Closing The Cottage

20 March 2011 Maintenance
Cabin Closing Tips

Closing up the cottage in the fall is an important task for every cabin owner. Here is a good checklist to help you winterize the cabin.

Outside The Cabin

Winter preparations are made easier when you follow the right steps. Doing a proper job when closing up the cottage for the winter season means you will have a more enjoyable weekend opening up the cabin in the spring.

Cabin Windows
Board up the gazebo and any screen windows on the cottage and guest cottage.  The extra effort is worth the trouble as you may otherwise spend even more time in the spring repairing damage and cleaning up after the animals that have broken-in.

Canoes and Kayaks
Stack the canoe and kayak on sawhorses or on a rack that is out of view from the lake or the road.  Chain them together with a good lock.

Outdoor Tables
Move the picnic table inside the cottage if you have room.  It preserves the table and gives you something to place boxes on.

BBQ and Propane Tank
Clean the BBQ and disconnect it from the propane tank. Store them in a protected place.

Lawnmower, Chainsaw and Weed Whacker

  • Run them until you burn off all the existing fuel.
  • Clean the equipment thoroughly.
  • Inspect and clean the air filter
  • Spray all moving parts with WD-40 or Quick Lube.
  • Sharpen all the blades.
  • Store the equipment in a locked shed.

Garden Tools and Storage Sheds

  • Clean out and organize the work shed and storage shed.  You will be much happier in the spring.
  • Arrange all tools and equipment neatly.
  • Take an inventory of the tools – make notes of what should be replaced or taken home
  • Remove all empty cans, containers, etc. and take them to the garbage transfer station.

Roof

  • Inspect the roof for damaged shingles and replace them if necessary.
  • Clean out the eaves troughs to allow the melting snow to drain properly in the spring.
  • Trim overhanging branches that risk dumping extra snow and ice onto the roof.

Dock

Tear down the dock and store it in an organized way so you can quickly re-assemble it in the spring.
Re-paint the crib with rust-proof paint.

Under The Cabin

Remove all garbage that has been stored under the cottage and take it to the dump. This improves air and water flow, and removes potential homes for the critters.
Spread mothballs liberally around the support posts to deter mice and other wildlife from trying to enter the cabin. Fill all holes with steel wool.

Septic System And Outhouse

Consider having them pumped or cleaned out if they are due.
Otherwise, add some approved “good” bacteria to your septic system and outhouse to help breakdown the waste over the winter.

Inside The Cabin

Gather all the clothes, hats, shoes, pots, pans, etc. that have accumulated but never get used and donate them to charity.  This is the perfect time to reduce the clutter.

Wood Stove

  • Clean out the wood stove completely.
  • Close the damper vent.
  • Inspect the chimney stack for rust, tar build-up, and loose strapping where it attaches outside.
  • Repair or replace the gasket / seal if needed.
  • Oil the hinges, levers, and other moving parts.

Refrigerator And Freezer

  • Remove all of the remaining food.
  • Disinfect and thoroughly wipe them clean.
  • Place chop sticks between the door and the fridge or freezer.  This leaves them open just enough to allow air to flow and avoid mildew buildup.
  • Place an open box of baking soda inside to control odours.

Note: Remove all food from the cabin, even the canned goods.

Beds And Furniture

  • Cover bed mattresses with plastic sheets.
  • Use plastic sheets to cover any chairs or sofas that are susceptible to mice.
  • Place sheets of fabric softener liberally in dresser drawers, on furniture, and in closets.  It helps to keep the mice out.

Cabin Water System

The water system must be drained properly.  Residual water in the system will freeze during the winter and may cause the water pipes to burst.

Drain The Water Heater

  • Turn off the electricity switch on the electrical panel for the water pump and water heater.
  • Close the cold water intake valve to the hot water tank.
  • Attach a hose to the water heater drain valve.
  • Run the hose outside or into a bucket.
  • Open a hot water tap.
  • Open the drain valve and let out all of the water remaining in the tank.
  • Remove the hose and place a cup under the valve to catch the remaining drips of water.
  • Close the drain valve once the water stops dripping.
  • Close the hot water tap.

Draining The Rest Of The System

Ideally, gravity does most of the work and the water in the line all runs back to the lake once you turn off the power to the water pump.  Some water will remain in the water traps ( u-shaped parts of the pipes).

  • Open all taps inside and outside to use up the existing pressure in the line.
  • Pour a liberal amount of plumbing approved anti-freeze into all of the drains (sink, bath, shower, washer) and toilet as you finish the last flush.  Also put some in the toilet tank.

For Land-Based Water Pumps

  • Unplug the water pump to avoid it running if the power gets switched-on by accident.
  • Open all the levers / taps on the water pump to drain any remaining water.
  • Remove the water filter and allow the remaining water to drain.
  • Disconnect the water line from the water-side of the water pump and tie it off to something solid.
  • Close the water pump drain tap and priming valve lever once the water has drained.
  • Pour some anti-freeze into the filter opening and / or directly into the top of the water pump (there is likely a square plug you have to remove) until you see the anti-freeze come out the intake valve.
  • Put the water filter cap and / or the plug back on.
  • Cover the open end of the water line and the intake end on the water pump with tin cans and seal them with duct tape.  This will keep the critters out.
  • Note: Some people also remove the intake line and foot valve from the lake and store them. While not necessary, the practice is a good idea and allows you to inspect for damage and clean the screen.

Leaving The Cabin

  • Disconnect all appliances.
  • Shut off all breakers at the electrical panel.
  • Review the checklist to make sure everything has been done.
  • Take photos of everything. In the unfortunate event of fire, theft, or weather damage, it will make the process with the insurance company go more smoothly.
  • Do a final inspection of the property.
  • Check and lock all outbuildings.
  • Take the keys, phone, computer, and garbage.
  • Lock the cottage.

Once you know that you have closed the cottage properly, it is time to relax and enjoy the ride home.

Go to the Spring Opening Checklist page.

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