If you have a three-season cottage—that is, a cottage you don’t use in winter—it requires some maintenance work in the fall and spring. Commonly known as closing up and opening up a cottage, this maintenance routine is essential to ensure occupant safety and extend the life of your property.

Close up your cottage properly to prevent nasty surprises in the spring

When the cool weather returns and the leaves start to fall, it’s time to start closing up the cottage. But closing up a cottage isn’t as simple as just locking the front door. To avoid unpleasant surprises when you return in the spring, remember to take care of the following tasks.

Inspect the roof

In winter, snow can seep through the roof and cause serious damage. Check that the shingles are in good condition and that none have fallen off. Make sure to replace any that are damaged or missing. In the spring, check the roof again for any signs of deterioration.

Clear the gutters

Remove anything that is clogging up your gutters: dead leaves, branches, nests, etc. This will allow water to flow freely when the snow melts, as well as prevent water from seeping in. When you open up your cottage in the spring, clean the gutters again so that rainwater can flow freely during the summer.
Don’t leave any food inside

To prevent unpleasant odours and avoid attracting insects and animals, empty your refrigerator and pantry of all food and beverages, including containers that have never been opened, such as cans.

Unplug all appliances and electronics

Unplug all your appliances and electronics and take the ones you plan to use at home. It’s a good idea to defrost your refrigerator before you unplug it. Once that’s done, put an open box of baking soda inside and leave the door ajar. This will prevent mould and bad smells.

Reduce the risk of fire

Remove all flammable materials: books, newspapers, paper, flyers, rags, and chemicals. You can never be too careful!

Shut off the water

Shut off the main water supply and make sure the pipes, toilet, and appliances (dishwasher, washer, refrigerator water inlet valve, etc.) are empty. Don’t forget to turn off the water heater and empty it too. Water in the pipes can freeze in winter, causing the pipes to burst.

Prune the trees

Are there tree branches hanging over your cottage? Don’t wait for the nice weather to return to prune them. Trimming them early will prevent them from falling on your property and causing damage over the winter.
Block the chimney

To prevent your cottage from turning into a refuge for birds and raccoons over the winter, install a chimney cap or cover. Also, have your chimney checked by a professional to prevent creosote from building up and causing a fire while you’re away.

Prevent break-ins

To deter burglars from breaking into your cottage while you’re away, bring all your valuables with you. Don’t leave any money, jewellery, or firearms inside. Leave the curtains completely or partially open so that potential thieves will see that there is nothing to steal. Locking all the doors and windows goes without saying.

How to make the most of your cottage all summer long

When the mercury starts to rise and the buds start to bloom, it’s time to open up your cottage. Take advantage of the nice weather to carry out the following tasks.

Air it out

Naturally, when you arrive at your cottage, you’ll be looking forward to going inside, but there are a few things you should do before settling in. Start by opening the front door to clear out any musty smells. You can do some maintenance work outside while you wait for the rooms to air out.

Clean up the yard

Pick up any branches that may have fallen over the winter. Check the condition of your shed and any items that have spent the winter outdoors, such as picnic tables and chairs. If your cottage is near a body of water, check for signs of erosion on your property.

Check the windows

Make sure the windows and screens are in good condition. Replace any defective windows to prevent water from seeping in, and replace damaged screens to keep the insects out.

Make sure the electricity is working properly

Before you turn the power on, ensure that all external wires are in good condition. If you find any damaged, severed, or gnawed wires, don’t turn the electricity on—contact a professional. If everything seems to be in order, reinsert the fuses in the electrical panel and return the circuit breaker to the operating position. Once the power is back on, plug in all the appliances that were disconnected over the winter. If any of the rooms lack power, check the electrical panel. Contact a certified electrician if necessary.

Turn on the water

Turn the water back on and wait until the water heater tank is full before plugging it in again. Remember to turn all the faucets on for a few minutes to clear out the pipes. If the water flows poorly or smells bad, it might be time to empty your septic tank. Call a professional as soon as possible.

Change the batteries in your smoke detector

This is a good time to change the batteries in the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Make sure your fire extinguisher is in working condition too. If it isn’t, get a new one.

Tidy up your cottage and enjoy it!

Once everything’s in order, all you’ll have left to do is a little cleaning and dusting. Ask the whole family to pitch in. If you have young children, you can turn cleaning into a game.

That’s it! Now you can enjoy your cottage.

Does your cottage need renovations?

Finance the work with a home equity line of credit.

Even if you take good care of your cottage, it may eventually need major work, such as a new roof or windows. You might also simply feel like giving the kitchen or bathroom a fresh look. In any of these cases, a home equity line of credit could be a good financing option. It has a lower interest rate than most credit cards, and the amount borrowed can be repaid at any time, without penalty. Contact a broker for more information.

Key takeaways

  • By opening up your cottage properly, you’ll be able to enjoy it for longer.
  • To prevent any nasty surprises, close up your cottage properly in the fall.
  • A home equity line of credit can be a good financing option if you need to have any major work done.