Frozen pipes

The biggest threats to your cottage in the off-season

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As you close up your cottage at the end of the season and start the long drive home, it’s only natural that your mind will wander through the inevitable list of “what-ifs.”

But before you turn the car around to make sure—for the third time—that you’ve turned the oven off, you should lay your worst-case scenarios to rest. The truth is that the biggest threats to your cottage in the off-season aren’t as disastrous as they might seem (no, a rogue bear isn’t going to make your cottage its den) and most are preventable.

Here’s what you should really be worrying about:

Frozen plumbing

We’ve all heard the horror stories. Nothing can put a damper—literally—on cottage ownership like returning in the spring to discover that your pipes froze and burst, or that your septic tank cracked in your absence. Prevent damage before it happens by properly draining all your lines and tanks before you close-up for the season.

Exploding jars of food

While it may be tempting to leave that jar of tomato sauce in your cupboard, don’t forget that the same freezing and thawing cycle that happens in pipes also applies to food. If you don’t intend to heat your cottage over the winter months, make sure to remove any and all food from the premises—otherwise you might have a sticky mess to clean up come springtime.


For the paranoid among us, this is probably the biggest reservation that we have about leaving our properties unattended for extended periods of times. Whether its petty criminals out to make a buck or teenagers looking for a little weekend excitement, break-and-enters tops the list for the biggest wintertime threat to your cottage. Make crime-proofing your getaway one of your top priorities in the fall, and come springtime you won’t be sorry.


Who can blame woodland creatures for wanting someplace warm to cozy up for the winter? The truth is, while it’s easy to keep the bigger animals out (make sure to close the flue on your fireplace), mice will invariably get it. Whether they stay, though, is up to you. Make your home inhospitable by setting mousetraps, removing any food (including toaster ovens crumbs), and covering soft surfaces in plastic. Mice may also be repelled by certain odours, so it can’t help to try out placing fabric softener sheets and mint essential oil in your closets.

Rooftop ice damming

It’s unlikely that your entire roof is going to cave-in from heavy snow, but you’ll still want to make sure your roof and eavestrough are in tip-top shape to handle wintertime precipitation. A build-up of ice and snow, paired with continual freeze and thaws, can cause structural damage. Make sure your eaves are cleaned out and that your roof is in good repair, and consider hiring a company to clean snow off your roof during the winter—just don’t forget the boathouse or shed roofs.

Slip and slide sidewalks

While you may not be accessing your cottage in the off-season, that doesn’t mean that no one else will be. If a visitor injures himself or herself on your property, you could be held liable for failing to clear the walks. If you’re not hiring someone to maintain your property over the winter (including snow and ice removal), be sure to cancel local newspaper delivery and post a caution note to any solicitors at the end of the driveway.