Winterizing Your Summer Cabin
Winter is upon us and there are still so much to do for our cabins before we leave them. The harsh cold weather of the season can be damaging in more ways than one. Not only do you have to worry about pipes bursting, but keeping pests out is a job in its self. To protect your summer cabin, we have put together a list of tasks to complete before closing up for the winter season.
- Drain water completely
- Turn off propane at tanks
- Turn off circuit breakers
- Close fireplace and woodstove dampers
- Clean out and defrost refrigerator and leave door open
- Disconnect appliances
- Close and lock windows
- Clean gutters
- Check for and remove any tree limbs that are hanging over the roof
- Remove valuables
- Remove all cans and bottles that can freeze or explode
- Spread mothballs or cedar chips on stored linen and bedding to deter mice
Winterizing your summer cabin may be more of a chore than desired, but necessary nonetheless, you will have to do it. Otherwise, you might have a big reality check the next time you visit the cabin. Prepare a checklist of things to do a week before leaving the cabin. Start working three or four days ahead of time to avoid rushing and forgetting important details. Here is a list of things to put in order, just ignore the things that don’t apply. Every cabin has different setups depending on its purpose and location.
If your cabin has a water heater, determine if it is propane or electric. If propane, go to the Water Heater and turn the settings dial to ‘vacation’. Older Water Heaters may not have a ‘vacation’ setting, if so turn the dial to ‘pilot’. If your Water Heater is electric, go to the main electrical service panel (typically on the exterior of the cabin) and find the ‘breakers’ marked Water Heater. Turn them off.
Do the last watering of the garden and plants. As soon as you’re through, shut down all sprinkler controls without closing the sprinklers. Open all garden faucets. This will drain the watering system. If your cabin is located on a hill, draining should not present a problem.
If your ground cover is already tall, it’s time to cut off the extra height. You will reduce the fire risk by doing this.
Turn off the water supply (assuming you have indoor plumbing). This is important if you won’t have electricity when you leave. Some cabins are only powered by generators during each visit. But if your cabin is hooked up to the grid then make sure to insulate and/or cover all pipe lines with heating tape. This will keep the water inside the pipes from freezing and bursting.
No Power During Winter
- Go into the ‘sub area’ (underneath the cabin) and find the water supply line where it enters the foundation. This will ‘typically’ be a copper line coming out of the ground. The ‘shut off’ valve may be either a round handle not unlike the handle to your hose bib, or it can also be a ‘directional’ handle. If it is a directional handle, turn it until the handle is at a 90 degree angle to the incoming water line.
- Once the water is turned off, find the lowest water faucet (preferably on the exterior) and open the faucet, and leave it open. If there is no exterior faucet, open whatever faucet is at the ‘lowest’ elevation point in the cabin.
- Go back through the cabin and open every water faucet, shower/tub faucet, and flush every toilet. As an additional safety measure, make sure to partially open the shower head ‘diverter’ valve, if so equipped. You goal is to eliminate as much water from the system as possible.
- Pour about one cup of antifreeze into each water drain. There are plumbing antifreeze products that are not hazardous to health. Use that type and pour it on the drains of the shower, bathtub, sink, toilet tank, toilet bowl, garden and the garage. Alternative remedies from people are to put a half cup of vodka or olive oil down the drains. I have not done these suggestions, but they are interesting ideas.
Washing Machine, Dishwasher, and Refridgerator
Run a cycle with your washing machine. Instead of using water, use white vinegar. This will disinfect the machine inside. Afterwards, disconnect the hose and run another cycle. Once you are sure that there is no longer water inside, shut off the power supply. Don’t close the machine yet. Allow some time for the remaining moisture to evaporate.
With the dishwasher, also use white vinegar to disinfect and clean. Then turn on the Dishwasher for just a few seconds. This will activate the solenoid in the Dishwasher allowing what little water is in the line serving the Dishwasher to drain and prevent the plastic solenoid from freezing and breaking.
Electricity and Electrical Outlets
Unplug all appliances from the electrical outlets to prevent power surges during winter. Next, turn off power to the circuit breaker.
Most cabins do not have central air conditioners. But for those that do, all you have to do is insulate the entire thing. Have two to three layers of insulation and then cover with thick plastic. Make sure there is enough covering on the condenser.
If using a window air conditioner unit, remove from window and place inside cabin. Close and lock windows.
Windows and window parts are highly susceptible. Ice and snow can easily build up on ledges. You should provide an extra protection for these cabin parts. Use boards or shutters that close and lock on top of your windows. This makes it harder for intruders and animals to invade your cabin while you are away as well.
Go onto the roof and remove debris and leaves from it. Clean the gutters. Even if you are located in an area where the winter is not extremely cold, you still need to clear the roof. The melting and freezing cycle of snow can easily damage the roof and its gutters. Don’t forget to check the roof vents. They should be cleared as well.
Look into the septic tank. It needs maintenance check from time to time. Go to a hardware store and buy some septic treatment clearing product or some enzyme product that can help in decomposing solid materials in the tank.
Some people choose to take the patio furniture inside, others leave them out. If you would like your own patio furniture gracing the outdoor view of your cabin, make sure that they are protected well. Apply linseed oil to act as a buffer against ruthless weather elements.
Prepare the Kitchen
Clean your refrigerator. Don’t close it afterwards to let moisture to disappear. Closing the refrigerator without power for a long time is a good invitation for molds and mildew formation. Put some charcoal on a plastic vessel and place it inside the refrigerator. Charcoal will be able to keep the fridge from developing bad odor.
Get rid of all foods. This is one of the best ways to make the cabin uninteresting to rodents and insects. Except for the dried ones, foods should go to the bin and surrendered to the next garbage truck. For dried foods, put them inside metal containers with tight lids.
Wash all garbage containers and take with you things that are attractive to rats – candles, sponges, soaps, etc. Spray insecticide on the sides of baseboards and panels.
Take away things that can freeze. Remove bottled liquids because these containers will burst when the contents start freezing. Search for paints, beers, soda, mineral water and other liquids.
Remove everything that is flammable. Oily rags and stacked papers can easily burn. Wash and vacuum floors, walls, carpets, and rags. Make sure that there’s nothing there that can attract vermin. Carefully lock the cabin at all entry points.
Take all valuables with you. You never know if thieves or vandalizers might take advantage of the cabin being unattended.
Anyone that does not live in their residence “full time”, and those full time residents that leave for extended periods of time for vacations, etc. should ‘partially’ winterize as a precaution by turning off their water, even in the Summer months. It only takes a few minutes and if a leak/break occurs, the only amount of water that can potentially leak out will be what is actually in the lines at the time.
Start a ‘full’ Winterization on Labor Day Weekend, and don’t stop until after Memorial Weekend. While we don’t expect temperatures to drop low enough to freeze pipes this early into Fall, most of you will find that your ‘visits’ to the cabin will be few, if not at all before Thanksgiving. Many owners will leave after Labor Day with the ‘intention’ of returning before Winter sets in, only to find that ‘all of a sudden’ they are hearing that snow is falling at the cabin and they realize they failed to Winterize.