Preparing Your Home for Winter

Labor Day weekend is often the last time families gather at the beach house or cabin together.  It can be hard to say goodbye to the languid days of summer and adjust to the back-to-school routine.  But one thing that should be top of the list for the end of the summer:  preparing the holiday home so it’s safe and secure through the off-season. 

On the Outside

Make a checklist for tidying up the exterior of your holiday home.  If you are on a lake, take out the dock, winterize and clean the boat, dry out life jackets and cushions and store them in a well-ventilated area.  Mow the lawn and rake leaves around the cottage.  If you have expensive bikes or furniture, consider storing them in a locked garage or shed.

Sealed For the Season

Give your home a thorough once-over.  Do you see any openings in the floorboards or corners where a local creature could come in and stay for the winter?  If you find any suspicious holes, fill them with steel wool.  Check all the windows to ensure they close and lock; caulk the perimeters to stop any leaks. 

Time for Bed

Spider webs, dust and mice may find your home very hospitable in the winter.  One easy way to keep mites away:  cover mattresses and other soft furniture with plastic sheets and covers.  You can also scatter dryer sheets between the plastic and the fabric to freshen the room (and discourage vermin from getting comfortable).

Fireplace Safety

Wood-burning fireplaces can have residue that builds up over time.  If you haven’t had your fireplace cleaned recently, schedule an inspection and cleaning before the end of the season.  Repair any broken seals and then close the damper vent.

Turn The House Off

Take a walk through the home and turn off the furnace, unplug all appliances and electronics.  Clean out the refrigerator and leave the door open slightly to prevent mold growth.  A box of baking soda will also keep things clean.  Disconnect the oven, the washing machine and dryer.

It Takes a Village

Do you have neighbors who live near your vacation home in the off-season?  Ask if they will check in on your house while you are gone.  Be sure to leave your contact information with neighbors and local police.

Skip the Water Worry

There are a few important steps for avoiding leaks in the winter.  Turn off the electrical breaker for your water heater and pump, and follow instructions on how to best empty the hot water tank.  Shut off the water at the main supply to avoid freezing pipes.  For a fail-safe plan, ask your plumbing contractor to install a LeakSmart system—it will not only monitor for leaks and shut water off automatically if a leak is detected, but also remotely control the water supply from your smart phone. That way, you can be confident that your summer house is secure while you are away and you avoid leaks or worse, a catastrophic flood.