Cottage Opening Checklist

17 April 2011 Maintenance

cottage opening checklistA detailed cottage opening checklist reduces stress and ensures you won’t miss any important steps when you head to the cabin for the first weekend of the cottage season.

Why Make a Checklist for Opening the Cottage?

New cottage owners might not realize how much work is involved in opening the cabin for the summer. Good planning is key to opening the cabin quickly without major headaches.

Seasoned pros and newcomers find it helpful to make a detailed list for all the items you need to check when opening up the cottage in the spring. These should include the chores to do before you leave the city, as well as the procedures you have to complete once you arrive at the lake. It takes a bit of extra time in the beginning to get the cabin ready for the summer, but being organized will ensure that the first cottage weekend of the year goes smoothly.

Preparations at home

A number of items on the checklist actually need to get done before you drive up to the lake to open the cabin or cottage. While they may seem obvious, it is best to write the the steps down and check them off the list once they are done.

Things to do before you head to the cabin for the opening weekend:

  • Call the electricity company and phone company to turn your services back on.
  • Check that all insurance coverage documents are up to date on the cottage, boat, and trailer.
  • Organize your keys, tools, cleaning supplies, clothing, filters, batteries, and food.
  • Check the weather situation to make sure you won’t get caught in a storm.

Steps to follow when you arrive to open the cottage

Survey the property around the cabin and inspect the inside of the cottage for damage.

Checklist for the outside of the cottage and yard:

  • Inspect power lines for fallen trees and branches.
  • Check phone lines for damage from squirrels or mice.
  • Look for dying trees that might be at risk of hitting the cabin.
  • Inspect the cottage roof for shingle damage.
  • Make sure the chimney stack is in good condition before lighting a fire.
  • Check the deck for raised nails, rotten boards, and shifted supports.
  • Look at the dock to make sure it wasn’t damaged by ice.
  • Inspect the cottage siding for holes or loose boards caused by animals.
  • Look at all the windows for cracks or damage from birds.
  • Inspect screens for tears.
  • Look under the cottage to check the stability of posts, pads, and beams.

Step-by-step guide for organizing the inside of the cabin in the spring.

  • Inspect cupboards, closets, dressers for mice and their business cards.
  • Inspect the ceiling for water leaks.

Note: Leave the water heater breaker OFF!  Only switch on the breaker for the lights.

Water System Start-Up

How do you turn on the water system at the cottage?
Priming the cottage water system and getting it up and running are the main concerns when we do our spring opening routine. Some cottages have pumps that are permanently submersed in the lake while others have a pump that sits under the cottage or in a pump house close to the water.

The following steps are for a typical land-based pump.

  • Inspect all water lines for obvious damage. (The less obvious problems will show themselves shortly)
  • Install a new water filter at the pump.
  • Connect your hand pump to the water pump priming valve. (If you don’t have a hand pump to draw water from the lake you will have to manually fill the water line.)
  • Open the priming valve.
  • Draw water from the lake into the line using the hand pump until it fills the line to and including the pump.
  • Close the priming valve.
  • Open a cold water tap in the cottage.
  • Make sure the cold water valve leading into the hot water tank is closed.
  • Switch on the water pump at the electrical panel box.
  • Open all other valves that may be between the pump and the cottage.
  • Open all cold water taps to push out the remaining air in the lines.
  • Inspect all water lines for leaks.  Listen for “hissing” sounds.
  • Close all taps.
  • Watch the pump to make sure it holds its pressure and is not running when the taps are all closed.

Note: If the pump continues to lose pressure and runs when the taps are closed, there is a leak somewhere.

Hot Water Tank

How to turn on the water tank at the cabin.
Once the water system is turned on, it is time to fill the hot water tank. Make sure you follow all the steps in the correct order.

  • Confirm the hot water tank breaker is OFF.
  • Close all taps.
  • Close the cold water intake valve for the tank. (It should already be closed)
  • Connect a hose to the drainage valve on the tank and run it outside.
  • Open the drainage valve.
  • Note: It normally opens by turning it counter-clockwise.

  • Open a hot water tap.  This allows air to flow into the tank and will push out any existing residual water through the drainage valve. There shouldn’t be any if the system was properly drained in the fall.
  • Close the drainage valve.
  • Turn on the cold water intake valve to begin filling the tank.
  • Watch the open hot water tap. When it flows normally, the water tank is full.
  • Close the hot water tap.
  • Turn on the hot water tank electrical supply breaker on the main power box.
  • Inspect the hot water pipes for leaks.

Any time you leave the cottage empty it is always a good idea to turn off the power to both the water pump and the hot water tank. If a pipe breaks, a connection lets go, or a welded spot fails for any reason, the pump will continue to run because it is endlessly trying to maintain pressure in the system. When the problem is inside the cabin, you will return to find a real mess.

Septic system and outhouse

Consider having the septic tank pumped or the outhouse cleaned out before you start the new season. It may cost a few bucks but they money is well spent if it means avoiding a nasty mess in the middle of the summer.

The cottage opening experience can be a pleasant one every spring when we take the time to prepare and follow some basic steps. Closing the cottage properly in the fall also has a major impact on the success of the start of the next season.

Go to the Cottage Closing Checklist page.