This year, like many cottagers, you may be thinking about remaining at your cottage longer than usual, perhaps even spending the winter there. A more rural environment can feel safer than the city during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If that’s the case, you may need to ensure that your cottage is ready to weather the colder temperatures and snow, especially if you’ve never spent anything more than a week there in the winter there before.

Winterization can happen in a matter of degrees, and turning your cottage into a year-round retreat can be a big investment if you go in for full winterization. If you aren’t planning on spending every winter there you may just want to make smaller improvements to ensure you remain warm and comfortable.  

Take the practical steps you can, especially if you aren’t planning to stay at the cottage every winter. If you feel like you might want a winter getaway every year, or you are considering retiring to your cottage, then a larger renovation may be in order. 

Staying warm with the proper insulation

Some older cottages may lack insulation or the right insulation, especially if they’ve never been used in the winter.  Depending on your plans and budget, reinsulating your cottage walls may require tearing down your drywall to the studs and installing proper insulation.  To truly winterize a cottage, you may also need to install a vapour barrier to prevent moisture and mould build-up.

Another place where a cottage can benefit from added insulation is in the crawlspace. Adding spray foam insulation to outside walls here will save heat loss through the floor, keeping your feet warm and toasty and preventing heat loss. If you are currently losing lots of air in the crawl space, insulating and sealing it off properly will also increase the efficiency of your home’s heating system.

The average home loses up to 30% of its heating and cooling energy through air leaks around windows and doors. You will need to ensure all of your windows and window frames are properly sealed and caulked to prevent drafts and heat-loss. You should replace any cracked or missing weather-stripping and re-caulk where needed.

Depending on the type and age of your windows, you may need to consider installing new energy-efficient, double-pane windows. This also applies to your doors and door frames. Installing new year-round alternatives will definitely keep you cozier and save you money in the long run.

Think about your plumbing and heating systems

Plumbing is the one thing that must be winterized if you are planning on using your water at all during the winter. Insulating all of your pipes and plumbing lines and adding heat tape or a heat trace system will keep them from freezing and bursting once the cold weather hits. 

Installation of a heat trace system varies depending on the type of pipes you have and the manufacturer of the system, so it’s a good idea to talk to the supplier to understand the correct process. Alternatively, having your system professionally installed usually offers the security of a warranty which can be reassuring. You may also want to consider having your septic system pumped (especially if it has been a while) to ensure that it can take you through until spring.

Preparing and maintaining your heating system is also a consideration. If you heat with oil or propane, filling your tank now may be more cost-effective since fuel costs tend to be lower during the summer and early fall months. If you heat with a wood stove, ordering enough seasoned wood now will ensure that you’re ready when the temperatures drop. 

Some other factors to consider

It’s a good idea to confirm with your insurance company that you are covered by all-season homeowners insurance and make changes if necessary.

You should also check in with your road or lake association. You may have to pay extra for snow plowing or you may need to find a contractor to take care of it if they don’t cover it.

If you’ve had problems with cell coverage at your cottage, consider getting a cell phone booster to enable working from home. While reduced cell coverage at a cottage can be caused by the increased numbers of cottagers using a cell tower’s signal, this is only part of the story and a cell phone booster will ensure uninterrupted service. You may also need to upgrade your Internet service to a better package if you want to work from home, do home schooling or stream movies.

There are a lot of considerations when thinking about winterizing your cottage but the investment may well be worth it. It will let you take advantage of your seasonal property all year and enjoy those snowy days in front of the fire, safely and warmly.If it’s time to replace your cottage windows or doors Muskoka Window and Door Centre has the experts available to help you keep your cottage warm and comfortable all winter. Contact us today!