View Full Version : Winterizing my summer cottage

06-21-2008, 09:32
With heating costs going through the roof, I am considering shutting down my summer cottage entirely for the winter months. That means no heat at all. My plummer can drain all pipes and antifreeze the toilet.

My question is what kind of other damage am I opening myself up to? Drywall and paint damage ?? I have no experience at this and would really appreciate input from others who have done this in the past.

THANKS !!!!!

jersey joe
06-21-2008, 09:37
Ever thought about renting out your summer cottage for little to no fee? I know people who do this in their Vermont home. The tennants pay the utility bills. Win/Win.

Jack Tarlin
06-21-2008, 09:38
Talk about your concerns with the plumber, and make sure he understands exactly what you want done.

Make sure your windows and doors seal tight. Consider wrapping the windows over with plastic and tape to keep out moisture.

Be sure your roof is in great shape.

If your cottage is in an area that sees a lot of snow, make sure that it doesn't accumulate on the roof enough to potentially cause damage. Consider hiring a local caretaker to check the property periodically or do it yourself if it isn't too far away.

A properly sealed house with a good roof should not suffer any paint or wall damage while you're awy.

06-21-2008, 09:42
My family used to drain the pipes, etc every year in our beach cottage. Did it every year for about 40yrs. The last ten years or so, I noticed a problem with mold ( moisture building up). It was pretty costly to fix, but I was renovating anyway. It took a REALLY long time for this problem to develop and the place is near the ocean, receiving alot of precipitation and moisture year round.

Tin Man
06-21-2008, 09:48
As was said, sealed tight is very important.

Make sure somone is checking the place regularly. You don't want any natural or man-made damage or breakin's to go unnoticed.

Appalachian Tater
06-21-2008, 09:57
Although moisture is the enemy, you need a certain amount of air exchange. This is true regardless of whether or not you are winterizing. Moisture can even build up inside walls if there are vapor barriers installed improperly.

This article has additional suggestions:


Tin Man
06-21-2008, 10:10
Another thought is if you decide to open back up in mid-winter, be prepared for a cold first few days. The furniture and floors take 3 DAYS to warm back up.

06-21-2008, 21:34
We have a summer cottage up north and close it up in the winter months as well. We have a plumber drain all the water through a central drain plug in the lowest level pipe. We stop all mail and papers a week ahead of time. Stop Cable and Internet in October (Some years we have left it subscribed if we knew we were going up for a winter holiday or two).
- Make sure you get up there in late fall to clean up all the leaves and other debris that might collect along the outside foundation or crawlspace of your cottage to avoid vermin from having a protected pathway around your building. Squirrels, Chipmunks and mice will all try to get in - especially if there is no human activity to cause them concern.
- We usually bait and put glue-boards down in the crawlspace beneath and inside the cottage.
- We bag up all blankets, pillows and sheets and leave them on top of the beds to keep dust of them.
- We cover All the furniture with old sheets - again for dust.
- We clear out all food and vacuum the pantry and cupboards.
- It takes a weekend to close it and a weekend to open it.
- Empty the freezer and leave the fridge and freezer doors propped open.
- Leave the washer machine door open and the dryer door closed. (If you can, seal off the outside dryer vent from the outside.)
- turn off the oil/propane at the tank.
- Turn off the main electric breaker unless you plan on leaving an outside light on, then I would keep the maina dn that one circuit on and everything else off.
- If you are in the Snowbelt, you might want to have someone come and plow the drive after big snowstorms and have a neighbor check in every couple of weeks for vandalism, though in have 2 sets of relatives that also sealed their houses every fall for winter FL living, we have never known vandalism in any place.

06-22-2008, 09:45
Be sure when you open, to follow Hanta protocol, if you find mouse "tracks."
Be sure to fill tanks before turning on heaters.

As said earlier, be sure the plumber knows you are going unheated.

06-22-2008, 10:16
If the cabin is in an area that has high humidity you might leave the ceiling fans on low if you have any or get a small fan or 2 as I have had customers who ended up
with serious mold problems. Humidity & stagnant

06-22-2008, 10:18
Humidity & stagnant iar are the two main causes of mold, & I have one customer who has permanant serious health problems from toxic mold

Montana Mac
06-23-2008, 00:22
There are many cottages or second homes that are closed up for the winter here. Always pour some anti-freeze into all of your sink traps and the toilet, bowl and tank. Also run some through your washing machine, if you have one. You can never pump all of the water out of it - if it is not protected the pump will crack. You can go to an RV store or Wally World and buy RV anti-freeze - it is non-toxic.

