If you own a cottage or summer home, I’m sure Labor Day is bitter sweet for you. It’s the last long summer weekend, but it can also be a weekend with a lot of work. Yes, for many, this is the time of year when you decide to close the property for the season.
While it can be a sad time of year for those who love the summer heat and everything summer has to offer, it’s important to cherish all the fond memories and to think about how to close down your summer home or cottage safely.
The list below offers a number of things to consider when shutting down your vacation home for the winter.
1. Inspect your property – Take a walk around the inside and outside of your property to see if anything has been damaged. Create a checklist based of what you find and decide if it’s something that should be fixed now or when you open your home next spring. Items to inspect include your roof, chimney, eaves troughs, siding, foundation, trees that are leaning over your property, and out buildings.
2. Turn off the water – Turn off the water at the main supply point to prevent freezing pipes. Even if you keep your home heated during the winter, this is important in case your furnace fails or the power goes out.
3. Open your faucets and drain all water lines, including your appliances – Even if you turn off the water at the main supply into the home, it’s also important to drain the excess water from the water lines that run to your appliances, sinks, and toilets.
4. Temperature monitoring system – If you heat your home during the winter, consider purchasing a temperature-monitoring system. My brother-in-law purchased a system that sends email alerts to him if his summer home’s temperature drops below 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
5. Water flow monitoring systems – If you choose to leave your water on during the winter, consider purchasing a water flow monitoring system. A water flow monitoring system is attached to your water main and protects your entire house. The system works by measuring water flow into your house. If it detects continuous water flow beyond the normal stopping and starting of your every day appliances, it stops the flow of water into your house automatically.
6. Empty and clean your appliances
• Refrigerator/freezer – Remove all food and wipe them down with a disinfectant that kills bacteria. After you’ve cleaned it, consider leaving your refrigerator/freezer doors slightly ajar to prevent mold and mildew growth. This will also prevent smells from getting into the plastic. Consider putting a box of baking soda inside.
• Oven – Like your refrigerator, wipe it down with a disinfectant that kills bacteria and unplug it or turn off the gas.
• Washing machine/dryer – If you’re lucky enough to have these appliances at your summer home, disconnect the hoses and unplug them. If you want to disinfect your washing machine, consider running a normal cycle with vinegar or whatever cleanser your manufacturer recommends.
• Water heater – Drain your water heater and turn off the gas or switch it to vacation mode.
7. Store outdoor furniture and other expensive items in a locked garage or shed – If there isn’t storage space available on your property, consider renting a storage unit. A nice size storage unit will allow you to store outdoor furniture, bikes, small boats, and other summer toys that could be damaged if left outdoors.
8. Unplug your appliances and electronics – This tip will protect your appliances and electronics from power surges and lightning strikes.
9. Create a home inventory for your summer home – If you don’t have a summer home inventory, consider creating one. If your summer home was destroyed in a fire or by an early spring tornado, would you remember every possession you had in it?
10. Take your valuables home or consider a security system – Vacated summer homes can become easy targets for thieves during the winter months. If you prefer to leave valuables in the home, consider installing a security system.
11. Inspect your fireplace – If you have a wood burning fireplace that you’ve used for a number of years without cleaning, consider having it inspected and cleaned by a reputable chimney sweep. Creosote is a residue that travels up your chimney and builds up on your flue over time. In fact, some creosote builds up every time a wood burning fireplace is lit. If that residue isn’t properly cleaned out, the chance of a fire igniting in your chimney increases.
12. Partner with your neighbors or local police – If you have neighbors or friends who live near your summer home all year round, consider asking them to check on your home periodically. Also leave contact information with your neighbors or local police. Contact information should include your cell phone number, home phone number, and your e-mail address.
Creating a routine each time you leave your home empty for an extended period of time can reduce the likelihood of a disaster and keep work to a minimum when you return.
Do you have any tips you’d like to share? I’d love to hear your thoughts; please share them in the box below.