Cottage Ready for Summer
It's that time of year when most owners of non-winterized
cottages begin looking forward to opening up their "great
escape" for another season.
Just as there are feelings of regret and apprehension when
many cottagers "close-up" for the winter, there are
similar feelings of anticipation and concern over "opening
up". After all, it takes more than just turning the key in
the lock for most cottagers to get their "home away from
home" ready for summer.
The first trip to the cottage after the winter is the time
to notice any damage caused by heavy winds, rain or
snowfall. This includes the condition of nearby woods,
beach, docks and other buildings apart from the main
cottage. It is also the time to list the tools and
supplies you will need to bring on the next trip in order
to fix all the problems.
Before actually entering your cottage, walk around it and
check for any signs of break-in. Look for broken windows,
doors or boards. If you suspect a break-in has occurred
over the winter months, check for missing items such as
audio visual and camera equipment, knives, tools and other
targets favoured by thieves. You will need to make a list
of all missing items for your insurance company. Be sure
not to touch anything before police arrive.
After determining if you have had any break-ins, the next
step is to look for evidence of any leaks and unwanted
visitors. You will want to remove the remains of any birds
or animals that may have sought refuge over the winter.
And you will want to discourage any unwanted company from
squirrels and mice.
If you have left the sofa, chairs and other furnishings
uncovered, check the upholstery - as well as counters and
other surfaces -for signs of droppings, broken cans,
bottles and other items you may have left behind. Next,
turn on the electricity. Plug in or turn on large and
small appliances to ensure that all circuits are working.
But be sure to first check the oven and any other
appliances you may have left something in when closing for
the season. Any electricity-powered tools should also be
checked for signs of rusting. These may have to be
repaired before you put them to use.
If you have a wall phone, check to see that it still
works. Test the smoke and carbon dioxide detectors to
ensure they don't need new batteries. If you use oil lamps
or gasoline for powering equipment, be sure to get a fresh
The final test comes when you start up the water system.
Be sure to check all the water lines for leaks and other
problems. Regardless of where your water supply comes from
-directly from a lake or from a well- the condition can
change in a season, so it's a good idea to have it tested
a few times a year.
To ensure the chimney is clear of unwanted blockages from
animals, birds or debris, first burn a few sheets of
papers in your fireplace or wood-burning stove. The nights
are still chilly in the spring, so be sure to bring with
you a fresh supply of firewood if you plan to stay
Many cottages now have septic systems, but if you are
still the proud owner of an outhouse, remember this
structure is part of our architectural heritage -one that
must be well-placed and well-maintained. Check the area
around the outhouse to ensure that snowmelt and source
water have not left waste products on the ground or in
Also check the pit to see that it is safe from seepage. If
you didn't scrub the place down when you closed for the
season, do it now. All inside surfaces should be cleaned,
stained and/or painted at least once a year. You may also
want to spray the outhouse with a disinfectant solution.
The goal is to discourage insects and encourage patrons.
Getting a cottage ready for the summer season involves
other chores as well. You may need to caulk the old
rowboat, resurface the access road with fresh gravel,
varnish or stain decks and fences, repair any damaged
docks or other shore structures. It's a lot of work, but
for those drawn to cottage life, it is all worth it when
they hear the call of the loon or the gentle slapping of
waves on the shore or experience the beauty of a starry
night away from the lights of the city.