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Closing up the cottage? Follow this end-of-season checklist

The lazy days of summer are coming to an end and you’re getting ready to say goodbye to your cottage until next year. As you prepare to close up for the winter, complete the following checklist to ensure your cottage remains safe and secure until you’re ready to return.

1.    Inspect the septic tank

If your cottage has a septic tank for sewage, follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance and service schedule. Typically, a septic tank should be serviced every five to eight years, though some may need to be serviced more regularly depending on usage. If your septic system is due for an inspection, have a trusted professional check it before you leave so it’s ready for the next cottage season.

2.    Patch all openings to the outdoors 

Take a walk around the exterior of your cottage. Look closely for holes or openings that small animals may be able to squeeze through. If your cottage has a chimney, ensure that it has a cover to prevent curious critters from moving in. 

3.    Clear out the gutters

Clogged gutters can cause water to back up and find its way underneath shingles and into the roof structure. In colder months, this can also lead to ice damming. Once the last of the autumn leaves have fallen, ensure your cottage’s gutters are clear of leaves and debris before closing up for the winter.  

4.    Check the roof

Canadian homeowners know just how rough winter can be on the roof of their home or cottage. Before calling it a season, check your cottage’s roof to ensure it is in good shape to safely withstand another harsh winter. Look for buckling and areas that are susceptible to leaking or caving in under heavy snowfall. Replace broken or missing shingles as needed. 

5.    Shut off the water and drain the pipes

Shut off your cottage’s main water supply and drain the pipes completely. Water left in the pipes over winter could freeze and cause a pipe to burst, resulting in a costly repair. If your cottage is not winterized with a reliable insulation source, wrap the pipes with foam to prevent them from freezing. Even if your cottage is winterized, look for potential cold zones like a garage or crawl space and wrap the pipes that run through.

6.    Keep the sump pump running

If your cottage has a sump pump, leave it pumping before packing up for the winter. A working sump pump can help to prevent flooding damage once the snow around your cottage starts to melt. Check that your sump pump has a functioning backup option, such as a battery or generator, to keep it running in the event of a power outage.

7.    Unplug all major appliances

Unplugging all major appliances will help to reduce the risk of an electrical fire and reduce your energy bill while you’re away. Refrain from shutting off your cottage’s entire power supply, as this will cause your sump pump, alarm system and exterior lighting to stop working.  

8.    Remove potential fire hazards and projectiles

Look around the inside of your cottage for loose objects that have the potential to become flammable, such as books and newspapers, and pack them away safely. Check the exterior of your cottage for objects that could act as projectiles in the event of high winds, such as dock ornaments, ladders and recreational equipment. Clean and store boats, canoes and other water equipment according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
9.    Clear fridge and cupboards

Food that’s left behind can attract animals and insects while you’re away. Pack up all food from your fridge and cupboards, including canned goods, and bring it home with you so you don’t return to any unwelcome guests. 

10.    Turn the heat down or off

Follow the instructions for your cottage’s heating system to ensure it is safely turned off. If your cottage has a furnace, you can turn it down 10°C to prevent frost build-up over the winter, but only once all pipes have been properly drained and wrapped to prevent freezing. Check that the gas and water heater are shut off. If your cottage has space heaters, turn off their power supply on the main panel.

Before calling it a season, check your seasonal property insurance policy or speak to your insurance broker to ensure you’ve taken all necessary precautions. Your insurance provider may require additional precautions to be taken, such as a monitored alarm system or regular check-ins. 

If you need a home insurance quote for your cottage, contact an OTIP broker at 1-833-615-9326. If you questions about your current cottage insurance policy, call 1-833-494-0089 to discuss your insurance coverage options. 

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