A family cottage is a wonderful oasis where multiple generations can relax, play, and bond by the lake. But, like your home in the city, it requires a fair bit of ongoing care and maintenance to keep it safe from the elements – and the local four-legged residents. The difference is that at the cottage you’re more likely to tackle a lot of the maintenance chores yourself. Here are some key things to take care of as the season winds down to ensure the building makes it through another winter unscathed.
A top-down approach
The roof is your cottage’s first line of defence against the elements. So it’s important that you inspect it at least once a year for missing shingles and other signs of wear. In some cases you may be able to do this from the ground (a pair of binoculars can help), but ideally you’ll want to climb a ladder for an up-close look. If more than a handful of shingles are missing or curling at the edges, or you notice sections of the roof that seem to be sagging, it may be time to replace the entire roof, definitely not a job for the average putterer.
If the roof pitch is particularly steep – or you have a fear of heights – the inspection itself might be a job better suited for the local handyman.
The eavestroughing around the edge of the roof does an essential job of collecting rainwater or snowmelt and channelling it through the downspout and out away from the foundation or footings. The first step is to clear out any leaves and pine needles that have built up. (You can scratch this task off future to-do lists by installing one of the many gutter protection products on the market.) You’ll also want to reattach any sections that have come loose, making sure the troughs all slope toward the downspouts.
Wood ‘n‘ things
Much of the time at the cottage is spent outdoors, often lounging on one of two wooden structures – the deck and the dock. But constant exposure to rain and lake water will slowly rot the boards, even if they’ve been sealed. Inspect and replace any deck boards that show signs of insect damage or feel spongy when stepped on. While you’re at it, check for any wobbly railings on your deck and stairways leading to the lake and tighten or replace the hardware. If it’s time to replace either deck or dock, consider using one of the durable composite materials that are available. The wood–plastic hybrids generally withstand rot and insect damage better than natural wood.
The land down under
Many cottages are built slightly above ground with a crawlspace underneath the floor. It’s typically not a pleasant place to visit, but one that does require regular inspection. You’ll want to inspect the waterlines for any leaks and repair as needed. You’ll also want to look for any sections of pipe that are sagging. Water will pool there and freeze, bursting the pipe over the winter so you’ll need to reattach those sections to the underside of the floor joists.
Finally, if your cottage is only used three seasons a year, there will be drain valves beneath the cottage that you’ll need to open to get any water out of the lines before it freezes.
Dock, dock, goose
The task most cottage DIYers dread most is pulling the floating dock out of the water and onto dry land for storage in Fall. But the longer you leave it in the water, the colder the job is going to get. Typically, it’s at least a two-person job, so you’re going to have to recruit one of the kids or grandkids for this task.
If you have a fixed dock, you’ll need to turn on your de-icing system to clear the water open around the structure throughout the winter.
After your chores are done, including the brisk, late-season dip in the lake to remove the dock, soothe your muscles with new RUB•A535TM Anti-Inflammatory Heating Cream.