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Tips to simplify your cottage opening weekend

Every cottage is unique, whether you’re tucked away on a tiny island in the Kawarthas or perched above the pebbled beaches of Lake Huron. But one aspect of cottage life never changes: the opening weekend chore list. 

And as much as we long to arrive at the lake after a lengthy winter, we all quietly dread the cleaning, fixing, and trash hauling that needs to happen before we can kick back with a drink on the dock. So to make short work of your opening-weekend chores, here are some tips from three decades of Cottage Life. 

Have everything in order before you go 

We don’t just mean coffee and a cooler full of craft beer and burgers, though you should definitely pack easy-to-prepare or pre-made foods (the slow cooker is your friend). But you’ll also need to prepare the less-fun stuff: 

  • Be sure to pack any licenses (boating, fishing) you’ll need. Since you likely don’t keep them with you year-round, they’re not always top of mind. 
  • Make sure your cottage insurance is up to date. If you’re in the market for a new policy, you’ll find standalone policies with coverage through Aviva’s RetreatLife Cottage and Cabin Insurance.
  • Check with the local utilities to be sure your electricity and landlines are hooked up before you arrive. 
  • Collect all the keys you’ll need—don’t rely on the rusty cottage key you keep under that pile of scrap wood behind your shed. 
  • Pack cleaning supplies. Once you’re in “cleaning mode” and you’re knocking chores off your list, the last thing you want to do is interrupt your streak to drive into town and buy Windex. 
  • Take your tools. Cottage sheds can be a favourite target of thieves (or neighbours who think you’re running a “tool library”), so don’t leave home without the essentials. A cordless drill/driver kit with a fully charged battery is a must. 
  • Bring batteries for flashlights and smoke detectors. Cottages have no shortage of fire hazards, so your smoke-alarm batteries need to be replaced every six months. Build that task into your opening-weekend routine, and you’ll never awaken to a 2 a.m. low-battery beep. 

Do a walk-around when you arrive

From fallen limbs to water damage, there’s no telling what you’ll find after your drive. Once you get there, take a few deep breaths of the fresh lake air and then do a lap around your property to check for any issues: 

  • Outside your cottage, check for damaged power lines from winter storms, and inspect your chimney and the posts beneath your deck. 
  • Inspect your windows and screens for damage. Mice have been known to chew through low-gauge aluminum screening, and you’ll need those breezy barriers intact once the mosquitoes and black flies start swarming. This is also a great time to open all the windows and air out your cottage. 
  • Check bedroom closets and kitchen cupboards for droppings or nests. Mice can squeeze through a hole the size of a dime, so it’s common to find that critters have been freeloading in your cottage during the winter. 
  • If your cottage has eavestroughs, make sure they’re cleaned and in working order for the rainy weeks ahead, and clear any large branches off your property.
  • Check your shed and boathouse for missing tools or other items you leave there during the winter, and be prepared to evict any animals that have claimed the space as their own. 

Get the water flowing 

There’s no need to do a summer’s worth of upkeep during opening weekend, but your cottage water system is one place where you’ll need to focus your energy. Not only can it be one of the biggest sources of cottage headaches, but you’ll be thankful to have a hot shower after all that time outdoors in the chilly spring air. 

If, like many cottages, yours has a pump that draws in lake water, you’ll need to follow a few key steps: 

  • Inspect lines for damage. 
  • Replace the filter and prime the pump. 
  • Close the cold-water valve to your hot water tank, and then open a cold-water tap somewhere in your cottage. 
  • Turn on your water pump (in your panel box). 
  • Open all of the valves between the pump and your cottage. 
  • Close all of your taps and look for leaks or any hissing sounds coming from them.
  • Once your cold water is running, drain your hot-water tank through the drainage valve and a hose that leads outside. Then turn on the cold-water intake valve and fill the tank. From there, turn on the water heater, watch for leaks, and you’re done!

If you manage to cram all of that into your opening weekend, you’re ahead of the game. Save the smaller chores for future weekends, and enjoy some time in the hammock. You’ve earned it! 

Want to keep your cottage safe and sound? Aviva’s RetreatLife cottage and cabin insurance is the perfect way to protect your property. 

The content in this article is for information purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as professional or expert advice.