Cottage Life: A Checklist For Closing Up For The Winter

Young boy brings heavy luggage towards an open car

When the leaves start changing colour and the days grow shorter, it’s time for cottage owners to start thinking about closing the property for another winter.

“A cottage is like any property. It requires care and maintenance,” says Terry Rees, executive director of the Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Associations (FOCA). “It’s well worth it to spend the time closing down properly, so when you get back up there next spring, the cottage is still intact and you can enjoy it again.”

Rees’ family has owned a cottage in northeast Peterborough County in Central Ontario, on an island in Kasshabog Lake, for more than 60 years, so he’s a veteran when it comes to closing up his cottage for the winter. The recreational property market has seen pent-up demand this year, according to the Re/Max Fall 2020 Canadian Housing Market Outlook, and Rees has seen a lot of cottage newcomers this year and has some good advice for them.

“It’s always worthwhile having a checklist because, as much as we always think we are doing a good job, most of us look back in the spring regretting that we forgot to do something,” he says. “I have done this all my life, and I still forget stuff.”

If you don’t plan on going back to your cottage until spring, or are going to be leaving it for an extended time, keep in mind these shutdown recommendations.

Cottage Closing Checklist 

  1. Don’t leave any valuables in the cottage that might tempt thieves. “ ‘Lock it or lose it,’ the police always tell us,” says Rees. Make sure that items such as outboard motors, fishing rods and equipment, water skis, chainsaws, generators, ATVs, and electronics are securely locked. Don’t leave any alcohol, firearms or weapons on the property.
  2. Make sure the electricity is shut off. A good tip, according to the Electrical Safety Authority, is to turn off the individual breakers before turning off the main switch. This will protect appliances from power surges when you fire them back up in the spring. If you have a fuse panel, turn off or unplug all appliances and electrical devices before switching off the main power.
  3. Protect your property from wildlife such as rodents. Don’t leave out any food, for instance. “Animals get hungry, and if you leave out food, they’ll get inspired to break into your property and have their way,” says Rees. Seal up any possible entry points into the cottage and store extension cords in containers to prevent mice from chewing through them.
  4. Turn the water off. “Drain all the water that you can,” says Rees. “Don’t leave anything that can freeze. Plumbing surprises in the spring are kind of a rite of passage” for cottage owners.
  5. Have a good look around the property for any hazards. If tree branches are close to wire lines, for instance, cut them back. Keep in mind those branches will sink lower when covered with snow. Clean up debris that could fly about and cause damage during windstorms or that might become a fire hazard during a lightning strike. Put away outdoor furniture
  6. Try to have a keyholder, someone you trust, to do periodic checks on the property during the winter to ensure snow isn’t piling up on the roof or that people or animals haven’t broken in.
  7. Secure all the doors and windows around the property, and make sure the blinds or curtains are closed.
  8. Make sure heating sources like the chimney, wood stove, and baseboard heaters are cleaned and in good working order.

Especially because of COVID-19, “many of us have spent more time at the cottage this year,” Rees says. “We’ve been doing more things there, taking more equipment out. There is more to do this fall to make sure we shut the cottage down properly.”

Finally, take this opportunity to ensure you have right insurance policy for your recreational property. It’s your summer sanctuary and a big investment, so you want to make sure you’re protected.

Disclaimer: *This information has been provided for your convenience only and should not be construed as providing legal or insurance advice.