Design & DIY

15 cottage repairs to make before winter sets in

Cleaning evastroughs

It may not look like winter in some parts of the country, but don’t get complacent: snow is on the way. If you haven’t tackled these important pre-winter cottage and home repairs yet, it’s probably a good idea to get to them soon.

Windows and doors

  • The last thing you want to feel on a cold winter’s day is a halo of cold air coming through poorly sealed windows and doors. Take your caulking gun and fill in any gaps around the frames, install weather-stripping or, if necessary, replace frames altogether. The expense now will be worth it—you’ll save money on heating and you’ll be a lot more comfortable.
  • If you have storm doors, make sure they seal tightly as well, and replace if necessary. Plan to eventually replace old windows and doors with more energy-efficient ones.


  • Check your roof and make any necessary repairs—even small problems, like curled tiles, can turn into huge issues if moisture gets in and rot develops. Freeze and thaw cycles are especially tough on roofs, so a little prevention will save you big headaches in the future.
  • Take a look at your eavestroughs and secure any that are loose—the weight of snow and ice can pull them down, potentially damaging your roof. Clean them out to avoid ice jams and floods once the snow melts.
  • Seal any joints with roofing cement between flashing and your chimney (which you’ve had inspected, right?), vents, walls, and skylights.

Porch and garden

  • While you don’t have to bag all the leaves that fall in your yard (they’re more beneficial to the soil and your grass if you let them dry on the ground, then mow them to form mulch) you should absolutely clean leaves and debris off your porch or deck. This a) avoids mold and mildew growth, b) means you won’t be walking on a carpet of slippery, snowy muck all winter and c) makes your deck that much easier to clean when the snow melts.
  • After cleaning, seal your deck with a non-slip, moisture-repellant finish to protect the wood. While you’re working on the deck or porch, make sure handrails are secured firmly. No one wants to grab at a wiggly railing when they’re slipping down the stairs.
  • To avoid burst exterior pipes, shut off the water valve to outdoor faucets and drain and disconnect hoses. This will help save both your pipes and your hoses, which you should store out of the elements for the duration of the winter.
  • Trim any overhanging branches that could break under the weight of ice and snow and damage your roof, porch, or shed. Call in a professional if the branch is high or particularly large, or close to electrical wires.

Sump pump

  • Have a pro inspect your sump pump to see if any repairs are necessary—they should take a look at the pit, the valve, and the discharge and make sure everything’s in good working order. You don’t want your sump pump malfunctioning if there’s a chance your basement might flood when it thaws.

House interior

  • There’s lots you can do to make your house more comfortable and energy efficient during the winter. Make sure exposed ducts are well sealed (that caulking gun is going to be your best friend).
  • Switch any ceiling fans to the clockwise position so they’re blowing hot air down from the ceiling.
  • Consider installing foam insulating sheets behind switchplates and outlets to reduce cold air creeping in.
  • This should go without saying, but we’re going to say it anyway—inspect every single smoke and carbon monoxide detector and make sure they work.
  • Check your fire extinguishers and make sure the needle is in the green zone. Replace or service any extinguishers that have a needle pointing to orange or red, or if you notice deteriorated hoses, wobbly handles, or a missing inspection tag.