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
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
- Arrange for someone to winterize the water lines.
- 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.
- Arrange for winterizing and storage of the boat.
- 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.
- Set mail forwarding with a card at the post office or by filling out the online form ($1).
- 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
Two Kayaks with a Tarp
More Tips for Protecting the Outside Items at a Cottage
- 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.
- Some things should be raised off the ground, like a canoe or kayak. Put them on blocks or sawhorses.
- Cover patio furniture, grills, fire pits, etc.
- Tilt a picnic table so rain and snow won't sit on it.
Note the Picnic Table Leaning against the Tree
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.
Examples of Protecting Outdoor Items - With Tarps for the Winter (photos by Dennis Allain)
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
Do You Own a Cottage or Summer Home?
Fire Pit Covers
Checklist for Winterizing a Cottage
- arrange for winterizing the water lines
- arrange for placement of roof supports
- Book boat storage
- call cable and phone companies
- strap down grill
- cover patio furniture and grill
- unplug TV
- open fridge and put newspapers in it
- turn off water
- bring in door mat
- set mail forwarding
- give away fresh food
- video contents of house
- put dryer sheets around
- set out trays of kitty litter
- cover sofa, bed, etc. with plastic and sheets
- spread Decon and moth balls under decks or under the cottage
- empty trash
- turn off fans
- turn off gas
- disconnect electric
- turn off ice maker
- unplug electronics
- store remote controls
- secure patio furniture
- take keys for other house
- turn off water heater (in circuit box)
- mulch plants
- Store the automobile if you keep one there
- turn off heat
- spray for pests, put out moth balls, mice traps
- clean toilets
- take care of recycling
- lock front door
- turn off water
Cover the Wood Pile Better Than This
A Fitted Cover for the Wood Pile
Inside the Summer Home - Ready it for the winter
- Put sheets, beach towels or plastic tablecloths over the furniture to protect it from months of dust.
- 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.
- Put dryer sheets inside cupboards to prevent mustiness.
- 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.
- 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
More Tips for Winterizing a Cabin or Cottage
- Woods Cottage: Caring for a Home in the Forest
A cabin or house in a wooded setting requires some extra care. Here are tips for such a situation with solutions for your problems. Moss on the roof? Squirrels in the attic? Bears in the garbage?
- Don't Skimp When Winterizing
Here's more advice for you.
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.