Design & DIY

Cottagers’ five most frequently asked questions


This article was originally published in the May 2015 issue of Cottage Life magazine


You asked. And asked. And asked. So we answered. Here are your most FAQs. How do I…

1. Designate the cottage as my principal residence?

Fill out the appropriate Canada Revenue Agency form. You only do this when you’re reporting a capital gain and because the cottage has changed ownership (sold to a third party; gifted to your child). File this form with your taxes for the year in which the property changed hands. 

2. Reduce the outhouse stench?

Ventilate. Put vent pipes in the corners of the outhouse (they should extend above the top of the roof and down into the pit) and several screened openings along the top and bottom of the outhouse. Seal cracks around the pit hole to encourage rank air to exit through the vent pipes. Try an odour-eating product, such as lime, but remember: harsh chemicals kill good bacteria.

3. Know if the water’s safe to drink?

Test it—several times for accuracy. Take your samples to a municipal health lab or a private lab. The standard tests look for E. coli and total coliforms. Health Canada says that no amount of E. coli is safe, while a total coliform count of 10 per 100 ml is only “marginally safe.” Worried about your lake water? Consult your lake association, conservation authority, or Environment Canada, since they may keep tabs on water quality and have the results already. 

4. Insulate the floor?

You have a few options. 1) batt insulation: fill the spaces between the floor joists with batts; hold them in place with hardware cloth 2) spray foam on the floor’s underside or 3) rigid foam: put pieces of 2″ extruded polystyrene on top of the subfloor, and cover with a layer of plywood.

5. Eliminate ants?

If they’re big and black, they may be carpenter ants, attracted to damp, decaying wood. Use liquid ant killer. If the ants are tiny and yellowish brown, they may be little thief ants, which prefer greasy foods. Odorous house ants, also common—darker than little thieves and stinky when crushed—prefer sweet foods. For both types, use combination traps that contain both sweet and protein-based bait (check the packaging). 

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