I’ve got a half-finished bunkie on my property that’s essentially just a foundation and a floor with lumber on top. Is it better to cover it with a tarp before I close up or to leave it exposed to get snowed on through the winter?—Sammy Patch, via email
You’re better off covering it, says Sean Harris, one of the owners of the Little Building Company in Peterborough, Ont. “If it was one rainfall, I wouldn’t worry. But all winter?”
You just want to do it in such a way that air will still get inside, and snow won’t build up on the lumber or—more importantly—the flat floor. “If it’s something like plywood, it could start to swell,” says Harris. So, ideally, you’d construct a tent over the pile, with the walls reaching about a foot wider and longer than the pile and with one end open. Securing the tarp only by its grommets—prone to tearing—probably won’t work. Instead, says Harris, wrap the bottom of the tarp on each long side around a 2×4, and screw the 2x4s to the existing platform.
When storing lumber, “you always want to allow for maximum airflow,” says Mario Demny, a carpenter and builder in Stony Plain, Alta. Using “stickers”—regularly spaced bits of scrap wood of equal thickness—between each row of lumber to keep boards separated and dry can help with this.
Then, “the trick will be to get as much snow off the tarp, before it all starts to melt, as early in the spring as you can,” says Tony Vanderstelt of Muskoka Lumber Supplies Centre in Huntsville, Ont. “Don’t wait until June to go back to the cottage.” Even better: if you visit the cottage during the winter, you can periodically brush off any snow, plus check the tarp for rips or animal nests.