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Tips for Closing a Summer Home

Virginia enjoys her cottage in the NH woods near a lake. It's a beautiful area that attracts weekenders and summer folk.

Your Summer Retreat Needs Protection in the Winter

A summer cottage (also called a park model).

A summer cottage (also called a park model).

Checklist for Closing a Seasonal Cottage

If you're a snowbird with a cottage that gets closed up over the winter, you know there's a lot to take care of. Snowbirds are generally retirees who flit south when winter weather appears.

That may not fit you. Perhaps you have a vacation home that is only used in the summer but you don't go south. In that case, these tips are for you too.

I've prepared a check list so nothing gets forgotten. You can print it out and personalize it to fit the steps you take in closing up your vacation home or seasonal cottage.


Calls to Make - for closing down a seasonal home

  1. Arrange for someone to winterize the water lines.
  2. In areas with heavy snow, you may need bracing installed to support the roof. You can also arrange for someone to shovel the roof when it reaches a certain depth of snow. We have ours shoveled when the snow reaches 4 feet.
  3. Arrange for winterizing and storage of the boat.
  4. Call the cable and phone companies to shut off service. Ask about seasonal rates and suspending service. You'll want to keep your same phone number each year if possible.
  5. Set mail forwarding with a card at the post office or by filling out the online form ($1).
  6. Store the automobile if you keep one there. You can put it in a storage lot or inside a storage unit. Disconnect the battery.

    If the vehicle is outside, consider getting a cover for it.

Use a Car Cover to Protect a Car - Stored at a seasonal cottage or on a storage lot for the winter

Have Your Pipes Drained or Anti-Freeze Added

Put Bait out for Rodents

Put it under the building or a deck where domestic animals won't get into it. Our neighbors were dismayed to find chipmunks had ruined the mattress in their bedroom over the winter.

If your seasonal home has power during the off-season, you can get those sonic pest repellers that you plug into a power point.

Cute But a Real Problem if They Get in Your Walls or Inside the House

It's hard to get rid of chipmunks who can invade a cottage or an RV.

It's hard to get rid of chipmunks who can invade a cottage or an RV.

Two Kayaks with a Tarp

Be sure to anchor the tarp with ropes or heavy stones to keep it from being blown off.

Be sure to anchor the tarp with ropes or heavy stones to keep it from being blown off.

More Tips for Protecting the Outside Items at a Cottage

  1. Put bicycles inside a shed or in the cottage. If you can't do that, chain them to something and cover them with a tarp.
  2. Some things should be raised off the ground, like a canoe or kayak. Put them on blocks or sawhorses.
  3. Cover patio furniture, grills, fire pits, etc.
  4. Tilt a picnic table so rain and snow won't sit on it.

Note the Picnic Table Leaning against the Tree

The snow slides right off the picnic table when it is stored like this. On the right is the fire pit with its cover and a deck box with a tarp over it.

The snow slides right off the picnic table when it is stored like this. On the right is the fire pit with its cover and a deck box with a tarp over it.

Cover Outdoor Items with Waterproof Tarps

You'll want to protect your patio furniture, grill, kayaks, fire pit, woodpile, deck boxes, and other outdoor items by covering them with tarps. You'll need plenty of these in a variety of sizes. Group items together and cover with the tarp. Wrap a rope or cord around it and tie it tightly. You can use a heavy stone or brick to weigh down the corners for added protection against the wind.

Heavy plastic tarps usually last 5 or 6 years, so figure on replacing them as they aren't much use once they get thin and have holes here and there. Get the kind with grommets so you can run a cord or rope through the grommet holes and tie it snug. This should keep the wind from ripping it off whatever you are trying to cover.

There are different sizes and weights. Get a selection so you can cover different sized objects.

Specialized Covers for Deck Furniture, Grills, Firepits, and Wood Piles

Sure you can use blue tarps and lots of rope to secure it around your patio furniture. I like having a fitted cover that really covers the item right. We found patio chair covers that have ties for each leg to keep the cover from blowing off in a storm.


