When Alice Ogden’s Manitoulin Island cottage burned down in 2005, “We knew the cottage was insured, but we didn’t know by how much.” The Ogdens bought their getaway (originally a cabin at a fishing resort) in 1985 and assumed the existing insurance policy. As a result, the $51,000 in structure and contents coverage “wasn’t enough to build a modern cottage,” she says. The replacement (including such big-ticket items as a new wood stove and composting toilet) cost more than three times what the original building was insured for.

To avoid a similar problem, Darlene Cade of Toronto-based Cade Associates Insurance Brokers says it’s a good idea to regularly check your policy and its coverage levels. Does your policy include a guaranteed replacement clause? Does it cover out buildings? Do you have sufficient coverage to rebuild and to cover losses of contents? If you’re not sure, check on construction costs with local contractors.

Cottagers should also have certified tradesmen install new equipment such as solar power units, furnaces, and wood stoves, and ensure installations (including your own DIY electrical work) are appropriately inspected.

Take photos or videos of the cottage interior and exterior to record the structure and its contents—and keep them updated. “Open up the cupboards and closets and take pictures of everything you can,” says Nova Scotia cottager Shirley Pineo.