Winterizing a Vacation Home
How to Protect Your Vacation Home from
Old Man Winter
By Mark J. Donovan
If you have a vacation home or summer cottage, and do not
plan to keep it operational and heated during the winter months, then it is
important to properly winterize it before the cold weather hits. Otherwise
you’ll sadly find out in the spring that your home or cottage will have suffered
major water/winter damage. Summarized below are the various steps needed for
winterizing a vacation home.
Shut of the Home’s Plumbing System
First and foremost you need to shut off the water supply line to the house. This
is typically as easy as shutting of the electrical circuit breaker that powers
the well pump.
With some artesian wells there is also a shutoff valve that
needs to be turned off in the well itself. If your well has a shutoff valve then
you should have a long steel rod tool that is used to turn the shutoff valve on
or off. It has a T handle on the top of it. You will need to remove the well cap
and then use this tool to shut the water valve off. You simply slide the tool
down a couple of feet into the well until it rests in place on the shutoff
valve, and then rotate it until the valve is closed.
Next you need to drain the water from the supply lines that feed each and every
faucet, sink, tub and shower. This includes both the cold and hot supply lines.
To do so open up the valves for each one of the said items mentioned. Leave them
open for the winter months.
To prevent any residual water from freezing in the various plumbing P and
J-traps you’ll need to add some house-safe RV antifreeze to them. You’ll also
need to do the same for the toilet tank and bowls. First flush the toilets to
drain water out of the toilet bowl tanks and add a little house-safe RV
anti-freeze to the toilet bowls and tanks. Also pour a little of it into each
sink and tub drain.
Shut of the Heating System
Next turn off the circuit breaker or electrical switch that powers the vacation
home or cottage’s heating system. Simply turning down the thermostat to its
lowest setting won’t suffice.
To prevent the threat of electrical appliance damage caused from thunderstorms
unplug them for safe measure.
Clean out the Refrigerator and Freezers
The last thing you want to do is come back to your vacation home in the spring
and find rotten and smelling food in the refrigerator or freezer. Make sure to
remove all items from them and place an open box of baking soda in each.
Protect Against Rodents
Mice, chipmunks and squirrels love to find dry and relatively warm places to
reside during the cold winter months. Protect you home from rodent infestation
by strategically placing a few boxes of D-Con around the home to prevent them
from setting up permanent residence in it.
Store Away Patio and Deck Furniture
Store any outdoor furniture in the home’s garage or basement. If the home has
neither than bundle them up tight, wrap them in a vinyl tarp and securely seal
the tarp to prevent it from blowing open during the winter months.
Find a Pre-Screened Contractor in Your Area
Winterize Boats and Lawnmowers
Make sure to winterize the boats after pulling them out of the water for the
season. Water left in the engine and/or outdrive will destroy them when it
freezes. Unless you know what you are doing, I would highly suggest having a
marina winterize your boat.
Also make sure to winterize your lawnmower by draining any gasoline from it, and
giving it a quick tune-up so that it is ready to use when the warm weather hits
Remove Seasonal Dock System from the Water
If you have a seasonal dock, a.k.a. pipe dock, then make sure to pull it out of
the water before the water gets too cold. The last thing you’ll want to do is to
have to go into icy water temperatures to pull it out. Leaving a seasonal dock
in the water is illegal. It is also just plain dumb. The lake ice will destroy
it and often drag it away into deeper water during the spring thawing season.
Clean up the Outside Yard
After the leaves have all fallen from the trees make sure to rake the yard and
remove any debris from around the home’s foundation. Debris left near a home’s
foundation is akin to sending out invitations to all the local pests and
rodents. It also allows water to collect near the home, rather than drain away
With all of the above actions taken your vacation home winterizing tasks are
complete and you should have no unwanted surprises when you open it up again in