With the cooler temperatures now upon us, many cottage owners will need to begin their fall/winter preparations.

"Most often we take things for granted. We think that the cottage is locked up so it's ready to go," said Christine Niemczyk, Director of Corporate Communications & Public Relations for CAA Saskatchewan. "It might be in hibernation for a good section of the winter months and depending on how bad the winter may be, your cottage may be in serious danger."

For cottage owners' peace of mind and property safety, here are some essential tips to get your vacation home fully prepared.

Outside the cottage

• Inspect the door and window frames for damaged or missing caulking and repair as needed. 
• Inspect your roof and replace any damaged or missing shingles. 
• Make sure to block all orifices that rodents and other undesirables might crawl into – don’t forget about your drainage tiles and chimney. 
• Clean the eaves troughs so that the melting snow drains properly in the spring. 
• Trim any tree branches that hang over the cottage. They may not break during the winter, but they could still cause damage by dumping extra snow and ice over the roof. 
• Clean your BBQ and disconnect the propane tank. Store them somewhere safe.

Inside the cottage

• Remove all food items, including canned goods and bottles. Clean out the fridge, unplug it and leave the door slightly open. Put in an open box of baking soda to keep bad odors at bay. 
• Turn down the heat or shut it off completely. If you decide to leave it on, simply set it so that the interior temperature doesn’t drop below 10 degrees Celsius, which will mitigate the risk of freezing your water pipes. 
• To prevent crimes of opportunity, take all valuables with you and shut the curtains. Use bed sheets to cover up the windows if you need to.

Electrical & plumbing systems

• If you decide to shut off all electric power, start by turning off and disconnecting all appliances – including your water heater – before you hit the main switch. It’ll make for a safer re-start come springtime. 
• Empty the water lines by opening all the taps and drain valves. Then, after shutting off the electricity, empty the hot water tank, the toilet and finally, the water pump. 
• If you have a washing machine or dishwasher, make sure that there is no water left in them. Pour plumbing/RV antifreeze to reach any U- or S- shaped water traps that can’t be drained (for example, under the sink, the bathtub, the shower, toilet, dishwasher, etc.)

If any of this seems too daunting, let a professional do it.

"You should also take photos of your cottage property. Your valuables inside and out just so that you have it recorded should anything need to be checked down the road," added Niemczyk. "Make sure to do a final inspection in case anything unfortunate were to happen during the winter. Whether it be theft, fire or damage, detailed photos will always make the claim process much smoother for you and your insurer."


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