ARE YOU READY TO CLOSE UP THE COTTAGE?

My family and I recently came back from our annual vacation at the cottage. We have been going to the same cottage resort for 20 years. While driving home I thought about all the cottage owners out there who have to start thinking about closing up there vacation home for the winter months.

I came across some basic tips from the Canada Safety Council that I would like to share.

Water Supply

If your cottage is not winterized, you can take steps to prevent your water supply line from freezing during the winter. You don’t want to arrive there next spring to discover the consequences of not having drained the pipes before you close up this fall. Frozen pipes can burst, causing damage and meaning you’ll have no running water.

Pipes can be fully drained when you’re closing up the cottage. The water supply line can be filled with non-toxic anti-freeze made especially for supply pipes. And pipes that are carefully wrapped at key junction points are better protected against the cold.

As part of your maintenance routine you should also check the inside of your hot water holding tank for residue that can affect water quality and get caught in the faucet screen. Also, you should have your water analyzed regularly by a lab to ensure its quality, especially if the water suddenly shows a yellow or brown tinge. A filtration system can significantly increase the purity level and lessen the wear-and-tear on your cottage water system. This is also the ideal time to thoroughly check your plumbing and faucets after a summer’s wear-and-tear.

Wildlife

Damages from small animals such as mice and squirrels are a concern to cottage owners. Avoid using poisons to keep out these critters that love to move in when you move out. You should remove all food from cottage before you close it. Bats, mice and squirrels can wiggle in through the smallest of holes. Inspect the building inside and out to make sure there are no small openings for them to enter. Place a wooden cover on the chimney to discourage birds and small animals from entering, and to stop any rain or snow. Tightly close your fireplace damper to prevent animals from getting in.

Electrical system

Some people choose to shut off electricity to their home in the off-season by throwing the main switch at the fuse box. If you do this, be sure to turn off all major appliances, your water heater, and electrical room heaters before you turn off the main switch. This will ensure a smoother and safer start-up when you re-open your home.

If you leave your electricity on to operate security systems or lighting, you should turn off the power supply to your major appliances at your main panel. Turn off the power supply to any space heaters. Otherwise they may turn on during cold weather.

To ensure the stove, fridge and other electrical equipment are not used in your absence, remove fuses and hide them in a safe place.

Visually inspect your hydro metre and power lines for damage. If a power line is down or damaged, stay clear and call your Hydro Company. Inspect visible wiring to outdoor lighting fixtures, water pumps and other equipment. If wires are damaged, remove the fuse to that circuit or turn off the circuit breaker, and call a qualified electrician.

Check all household appliance cords. If damaged, unplug the appliance and do not use it until the cord is replaced. If your electrical panel uses fuses, make sure they are screwed in tightly and that you have spares. Don’t use fuses higher than 15 amps in normal receptacles and lighting circuits.

Boat Motors and other power equipment

When storing power boating motors and other power equipment do not drain gasoline from fuel tanks, instead use a fuel stabilizer (available from your dealer or auto parts store). Winterize your engine(s) away from the water. Store boat motors, lawnmowers and other items with engines in a dry, weatherproof place. Cover anything that may rust over the winter with a coat of oil.

If your cottage is in a heavy snow area, consider installing temporary supports to protect the roof from caving in. Another option is to hire a reliable local person to shovel the snow off the roof when necessary.

I hope these tips were helpful and remember that time spent in preventative measures now will pay significant dividends next spring when you open the cottage for next year’s season.

 

 

Are You Inviting Strangers in While You Are Away?

Be sure you are not asking to have you home broken into while you are away.

This time of year many are fortunate enough to be able to head off to warmer climates, maybe for just a week or some for months at a time. I have compiled a number of recommendations as to what to do to safeguard your home while you are away. These suggestions cover keeping your home secure, and also preventing unexpected incidents. Here they are…

  • Cancel the newspaper and redirect your mail. Alternatively have someone retrieve these DAILY for you.
  • Have the walk and driveway cleared promptly after a snowfall.
  • Have a friend or neighbour check your home regularly. Insurance companies require frequent monitoring and many require notice that the house will not be occupied.
  • Use timers to have various lights come on in the house to mimic someone being home.
  • Don’t leave a key hidden outside your house.
  • Lock up or put away your valuables.
  • Turn off the water valve for all outside taps. You may also want to turn off the main water supply, depending on how long you plan to be away.
  • Turn off the water supply to your toilets. (Prevent expensive leaks)
  • Ensure that all windows are locked. Be sure to secure sliding doors perhaps with wood at the bottom to prevent the door sliding.
  • If you have an attached garage be sure it is secure. An interior door can provide hidden access for a would be thief.
  • If you have an alarm, be sure to let the monitoring company know you are away, and provide contact information.
  • Be aware of what you post on social media. Save the holiday pictures for then you are back home.
  • Turn down the thermostat. About 12 degrees will keep everything functioning and not waste your money heating an empty house.
  • Turn down the temperature on your water heater.

These are just a few suggestions to keep in mind. There is no 100% guarantee, but if you take some measures, you will limit your risk.

One last thought – Have a great holiday!

If you have any tips, please let us know.

Thinking about Buying a Cottage or Vacation Home?

Buying a cottage or vacation home for you and your family can be one of the best decisions you make, but it could also cause you the most headaches if you don’t give it lots of thought first.

When you are considering buying a cottage, your first decision must be whether you intend to buy this only for your personal use, or if you intend to possibly use it as an investment, renting it out when you and your family are not using it. This initial decision will help you decide where you want to buy. If you intend to rent it, you will want one near popular areas, with close proximity to amenities. If you intend it for your sole use, you are free to locate exactly where you want to be, even if that if the middle of nowhere.
Also, when buying for your own use, consider your lifestyle, will you be having lots of visitors? Will you entertain frequently? Do you have certain activities you want to be close to? These are just a few of the things to consider before you jump into buying.

When you start to look at properties, don’t get carried away by all that is available. Make sure you set a budget, and stick to it. Just because you have the down payment doesn’t mean you want to pay the mortgage costs. You want to enjoy this vacation property, not worry about what it’s costing you. You might even consider a family property. Maybe you have brothers/sisters or friends who would like to pool resources and buy a vacation home. If you decide to go this route, keep in mind that the amenities you are looking for will change if you are all at the cottage at the same time.

Another consideration is where do you want to buy. Consider how far and how long you want to travel to reach your property. Consider how long you will be staying at your property, and is it worth the time to get there if it’s just for weekends.

When you have decided where you want to locate, decide if you are looking for a house or if a condo would better meet your needs. If you are looking to get away from it all and have no maintenance to worry about, a condo might be your best choice. If you are buying this property for investment purposes, be sure if you chose a condo that you are permitted to rent the unit. (you should check the rules for any other restrictions that might affect your enjoyment or that of your tenants).

Before you buy, be sure you are buying a vacation property for the right reasons. Don’t buy on impulse. Just because you are enjoying a vacation at someone else’s cottage does not mean it is the right decision for you. Think it through carefully. This could be a large investment, and the real estate market can be fickle, especially with vacation homes. The market is not the same year round, or even year to year.

When you decide a vacation home is the right purchase for you, talk to your banker, and your real estate professional. Get some good advice on what is available, and also on how to finance your purchase to your best advantage.

If you have any experiences you would like to share, please add your comments below!