Closing Up Your Cottage For The Season

By Johanna Crisholm • Last Updated July 12 2022

One of the simplest steps you can do for yourself and possible visiting guests to your cottage is create a step-by-step guide of what to do before you leave.

This is a longer, more intensive checklist one for when you’re shutting the place down for the season.

For those who plan to visit the cottage throughout the winter, and thus have some kind of winterization plan in place (e.g. addition of all-season insulation, double-pane windows, etc.) the shutting down process will likely not be as involved. But for most three-season cottage users, this list will be essential to keeping your cottage protected throughout the bitterly cold Canadian winter. 

This list is just a sampler. Your specific list will and should be tailored to your own cottage’s particulars (e.g. do you have a boat? Do you have a dock? Do you have neighbours nearby and/or a property manager who can check on your cottage throughout the winter?).


Deep clean. Sweep up, wipe down counters and seal up any food containers with tight lids.

Clear out all food. Any food that expires, package up to take home/dispose of

Defrost and clean out the fridge. Turn off both the freezer and the fridge and leave a tea towel in the crook so that doors on each remain open so as to prevent mould and mildew build up.

Unplug all appliances, heaters and anything else that could be considered a fire hazard throughout the unmonitored months.

Turn off the power. If you are planning to turn your power off for the season, this would be the time to do it. Some cottage owners opt to keep their power on for safety lights or if they do plan on visiting in the winter time. Again, this will be customised to whatever your winter cottage plans are.

Seal all the windows, doors and crooks and crannies that you think critters might be able to sneak into.

Put away bedding and attach fabric softeners sheets to the top of comforters, sheets, dresser drawers and closets (*If you're concerned about rodents making nests in these over the winter, the smell of the sheet deters them. Also consider storing bedding, pillows and sheets in storage containers with snap lids)

Turn off the water and drain the pipes. (*more on this in the water section)

If it’s part of your winterizing plans, be sure to fill the water supply line and toilet tank with antifreeze.

Empty out sink p-traps. Wise to do this after the water has been turned off and pipes drained.

Clean out the gutters. Clear your roof of any debris and your eavestrough to make sure the snow will drain properly over the winter.

Prepare your septic system/sub pump for the winter. This will vary depending on what system you’re using, but you’ll want to tend to this before the first frost of the season is predicted.

Disconnect the bbq from the propane and store away somewhere safe.

Stow away any seasonal items and secure anything that can’t be moved. A shed will come in handy when storing assets like your seasonal furniture, docks, gardening supplies and anything else that can easily be moved. If you can’t stow something away, think about securing it with ropes. Winter storms can wreck havoc on your property and can become torpedos when not secured properly.

Fireplaces should be cleared out. If you have an indoor fireplace, ensure that any debris is cleared from the inside. These can make for ideal nesting spots for unwanted pests during the colder months.

Take out the garbage and recycling.

Do a final sweep of the cottage and take stock of everything. Insurance providers recommend that you take pictures of the cottage - inside and outside - to ensure you can document any damage incurred over the winter months.

Lock up!

Renting Out Your Cottage?

If you do plan to rent your cottage and there are specific maintenance tips that bear reminding to your visitors, consider writing out post-it notes and leaving them in the spaces that they address. For instance, if you want to ensure guests know not to flush wipes or feminine toiletries down the toilet, you can stick a laminated note beside the bathroom mirror as a gentle reminder for your guests. The same goes for fireplace use, waste separation and anything else you feel needs reminding.