A gentle breeze rustles through the trees. Stars fill up the sky. An owl hoots in the stillness. Experiences at your cabin are unmatched by anything that happens at your year-round home. Unfortunately, it’s time to start thinking about preparing the cottage for the winter.
Though it’s a little sad to close up your haven, you need to be thorough. You want the cabin in great condition inside and out when you come back next year. Check out the following list for shutdown advice that’ll protect your home away from home.
Make sure your roof is ready for winter:
• Check shingles and flashing caulk, and repair damaged areas.
• Clear the gutters.
• Trim tree branches that extend to your cabin.
Prepare the outside of the building:
• Search for holes in soffits, door and window frames and vents. Make repairs, if necessary. Check under the cabin for holes. Block any you find with steel wool. Otherwise, you risk having critters set up house inside during the winter.
• Bring your grill indoors. Disconnect the propane tank. Store most outdoor furnishings inside. If you leave out any furniture or equipment, covering it provides protection from the elements.
• Board up any windows that are covered only by screens. Without this, animals may assume you have an open-door policy.
• Pull out your dock. Before storing it, label sections so setup is easier in the spring. If you don’t want to deal with this chore, hire professionals.
• Run any gas lawn equipment ‘til the fuel tanks are empty. Clean the machines, and then spray moving parts with a lubricant. Store the devices indoors.
• Protect your boats. Raise canoes and kayaks off the ground and secure them with chains. Drain gas-powered boats before storing.
• Clean and organize your garden or storage shed. Take inventory to see if you need to replace anything next year.
• Check for any warping, twisting, or shrinkage, which is common in older or poorly-made log cabins.
• If you have a septic system, check to see if it’s time to have it pumped. If not, add a product designed to help waste decompose.
• Hire a local company to plow the driveway and sidewalks during cold-weather months. Access will be easier if there’s an emergency. The roof should be cleared if accumulation is heavy. Snow removal also helps keep your cabin from looking vacant. Empty houses attract thieves.
• Clear everything out of the refrigerator and freezer. Clean and dry them. Put an open box of baking soda inside each. Prop the doors open slightly to let air circulate.
• Remove all food from the cabin.
• Cover mattresses and upholstered furniture with plastic to keep mice from moving in. Leave sheets of fabric softener where rodents might congregate, such as in closets or drawers and on furniture.
• Clean out your wood stove or fireplace. Close the damper vent and cover the chimney flue.
Water systems need preparation to prevent the mess and expense of burst pipes. If you aren’t familiar with the process, you’re probably better off hiring a professional to show you the ropes. Then you can safely handle the job in the future.
• Turn off the valve that lets water into the cabin.
• Drain water from the pump, water heater and water softener.
• Open all the water faucets, and leave them open. Let all the water run out.
• Empty your well’s pressure tank.
• Flush toilets, and bail out any water left in the tanks.
• Drain all water hoses. Remember ones for the bathtub, shower, dishwasher and washing machine. Introduce specialized antifreeze — not the vehicular version! — to sinks, tubs, showers and toilet drain traps.
• Introduce specialized antifreeze — not the vehicular version! — to sinks, tubs, showers and toilet drain traps.
Not to be pessimistic or anything, but take photos of your cabin, inside and out. That way you’ll have a record in the — unlikely — event something goes wrong.
• Ask a neighbor to keep an eye on the place and let you know if anything seems amiss. Inform the local police station or sheriff’s office that you’re moving out for the season.
• Finally, before driving away, take another look at your checklist to make certain everything is done. Be sure:
• All appliances and equipment are unplugged and circuit breakers are off. Don’t forget connections to the washing machine, dishwasher and water pump, heater and softener.
• Water and heating systems are off.
• You’ve removed all garbage.
• You take any valuables with you.
• You have your keys.
• You’ve locked all doors.
Properly preparing your cabin for the winter is time consuming … and a little sad. It also ensures the place will be in great shape when you return next year. Moving in will be easier, so you’ll be relaxing with your feet up and an iced tea in your hand much, much sooner.
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