Winterizing a Vacation Home

How to Protect Your Vacation Home from Old Man Winter

By Mark J. Donovan

If you have a vacation home or summer cottage, and do not plan to keep it operational and heated during the winter months, then it is important to properly winterize it before the cold weather hits.

Otherwise you’ll sadly find out in the spring that your home or cottage will have suffered major water/winter damage.

Summarized below are the various steps needed for winterizing a vacation home.

Shut of the Home’s Plumbing System

First and foremost you need to shut off the water supply line to the house. This is typically as easy as shutting of the electrical circuit breaker that powers the well pump. With some artesian wells there is also a shutoff valve that needs to be turned off in the well itself. If your well has a shutoff valve then you should have a long steel rod tool that is used to turn the shutoff valve on or off.

It has a T handle on the top of it. You will need to remove the well cap and then use this tool to shut the water valve off. You simply slide the tool down a couple of feet into the well until it rests in place on the shutoff valve, and then rotate it until the valve is closed.

Next you need to drain the water from the supply lines that feed each and every faucet, sink, tub and shower. This includes both the cold and hot supply lines. To do so open up the valves for each one of the said items mentioned. Leave them open for the winter months.

To prevent any residual water from freezing in the various plumbing P and J-traps you’ll need to add some house-safe RV antifreeze to them. You’ll also need to do the same for the toilet tank and bowls. First flush the toilets to drain water out of the toilet bowl tanks and add a little house-safe RV anti-freeze to the toilet bowls and tanks. Also pour a little of it into each sink and tub drain.

Shut of the Heating System

Next turn off the circuit breaker or electrical switch that powers the vacation home or cottage’s heating system. Simply turning down the thermostat to its lowest setting won’t suffice.

Unplug Appliances

To prevent the threat of electrical appliance damage caused from thunderstorms unplug them for safe measure.

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Clean out the Refrigerator and Freezers

The last thing you want to do is come back to your vacation home in the spring and find rotten and smelling food in the refrigerator or freezer. Make sure to remove all items from them and place an open box of baking soda in each.

Protect Against Rodents

Mice, chipmunks and squirrels love to find dry and relatively warm places to reside during the cold winter months. Protect you home from rodent infestation by strategically placing a few boxes of D-Con around the home to prevent them from setting up permanent residence in it.

Store Away Patio and Deck Furniture

Store any outdoor furniture in the home’s garage or basement. If the home has neither than bundle them up tight, wrap them in a vinyl tarp and securely seal the tarp to prevent it from blowing open during the winter months.

Winterize Boats and Lawnmowers

Make sure to winterize the boats after pulling them out of the water for the season. 

Winterize a vacation home

Water left in the engine and/or outdrive will destroy them when it freezes. Unless you know what you are doing, I would highly suggest having a marina winterize your boat.

Also make sure to winterize your lawnmower by draining any gasoline from it, and giving it a quick tune-up so that it is ready to use when the warm weather hits again.

Remove Seasonal Dock System from the Water

If you have a seasonal dock, a.k.a. pipe dock, then make sure to pull it out of the water before the water gets too cold. The last thing you’ll want to do is to have to go into icy water temperatures to pull it out. Leaving a seasonal dock in the water is illegal. It is also just plain dumb. The lake ice will destroy it and often drag it away into deeper water during the spring thawing season.

Clean up the Outside Yard

After the leaves have all fallen from the trees make sure to rake the yard and remove any debris from around the home’s foundation. Debris left near a home’s foundation is akin to sending out invitations to all the local pests and rodents. It also allows water to collect near the home, rather than drain away from it.

With all of the above actions taken your vacation home winterizing tasks are complete and you should have no unwanted surprises when you open it up again in the spring.

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