It also helps to write up a check list. If it is your first time to close up a house have some review the list. The list will also help in the spring when you open the house again. It will help you remember what has to be turned back on or re-connected.

06-23-2008, 04:20
A good article on "Closing up the house for the long term" would be a great candidate for the articles section if anyone were to feel so inclined.

06-23-2008, 08:34
While it might not help the OP our place in the mountains has some "redneck engineering" features that help in seasonal closure.

Please note that much of this is likely to not comply with building codes in your area. Pennsylvania happens to have a convenient exemption provision for a "recreational cabin" as defined in http://www.pacode.com/secure/data/034/chapter401/s401.1.html subject to various conditions http://www.pacode.com/secure/data/034/chapter403/s403.1.html . This stuff at our place happens to pre-date the adoption of the building code but there is provision for an affidavit for new construction or alteration. Municipal ordinances and YMMV.

-Water runs only when the pump is on - there's no pressure tank. The riser pipe in the well has an unusually large weep hole trading throughput efficiency for non-freeze even in deep winter. The 1 tap that can run in the winter drains back down. This takes some education for visitors on throwing the disconnect to run water not using the little valve on the tap.

-Sink has no trap to the septic system. Stink is avoided by using a plastic drain stopper (approximately $1.28 at Wal-Mart). I think if we ever re-do this we'll have a drainable trap. Proper venting of the waste lines helps here.

-Toilet has not only antifreeze in it but the flexible water connector to the toilet is physically disconnected. Only takes a minute to wrench it back on. We take it off before the last flush, then pour RV antifreeze in the tank and flush again. We have had to replace a flush valve in the springtime before so now I keep a spare there (that's $9). In spring/fall we put enough antifreeze in to see the color. Before real hard winter sets in we pour an entire gallon in the toilet tank.

-Very likely if we were doing a toilet again we would use one of these: http://www.sun-mar.com/prod_self_exce.html (we do keep the electric on year-round so that works for us). Might even put one in anyway for winter weekends, we don't have big crowds. This particular unit is NSF approved, PA has no "recreational cabin" exemption from sewage codes but it's legal under http://www.pacode.com/secure/data/025/chapter73/s73.65.html as long as the drain for "excess fluids" described in the Sun-Mar documentation is not installed. The availability of consistent electricity is key to maintaining the venting from these units which is why you don't find them in A.T. shelters.

-Shower water heater is tankless LP, Bosch AquaStar. At our place the bathroom is unheatable so when we're there in hard winter there is no showering anyway, brrr. Even the tankless heater documentation has a "don't sue us" clause about keeping it in a heated space. But they also mention there is a little screw under the flow control valve you can take out. We do that and have had no problems.

-Shower stall does have a trap, we were once at another place that didn't and that stink is ewwww. It gets the RV antifreeze treatment too because it's buried and undrainable.

-To return to the OP we don't have issues with interior finishes but we have log veneer inside and intact lead paint (as one might surmise, the place has been around for a while).

-Humidity and mold is a problem especially in bedding including pillows. We kid-seal the mattresses so they seem OK. We don't have overstuffed furniture - rodents are sometimes a concern at this old place. Bleach is your friend, note hantavirus precautions at http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/hanta/hps_stc/stc_clean.htm Maybe consider hauling out the bedding. We pull the beds and furniture away from the walls, actually each time we leave.

-An electric blanket helps quite a bit in shoulder seasons.

-Since there is not only electric but telephone to our place year-round and occasionally we go up in the winter I've considered installing an LP heater that runs on a low-voltage thermostat and one of these: http://www.cottage-sitter.com/

06-23-2008, 08:35
i'm going to suggest you take a walk around the cabin and take down any trees that you see leaning or dying. i'd hate to drive up there in the spring and see one of them pushed your roof into the cellar

06-23-2008, 13:40
i'm going to suggest you take a walk around the cabin and take down any trees that you see leaning or dying. i'd hate to drive up there in the spring and see one of them pushed your roof into the cellar

Wood heat offers a double incentive to do this. :D

06-23-2008, 14:30
As suggested above we use RV antifreeze in the pipes, and blow them out first with an air compressor. Never had a problem.