Eight Tips For Closing The Family Cottage

sunsetKyakThere is a nip in the air and a tint to the leaves.  Everyone is off for one last shindig before school starts and summer is officially over.

On the “to-do” list along with back-to-school shopping and ramping up for the coming holidays, many people also have to close the family vacation home.

It’s been my experience that this is not a task most people look forward to.  It’s bittersweet and it is also labor intensive.  However, there are some tips for making the most of a necessary chore.

I have a friend who is part owner of a vacation cottage along with the rest of her siblings.  She said they make an event of closing up for the winter.  All of the siblings are required to attend on closing weekend.  This way, the work load is shared equally.  Then at the end of the day, they celebrate with a wine and cheese party and a nice dinner out.

This is an excellent suggestion for maintaining family harmony but I also have a list of eight practical considerations for keeping the cottage in top shape while it’s closed for the winter.

  1. Inspect your roof. This is essential in the north where heavy snow can pile up on the roof and sit for weeks.  A leaky roof can cause substantial water damage so make sure you check the shingles and replace ones that are damaged or missing.  Trim overhanging branches so they don’t snap and fall on the roof causing additional damage.
  2. While you’re inspecting the roof, clean out the gutters. This will also go a long way in preventing roof leaks since clean gutters mean the water can properly drain off the roof.
  3. Shut off and drain plumbing. Water in the pipes can freeze and cause the pipes to burst…another water damage disaster waiting to happen.  You can pour antifreeze down the drains.  There are environmentally friendly anti-freeze products that make this a safe way to ensure pipes don’t freeze.
  4. Pack up all of the food.  While the owner is away, the mice will play and nothing attracts mice like a warm place to nest and a feast of overlooked food.  Mothballs placed in strategic areas can deter pests as well as sealing around all pipes that lead to the outside.  You might also wrap pipes with steel wool where they enter the house.  This can also keep those little critters out.
  5. Defrost and clean the refrigerator. Turn it off and leave the door open a little to prevent mildew from growing.  Also, placing an open box of baking soda inside the fridge can prevent musty smells.
  6. To ensure a fire doesn’t happen, unplug appliances and throw the breaker or turn off the utilities.  Don’t leave chemicals or other items that could be considered a fire hazard inside the cottage.  Throw away old rags and newspapers.
  7. If you have a fireplace or wood stove, make sure the flue is closed and put a metal cap over the stove pipe or chimney to keep out birds.  You should also have the chimney professionally cleaned to make sure there isn’t a dangerous buildup of creosote inside the chimney.
  8. Clean and check.  Go ahead and give the cottage a good cleaning.  You’ll be grateful when you return in the spring.  Walk through and double check that all windows are closed and locked, all outside equipment is safely stored inside and that alarm systems are turned on.  Then say good-bye and leave looking forward to warm weather again.


  1. This is certainly a very specific tutorial, but I’m sure there are lots of people out there who want to know how to properly close up! It can improve safety and it’s obviously very important to get it right!

  2. Charlotte Drayer says

    I suggest removing all liquids that might freeze; liquid soaps, cleaners, shampoos, latex paints etc. Check the kitchen/pantry, bathrooms/medicine cabinets, shop/basement, boathouse/garage, and even bedrooms where you might find sunscreen or lotions. If you decide to leave them in a warmer corner of the basement insulated with old quilts, as we do, put them in leak-proof containers such as buckets so the mess will be minimized.

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