebo!).

6. Get Help

Hire a maintenance person or have neighbours check in on your cottage while you are away. If anything does happen while you’re away, having someone check in for you means you’ll know about it a lot sooner, and you won’t have any unpleasant surprises the next time you come back up.

7. Clear out the Cupboards

Remove all food from the cottage. Don’t just empty the fridge, either – get rid of anything edible that could attract uninvited ‘guests’. You would be surprised what squirrels, mice, raccoons can do to a lovely cottage when it’s cold outside and the owners are out of town.

8. Lock Up

Check all windows and doors twice before you leave. Take the spare key that is under the welcome mat and give it to your maintenance person or whoever will be checking on the cottage while you’re away. Then check the doors and windows again.

BONUS: Call Mr. Plow

If you have any thoughts of coming back up to the cottage over the winter, don’t forget to organize snow removal to make your mid-winter getaway a lot easier.

Every cottage is different, so your close-up checklist may look a little different, but what is important is that you take the time to make sure that you’ve done everything you can to ensure your return in the spring goes as smoothly and joyfully as possible. If you’re interested in a more exhaustive list, you can check out this one by Cottage Tips.

What’s your best tip for closing up your cottage? Let me know in the comments.

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