It’s not quite winter yet, but it’s only a few months until we’re back in the cold season. Here in Owen Sound, many residents are also cottage owners and they frequently decide to travel back to their main homes once the summer season is over, or they go and visit their families for the winter season. But before they drive back, they need to close up their cottage for the winter season.
Locking up your holiday home and leaving it to brave the winter can sometimes be difficult, especially if it’s your first year doing so. You could always speak with fellow cottage owners, but we’ve decided to make it easier by simply offering you a guide on how to close up your home or cottage for the winter season. Here is a list of essential items that will need tending to before you say goodbye to summer:
Inside Your Cottage
To start, let’s begin with the inside of your home or cottage. Some people find it easier to work from the inside first because they can pack up all of their belongings before having to do any work on the outside of their cottage. Winter preparations might seem like a lot of hard work, but it’s important to remember that the earlier you do them, the less you’ll be rushing to try and finish the work before you leave.
Closing up the Windows
Your first concern should be locking up all the windows of your cottage. Make sure that they’re all secured tightly from the inside to prevent easy access for thieves to break in while you’re not there. Once that’s done, close up the curtains so that it deters anyone from spying on your possessions as they can’t see anything that’s inside. This step can be done just before you leave, but it’s crucial that you don’t leave out a single window that could be a vulnerable entry point for thieves and that you test all of the locks so they actually work.
Pack up Your Belongings
You also need to plan for a worst case scenario. If, somehow, people do manage to break into your cottage, then you don’t want them taking anything valuable. Ensure you’ve packed up all of your belongings, be it your clothes, your laptop or valuable jewellery. It’s fine to leave things that won’t perish like paper and stationery, but if you’ve got cans of food lying around or uneaten fruits, then pack them up or throw them away. Empty out as many of the cupboards and drawers as possible so there’s less chance that some bugs or critters will try to make camp and live off your extra supplies. If you have to leave food behind, then store it in metal containers with a tight lid so that unwanted insects and rodents can’t reach them or pick up the scent of food.
Shut off All of Your Electrical Appliances
Unplug any device that you don’t plan to use. A lot of electrical devices use energy even when they’re turned off. It could be to charge the device or keep it on standby for when it’s in use, and this could increase your electricity bills dramatically. By unplugging all of your electronics, you also reduce the risk of a fire happening especially if the device in question is heated, such as a portable space heater. It’s also a good idea to turn off the fridge and also defrost it shortly before you decide to leave. Keep the door propped open, however, because you want to prevent mildew from growing inside of the fridge.
Turn off the Water Supply
You won’t be using the water when you’re gone, so make sure you turn off the water supply at the source to avoid flooding and pipe damage over the winter. Drain all of the pipes and empty out any kind of hot water tank or boiler that you have. Ensure that washing machines and dishwashers are also emptied out and turn off any water valves leading into the cottage. You’ll also want to flush the toilet a couple of times to empty the tank after you’ve turned off the water. Take a note of where these valves are so you can shut them off a day or two before you leave, assuming you don’t need the water. As a final tip, turn on all of the taps in the house after you’ve shut off the water supply to allow them to breathe over the winter.
Now that we’ve covered the most important indoor duties, let’s take a look at outdoor considerations.
Outside Your Cottage
Now let’s talk about the outside of your cottage. The main concern here is your roof and also any openings that you may have that can allow bugs or any other unwanted ‘guests’ to get in. However, you may also need to worry about devices or appliances that are made to be used outdoors. A good example of this is garden furniture, or boats if you live close to a body of water.
Mow the Lawn
If you have a sizeable garden or front yard, ensure you give the grass a good trim before you leave for the season. Taking care of your garden before the winter is another whole task entirely, but in general, you just want to give your lawn a good trim and throw away any plants that are wilting or ones that will die over the winter. This will give you less work to worry about when you return in the spring and want to spruce up the garden.
Pack Away Seasonal Equipment
Things like barbeque grills and garden chairs need to be cleaned and then given some storage space indoors to protect them from the winter weather. Bring all of these seasonal items indoors, such as in your garage, a locked tool shed, or in the cottage itself, before you leave so there’s less chance of them being stolen or damaged over the winter. If you use gas tanks for anything, such as a grill, then make sure they are properly disconnected and stored someplace away from sunlight so there’s no chance of them being damaged.
Bring in and Turn off Any Outdoor Appliances
In addition to seasonal equipment, you might also have outdoor appliances that are better kept indoors. For example, you might have an outdoor generator that helps to power your cottage when there’s a power issue. If that’s the case, make sure you disconnect the source of fuel and bring those appliances into your garage, shed or any other similar storage area.
Clean the Shed and Remember to Lock It
Make sure you give your shed a good clean before you use it as storage and lock it up. The last thing you want is for your shed to be broken into by thieves because it’s an easy target that is just made of wood. If you’re worried about this, then empty the shed and place your items in the garage instead (if you have one) or in the main building of your home.
Inspect the Roof While You Still Can
Your roof is going to need a bit of maintenance before you decide to pack up and leave your cottage for the winter. Make sure every shingle is in place and sturdy enough to last the winter because the last thing you want to return to is a collapsed roof due to heavy snowfall. Gutters and pipes also need to be cleaned out of any dead leaves and debris. Preferably you’ll want to clear these gutters once again before it actually reaches summer, and if there’s particularly heavy snowfall then you may want to return at some point during winter just to give the roof a good clean to prevent too much snow from piling up.
Close up Any Leftover Openings
Make sure there are no small gaps or spaces where small (or large) animals can crawl into your home. The most obvious place to close up first is your chimney. Consider sealing them on the roof of your home with something to keep everything from birds to squirrels out of your home. Take care when climbing on your roof so that you don’t damage any of the shingles, but also to make note of any weak spots in the roof structure. Pay close attention to places such as your basement or below decking and check for any small gaps or holes where animals can enter your home. You want to keep these sealed or else you’ll end up inviting them to nest in your warmer home while you’re away.
Hopefully, this guide has given you plenty of insight into how local residents close up their cottage for winter. It sounds like a lot of work, but it all comes with the territory of owning a seasonal home in the Grey Bruce area where winters take their toll. If you’ve yet to purchase a cottage, don’t let this list put you off. Taking care of your cottage for the winter becomes intuitive and once you do it enough, it will become second nature whenever you need to leave your cottage for the winter. It might help to find a trustworthy neighbour that plans to stay the winter and ask them to check in on your home while you’re away, but if that’s not possible then your best option is to follow these guidelines for closing up your cottage for the winter. Here’s to a great season of cottaging in beautiful Grey Bruce; we hope to see you next summer!