A Checklist For Opening Your Cottage

A shot of a family arriving at their cottage and unpacking their suitcases from a car.

Some of the most important reasons to properly open your cottage for the upcoming season are to keep you and your family safe, and maintain the property to protect your investment, says Larry Zajdlik, an agent with Royal LePage.

Zajdlik’s brokerage specializes in lakefront properties, including vacant land. He also owns a cottage himself, in the Lake of Bays region in Ontario, and shares ownership of another one with friends.

The market for cottages, or single-family recreational properties in general, has never been this robust. A Royal LePage market report released in late March forecasted double-digit gains in national recreational house prices in 2022. Quebec and Atlantic Canada are expected to see the highest recreational property price gains in 2022, rising 15 per cent, while single-family recreational homes in Ontario and B.C. are forecasted to increase 13 per cent and 12 per cent, respectively, and 9 per cent in Alberta. Growing demand is outpacing supply.

Protect your investment

A cottage property isn’t the sole domain of the affluent class, as a glance at prices in regions like Muskoka, ON would have one believe. Everyday Canadians want to jump into that market, including savvy real estate investors who see rental income potential, Zajdlik says.

The pandemic helped to fuel interest in cottage living as more people work remotely and desire greenspace after periods of pandemic lockdowns, he says. But cottages are different from primary urban residences and can have different maintenance and insurance requirements.

“Every cottage has its own little nuances,” he says. These properties can have their own particular quirks, such as a tap that only works if you twist it a certain way, he says. “So, when we sell a recreational property there will be some sort of orientation process once the deal is closed. I am a strong advocate of that. You need to make sure that the sequence of those events [closing and opening the property] are done properly. So that when you open it, you don’t have any issues or headaches, and it can be a simplified process.”

Checklist for opening up the cottage in spring

At the Cottage Country’s Lake and Cabin Show in Winnipeg, held every March at the start of cottage season, properly opening your property is a popular topic of conversation, says Andrew Walker, managing director of the show and publisher and editor of CottageTips.com.

“A lot of people hate the work involved with opening the cottage at the start of the season, but the effort is necessary,” he says. “Cottage owners need to address potential problems early on to avoid headaches that could ruin summer holidays.”

  • Make a list of all the things you need to take to the cabin a week before you plan to open the cottage. “Arriving without the keys or the batteries you need is a frustrating way to start the season,” Walker says.
  • Call the electricity company to turn the services back on. Make sure all your utilities accounts, such as for water and gas, are up to date.
  • The air is going to be stale, so start by opening all the windows. Start with a smell test – if you sense a musty smell, that means there is too much moisture and there’s a risk of mold, which is a health risk and needs to be eliminated.
  • There may have been rodents taking refuge in your cottage during the cold winter months. You’ll need to walk the property and check for possible entry points into the cottage. “It isn’t always obvious they are there until the warm weather arrives,” Walker says.
  • Prime the water pump system for the new season. Have the septic tank pumped.
  • Check the dock for rot, or damage from ice.
  • Look for fire hazards by checking for dead or dying trees that are brushing up against the cottage and cut those back.
  • Check carbon dioxide detectors and smoke alarms and change the batteries.
  • Inspect your deck. This is a big one, especially if you have a barbecue set up there and intend to have family and friends over for outdoor meals over the summer. Inspect the railings, steps, and the ledger board (which attaches the deck to the cottage). “Repairs should be done immediately to minimize additional problems,” Walker says.
  • Make sure you’re properly insured, especially if you plan to rent out the property. Consider what you need in your cottage insurance policy, such as liability insurance if someone gets hurt on your property or you cause damage to a neighbouring property.

Taking a few steps at the start of the season to open your cottage properly (and then again at the end of the season) ensures peace of mind and more enjoyment for you, your family and friends as the warm weather hits, while protecting your investment and maximizing your return if and when you decide to sell.

This information and the opinions expressed in this blog are based on research and interviews with the authorities identified, conducted on behalf of Allstate Canada. They have been provided for your convenience only and should not be construed as providing legal or insurance advice.