Getting Your 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 supply.

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 overnight.

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 nearby waterways.

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.



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