“Winter is Coming”, many of you may associate this common cliché with the action-packed HBO series “Games of Thrones”. The truth remains winter is coming, and possibly sooner than we think this year. Your cottage and that fun filled summer, of swimming with your family at the waterfront front or relaxing around the campfire, are coming to a quick close. Are you ready? More importantly is your cottage? Closing your cottage for a long cold winter can be a painstaking chore but worth the effort, especially considering the cost should you forget some of the important fundamentals!
Before you head home, or south for the winter, and, before you leave the comfort of your lovely escape sanctuary, here are some crucial items to check off your list of closing tasks:
- Check the windows and screens to ensure they are attached properly, not in need of repair and locked.
- Inspect your roof for any damaged shingles and replace to confirm you do not have nasty leaks during the winter.
- Cut and trim any branches that may be hanging over the roof to avoid extra snow from being dumped onto the roof and gutters. Ice buildup can damage too, so make sure the eavestroughs are clean and free of debris.
- Clean out any outdoor garden sheds and arrange items for proper winter storage.
- Board up any additional sheds, gazebos, guest cottages, etc. The effort is not wasted should you discover critters have broken into over the winter months and made themselves at home.
- Remove your dock and store it in a well-organized fashion so you can quickly re-install it in the spring. Touch-up any parts with rust-proof paint if needed.
- Stack your canoes, kayaks and water toys on sawhorses or custom racks in an out of sight location away from the lake or roadway and chain them together, hopefully deterring any human critters from walking off with your items.
- Move the picnic tables inside to a shed, if you have room, this will help preserve the wood. If room is not available turn on it on its side and place against a wall, ensuring the snow and rain can run off.
- Clean all BBQ areas thoroughly and disconnect from the propane tank. Store them in a sheltered location or tarp over.
- Remove all items from your outdoor decks and patios. Clean all outdoor furniture and remove the cushions. Cover the cushions with a non-plastic tarp or sack and stack them in a high and dry protected area of your shed or in the cottage in a dry space off the floor.
- Run the lawnmower, weed-wacker, and any other gas equipment until they are empty of all fuel and clean them completely; inspect and change any filters. Spray all moving parts with lubricant, like WD-40 and store in your locked, recently cleaned shed.
- Remove all garbage stored under the decks and cabin and dispose of properly. Improving air and water flow is imperative for the spring melt and removes possible home sites for the critters. Toss moth balls around to deter wildfire from trying to access the cabin and stuff any access holes with steel wool.
- Check to ensure the septic does not require emptying and add some approved suitable bacteria to the septic.
Once you have checked all the outdoor equipment and buildings your focus can now be turned to the interior of the cottage. Begin with a walk around to check for any damages such as cracked windows, torn furniture, or anything that does not look quite right. Make a mental note to repair or replace these items, prioritize what needs immediate attention. Once your inspection is complete, you can advance to the next and final steps…
- Gather hats, shoes, toys, etc. that you have accumulated during the season that are no longer used and donate or recycle. In other words, get rid of the clutter.
- Empty the ashes & clean out the wood stove completely. Close the damper vent and inspect all elements. Oil moving parts and replace any old gaskets.
- Remove all food from the refrigerator and freezer. Clean and disinfect thoroughly, leaving the doors open just slightly to ensure proper air flow and to avoid mildew.
- Go through the cupboards and remove all food products as well, even canned, and any items that could be considered chewable for little winter rascals.
- Double check all small appliances and ensure they a food free. Mice will crawl into small places and you would not like to find a little skeleton in the spring.
- Remove bedding and cover the mattresses plastic sheets, cover all furniture with sheets as well, placing fabric dryer sheets on furniture, in dresser draws and in closets; this will deter vermin and keep them out.
- Finally… drain all the water from your water systems properly. Turn off the switch in the electric panel for the water pump and water heater. Drain the hot water heater tank and water pump completely. Ensure all water is out of all pipes, gravity should draw the water back once you turn off the water pump, but you should open all taps for well-being; any lingering water can cause pipes to burst, and you do not want a big mess in the spring. Pour a generous amount of approved antifreeze into all drains, including the shower and washer and, the toilet tank as a final defensive component. Remove any filters that could be allowing water to remain in pumps, etc. Cover any open ends of water lines, pipes the cans and seal with duct tape. You do not want bugs or mice crawling in.
Before you pull the door shut, lock up and head home, ensure the appliances are disconnected and the breakers are off at the panel. Review your checklist and make sure it is complete. Taking pictures of everything is an excellent way of keeping an inventory for insurance purposes should a disaster strike like fire, home invasion producing theft, or weather damage. Take a last inspection around the property checking and locking all buildings. Remove all garbage, and don’t forget your cell phone, computer and other essential items.
Take a deep break and head for the car, and the long journey home; “Home Sweet Home”. Now that you have closed the cottage properly it is time to sit back and enjoy the ride, especially if you are not driving! Hopefully the kids will have depleted of all the energy they generated, if not here are a few games for the kids to play so they won’t keep asking…“Are we there yet?”