How to Get Your Cottage Ready for Summer

Summer is around the corner. With summer comes cottage season, and cottage season means a big prep job. Opening the cottage in summer and closing it in fall are the painful but rewarding aspects of cottage ownership.

Though summer is the best time of the year, inclement weather can strike at any time. High winds, lightning, and heavy rain can cause considerable damage to your property. That’s all the more reason to minimize those threats by ensuring you have the right home insurance coverage for your cottage.

Regardless of whether your cottage is a homey cabin or a mansion, you need to put in the same amount of work to get it ready for weekend or staycation condition.

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Preparing Yourself to Head to the Cottage

Before you venture up, out, or down to open the cottage, you need a packing list. It’s largely basic things, but Cottage Life has a fairly comprehensive list of necessities. They fall into a few categories:

  • Foodstuff. What that is depends on how you’ll be occupying the cottage. Will you be there just weekends? A couple of weeks at a time? Obviously, perishables should be bought as near as possible to a visit, but pantry staples for cooking — herbs, spices, vinegars, oils — are there for the whole summer. As long as they’re not from last summer. Personally, if there’s no balsamic and olive oil, I can’t do it. I’ll make sure to bring some if you invite me. Don’t forget salt and pepper, cereal, and garlic salt — fresh garlic doesn’t stay fresh forever. Instant oatmeal can be a life saver when breakfast comes around.
  • Cleaning stuff. Rolls of shop towels are inexpensive and will reward you with mileage. So will 10-packs of dollar store sponges. Other than that, you’ll need buckets (if you didn’t leave them up there last year), a scrubbing or abrasive cleaner, a bathroom cleaner, bleach and Mr. Clean, the hero of so many cleanups. Don’t mix cleaners or the fumes could be toxic.
  • Personal hygiene stuff. One of the more important aspects not to forget.
  • Clothes. You’re going to be cleaning. They’re going to get dirty. While you’re at it, bring some to leave at the cottage for your visits. Consider all the likely weather conditions. I’ve camped in August and woken up to three-degree temperatures and rain of biblical proportions.

It’s also worthwhile to be ready for a severe weather event. Consider packing an emergency preparedness kit for the cottage.

Check the Interior

Unless you’re a year-round cottager, plumbing is going to the bane of your spring. If you prepared properly while shuttering the cottage, the job will be easier, but you’re still dealing with a plumbing system that’s been dormant for six months. Your water supply is likely a well. It’s not like a municipal water system.

Prime the pump if you have to. Check that all the faucets work. Make sure a brutal winter hasn’t frozen your pipes. And, first of all, make sure the toilet flushes.

  • Critters. Left alone for several months, any number of uninvited guests can creep in. Mice droppings can carry hanta virus. Any rodent that gnaws can do damage, especially to electrical lines. Bugs can get in. You might be able to live with that, unless it’s a nest of hornets, which has been known to happen. If you don’t know how to deal with the critters, call animal or pest control.
  • Electricity. Check the exterior electrical connection to the cottage. If there’s a problem, do not try to fix it. Contact Ontario Hydro. Similarly, if you find problems with the interior wiring, call a professional, unless you are an electrician.
  • Winter can put a lot of stress on an unoccupied cottage. Siding, roofing, window frames, all can be affected by winter’s whims. If there is a visible space in an upper storey window, you may have a more serious problem: the foundation. Again, this demands professional attention.
  • Smoke alarms. Get new batteries. Now.

Do You Have the Right Insurance Coverage?

Ensuring you and your cottage property are protected depends on the type of home insurance coverage you buy.

According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada there are several factors that affect the insurance on your getaway place:

  • Secondary residences. Ideally, your vacation property can be listed as a secondary residence. Whether it can, and how much it will cost, depends on how often the property will be lived in, whether it is rented, or several other factors.
  • Name the perils. You will likely have to get a named-perils policy. Depending on your occupancy, insurance companies may balk at covering water damage, vandalism — any of the risks of an unoccupied property that may take time to be discovered and therefore can be more extensive.
  • Additional coverages. Consider extra coverage for contents, detached structures, and any other amenities such as watercraft and docks.
  • Liability coverage. At a minimum, every property including your cottage needs liability insurance. If you’re going to be away from home on an extended vacation, be sure to talk to your broker or insurer about it before you depart and confirm your house is covered while you’re away.

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