9 ways to make your cottage safer in winter

Published: January 25, 2019

cabin-in-the-snowy-woods-at-night Photo by DmZ/Shutterstock

Regardless of whether you close up your cottage for the winter or use it year-round, here are nine seasonal safety considerations.

Give space heaters plenty of space

Space heaters cut the chill in notoriously draughty cottages. But they should be used with caution—they’re the second leading cause of fire death behind careless smoking. It’s best to treat space heaters like open flame; use only when you’re awake and keep them a fair distance from anything that might catch fire.

Meanwhile, gas heaters are designed for outdoor use, as they can result in carbon monoxide poisoning inside an unvented house.

Place a grate in front of your fireplace

There’s nothing quite like a snowy cottage day cuddled up in front of the fireplace. However, before you start chopping kindling, make sure your fireplace is set up for safety. Place a grate in front of flames to prevent sparks from popping out onto the carpet or nearby flammable materials, and don’t leave the fire unattended. If you have a gas fireplace, don’t let children (or anyone else) touch the glass and install monoxide detectors in your cottage.

Give your chimney a sweep

Whether it’s just from overuse or from a pesky raccoon or squirrel building a nest, a clogged chimney can turn into a serious wintertime hazard. The soot from your wood-burning fireplace can catch fire at a high temperature. Once a year, have your chimney inspected and cleaned-out.

Clear walkways

Any good Canadian worth their weight in salt (get it?) knows that removing snow and ice is essential to preventing injuries. In addition to regularly shovelling snow and clearing ice, you may want to add salt or grit to the mix to improve traction.

Remove dangerous icicles

We often look down at the ground when it comes to wintertime safety on our properties. But it’s just as important to look up. Owing to their weight, large icicles are prone to breaking and falling off your house, particularly on bright or windy days. Stand well to one side when knocking them down, and if possible, wear safety gear such as goggles or a hard hat. Or, prevent icicles from forming in the first place by keeping your eavestroughs clear of leaves, which can cause ice dams.

Remove snow loads from any nearby trees

Ice and snow can accumulate on tree limbs quickly, and before you know it, branches are crashing down on to your property. The best bet to prevent this is to trim your trees well before snow hits the ground.

Make your address is highly visible

Snow and road grit may cover your property’s address sign. Remove any snow or debris so it can be located by emergency personnel quickly. You may also want to consider lighting it, or adding another identifying sign (such as the name of your cottage), making it that much easier to find.

Light up outdoor pathways

Shorter days also mean darker nights. Install pathway lighting along your driveway or walkway, or a strong motion sensor light at key access points around your cottage.

Keep a stocked safety kit on hand

While an emergency kit should be available at your cottage year-round, it’s vital to keep it stocked in the colder months. Days are shorter, temperatures are lower, and if there’s a power outage or a winter storm, it will be that much more difficult to get from point A to B. Ensure you have plenty of non-perishable food items, clean water, candles and battery-operate devices on-hand.

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