We Bought Individual Fitted Covers for This Deck Furniture

Protect wicker or metal deck furniture from the winter weather.

Protect wicker or metal deck furniture from the winter weather.

Do You Own a Cottage or Summer Home?

Fire Pit Covers

Checklist for Winterizing a Cottage

  1. arrange for winterizing the water lines
  2. arrange for placement of roof supports
  3. Book boat storage
  4. call cable and phone companies
  5. strap down grill
  6. cover patio furniture and grill
  7. unplug TV
  8. open fridge and put newspapers in it
  9. turn off water
  10. bring in door mat
  11. set mail forwarding
  12. give away fresh food
  13. video contents of house
  14. put dryer sheets around
  15. set out trays of kitty litter
  16. cover sofa, bed, etc. with plastic and sheets
  17. spread Decon and moth balls under decks or under the cottage
  18. empty trash
  19. turn off fans
  20. turn off gas
  21. disconnect electric
  22. turn off ice maker
  23. unplug electronics
  24. store remote controls
  25. secure patio furniture
  26. take keys for other house
  27. turn off water heater (in circuit box)
  28. mulch plants
  29. Store the automobile if you keep one there
  30. turn off heat
  31. spray for pests, put out moth balls, mice traps
  32. clean toilets
  33. take care of recycling
  34. lock front door
  35. turn off water

Cover the Wood Pile Better Than This

You can see that this wood pile is going to get wet from rain or snow when winter comes. That small rug with the rubber backing laid across the top is inadequate.

You can see that this wood pile is going to get wet from rain or snow when winter comes. That small rug with the rubber backing laid across the top is inadequate.

A Fitted Cover for the Wood Pile

Inside the Summer Home - Ready it for the winter

  1. Put sheets, beach towels or plastic tablecloths over the furniture to protect it from months of dust.
  2. Block the heating vents with trays of ordinary kitty litter. Cheap turkey roasting pans work for holding the litter.

    The weight of the kitty litter means mice can't enter through the vents. The kitty litter absorbs moisture from the air to help prevent mildew in the cottage. You can save the kitty litter and foil pans in a plastic storage tub to use again next fall.

  3. Put dryer sheets inside cupboards to prevent mustiness.
  4. Remove all foods. Canned goods or liquids will freeze and burst. This happened to me with a jar of vanilla flavoring.

    Any food will attract mice. Anything even remotely edible can provide food for a mouse. I've seen evidence of nibbling on packs of ant traps and a neighbor had a warming pad filled with millet eaten by mice.

    Take the food with you or give it to the local food pantry if it is unopened.

  5. Cleaning supplies are iffy. Put them in a plastic tub in case they should freeze and burst. Some products lose their effectiveness if frozen. Check the labels.

Put DampRid in Areas You Need to Keep Dry - DampRid Moisture Absorber

Use Kitty Litter to Absorb Moisture Inside the Cottage

I use the same (clean) kitty litter each winter. Just store it in a tub with a stack of the cheap roasting pans when you aren't using it.

I use the same (clean) kitty litter each winter. Just store it in a tub with a stack of the cheap roasting pans when you aren't using it.

More Tips for Winterizing a Cabin or Cottage

Leave a Note for Yourself

As you close up for the season, leave yourself a note for when you return. There are things you won't remember months later. This could include calls to make, things to fix, where you put something, etc.


Add Your Tips for Winterizing a Cottage

MaggiePowell on September 29, 2013:

Great tips... love the idea of kitty litter trays on the vents

gottaloveit2 on July 18, 2013:

I've got to figure out how to close down a travel trailer now. I'll be coming at you for advice.

Virginia Allain (author) from Central Florida on September 20, 2012:

@Scarlettohairy: Once I left a bottle of vanilla on a spice rack in the cupboard. It froze and thawed. Made a mess.

Peggy Hazelwood from Desert Southwest, U.S.A. on September 19, 2012:

It sounds like you write from experience. I'm sure doing this once then again each year helps you ensure you take care of all the details.

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