Lakeside screened-in porch

Photo courtesy of

The days are getting shorter, and the nights are getting cooler. It’s that time of year again. Summer is wrapping up, and with the kids heading back to school, time to close up the cabin or cottage sometime soon and enjoy the lovely cool, fall weekends in the city.

If you have a summer cabin or cottage that is not winterized, this means that the closing up procedure is very important in order to ensure your cabin remains safely uninhabited until next summer. Every cottage is different, but here are some basics to keep in mind in the form of a handy-dandy checklist to make sure you hit everything on the list.

Inside the cabin

Aside from giving your place a good cleaning to prepare for winter, here are some specific tips to make your closing up process a little more organized.

  1. Kitchen Cupboards And Fridge

Remove all food from kitchen cupboards and fridge, including dried and canned goods. Defrost your fridge and unplug it. Clean your cupboards and fridge as thoroughly as possible to remove all food particles that might be attractive to animals seeking food and shelter.

Line the shelves in your kitchen cupboards with new shelf paper to prepare for your arrival next spring. Ensure all dishes are clean and put away in their proper places.

Remove all fire hazards including loose papers, newspapers, old rags and chemicals.

2. Beds And Furniture

Mice and squirrels will be looking for a cozy place to make their nest during the winter, and there’s nothing nicer than soft bedding and furniture cushions. Make sure you remove all bedding and place plastic sheets over all mattresses.

Cover any chairs or sofas that have ticking or stuffing with plastic sheets to keep mice and other rodents from destroying your furniture.

Cabin in the woods3. Water System

If your cabin is not winterized, you will need to fully drain all water pipes prior to leaving. The water supply line can then be filled with non-toxic anti-freeze made especially for supply pipes. And pipes that are carefully wrapped at key junction points are better protected against the cold.

It’s also a good idea to check the inside of your hot water holding tank for residue that can affect water quality and get caught in the faucet screen. If you do not have one already, you might consider getting a water filtration system which can significantly increase the purity level and lessen the wear-and-tear on your cottage water system. You should have your water analyzed regularly by a lab to ensure its quality, especially if the water suddenly displays a yellow or brown tinge.

This is also a great time to thoroughly check your plumbing and faucets to make sure they’re still functioning properly after a summer’s wear-and-tear.

Outside the cabin
Inspect your property and do any landscaping required to prepare your summer home for winter months. Inspect the outside of all your buildings for little holes big enough for critters to use to gain entrance. Plug anything you find with steel wool. If you discover large holes you may want to call a pest control company to come and cover them for you. Remove all garbage and clutter from under your cabin to improve airflow and remove any potential homes for wildlife.

  1. Beautiful cabin with floor to ceiling windows

    Photo courtesy of


If you have any broken screens or windows, now is the time to repair.

The best way to protect your cottage from animals, weather and potential break-ins is to board up all your windows. It’s definitely more work than just pulling the blinds, but is worth it for your peace of mind.

2. Sporting Gear And Boats

Safely store your boats away from the water. Do not drain gas from the motor, rather use a fuel stabilizer which you should be able to find from your dealer or auto parts store. Store boat motors, lawnmowers and other items with engines in a dry, weatherproof place such as a shed or inside your boathouse. Cover anything that may rust over the winter with a coat of oil.

Stack canoes, kayaks, paddle boards and any other large water sports equipment somewhere safe and out of sight, and chain together with a solid padlock for good measure.

3. Outdoor Furniture And Cooking Areas

Store any outdoor furniture in the cabin or garden shed, including your picnic table. Clean your barbecue and cover it.

Beautiful fire pit on lake

Photo courtesy of

Disconnect and remove the propane tank. Store them both in a protected area.

4. Sheds And Tools

If you have an outdoor garden shed and tools, now is a great time to tend to them so they’ll be ready to help you get the job done come spring. Use your gas-powered tools until you burn all the gas off. Clean all of your equipment and inspect and clean air filters. Spray all moving parts with a lube, and sharpen all blades.

Have a look inside your garden shed and organize it with your freshly maintained tools. You’ll be happy you did so come the spring.

5. Buildings, Roof And Chimney

All sorts of woodland critters will want to make your cabin their home during the cold winter months, but this would obviously not be good for your cabin. Board up your chimney so that animals cannot climb in via the flue and ensure your fireplace damper is tightly closed.

Inspect your roof and replace any missing or broken shingles. Trim overhanging and dead branches to prevent snow buildup which can cause branches to snap, potentially resulting in damage to your cottage.

Clean out your gutters and make sure they are clear of anything that can obstruct drainage when the snow melts in the spring.

6. Dock

Disassemble your dock and store safely. Paint the crib with rust-proof paint to be ready to put it in come spring.

Outhouse bathroom

Photo by R. Tarin, courtesy of

7. Septic System And Outhouse

If it’s the correct due date, book a pump or cleaning before your last visit. If your system does not yet need a clean or pump, add some approved “good” bacteria to help break down the waste over the winter months.

If you have an outhouse, remove all toilet paper and give the bathroom area a thorough clean and sweep.

When you leave

  • Disconnect all the appliances and then shut off all the breakers. This will make it easier to reconnect in the spring.
  • Take photos of your cabin and your property, in case anything happens and you need them for insurance.
  • Do a final inspection of all buildings.
  • Check and lock all outbuildings
  • Take all garbage and recycling as well as all personal belongings
  • Lock your cottage.

Closing up the cabin is always bitter sweet, but if you do it properly, all you’ll taste is the sweetness of spring returning when you open back up again next year!

If you’re longing for your cabin over the winter months, check back to our Pinterest Cottage and Cabin board for fun and inspiration. Best of luck with all of your projects!


Posted by Leslie Andrachuk