Ontario cottage country has long been known as a coveted destination and the recent real estate boom continues to drive a steady stream of house-hunters to the Muskoka market. But for many of these purchasers, it’ll be the first time they’ve owned a cottage, rather than a house, and cottages come with their own unique quirks and considerations.

Are you closing it for the season? What about the water system? How’s it heated? There’s lots to think about before investing in a Muskoka cottage and savvy buyers do their homework. Being prepared will help you avoid any unpleasant surprises post-purchase so you can relax and enjoy your beautiful new home. 


Utilities are one of the most important considerations when moving from an urban area to a rural. For many new Muskoka homeowners, used to city services, it can be an adjustment to suddenly switch to well water or wood stoves.

Many cottages in the area are supplied by their own wells and operate on a septic system. If this is the case, it’s always a good idea to get the well water tested and the septic system inspected before buying. 

Some local municipalities offer a free well water testing that covers the basics but you can also pay a little more for a comprehensive test from a private lab. Septic tanks should be pumped every four years, so be sure to check the date of its last clean. And be careful what goes down your pipes – use septic-safe paper and avoid harsh drain cleaners. 

Pay attention to your new cottage’s heating source too. There’s more variety in rural areas, with some relying on oil, others choosing gas, and some opting for a hybrid system. The last thing you want in the depths of the freezing Muskoka winter is a furnace failure so it’s wise to invest in a back-up heat source, such as a wood stove. You may also want to consider a generator as the power supply is less reliable outside the city and your cottage could be without power for some time if there’s a bad winter storm.


Maintaining your cottage means more than just keeping it beautiful with a fresh coat of paint every so often. Safeguarding your features, fixtures and fittings against the lake country weather is a year-round job.

Given the dampness of the Muskoka area, wood rot is a common issue so take a close look at wooden window and door frames – it’s better to catch this invader in the early stages before it gains a foothold and spreads.

Regularly check your property for any leaks, cracks, or gaps. Improperly sealed windows and doors let the heat out, driving up your energy bills, and invite critters in. From bugs to raccoons, there’s a lot of cottage country residents you don’t want in your house. 

And don’t overlook the outdoors! Are there any landscaping features that will need continual upkeep? Is there a dock or other waterfront features that need to be maintained? 

Seasonal shutdown

As any Canadian knows, a big part of home maintenance is getting ready for winter. If you’re shutting your Bracebridge bolthole for the season, you need to make sure it’ll be safe and secure all winter long. 

Look for wood warping, unsealed areas, worn pipes, unstable trees – anything indoors and out that could endanger your property in the cold months.

If you’ve decided to brave the blizzards and stick around, make sure you won’t literally be stuck – check the access to your property and whether your local authorities provide plowing and emergency services in your area. Some are zoned as seasonal and largely ignored by their municipality until everything re-opens in spring.

Future plans

If you’re hoping to do any renovations or upgrades to your cottage, plan them carefully. 

The first step is checking local bylaws to see if you can make the changes you want and the second is finding a reliable contractor. Where possible, pick a local firm – these contractors know the area and will bring all that invaluable experience and expertise to your project.

Family-owned and operated, Muskoka Window and Door Centre has been helping cottage country homeowners maintain, renovate, and beautify their properties for over two decades. Contact our team today to see how we can help you make the most of your new home.