Mackay Insurance Blog
14 Valuable Cottage Insurance Tips For a Successful Cottage Closing
Summer is quickly coming to a close - bringing a sad so-long to the heat and adventures of summer. And after spending as many long weekends and vacation days at the cottage as possible, it’s time to shore the docks.
As a cottage owner, you know the importance of closing down your cottage for the winter. And as insurance brokers, we have all the tips you need to get the job done right!
In this article, we have 14 valuable cottage insurance tips that will help you,
- Close your cottage down successfully.
- Limit the risk of unnecessary loss and damage over the winter season.
- Ensure your cottage insurance coverage is up to date.
Ready? Let’s get your Ontario cottage safely into hibernation mode!
1. Get your wood stoves and other heating systems checked.
Seasonal cottages usually have their heat source(s) shut down during the off-season.
This saves money on unnecessary heating costs and prevents your cottage heating from becoming a fire hazard.
So during your last visit to the cottage, be sure to shut off and clean your heating system - whether it's a fireplace, furnace or space heater!
You’ll also want to shut off/disconnect any gas lines and fuel supplies.
2. Turn off your main water supply.
Keeping your water on over the winter months is just asking for trouble.
Not only can this cause expensive water damage repairs. But it can also bring about mould and mildew growth!
If left unchecked, mould growth can even lead to:
- Floorboards caving in
- Ceiling collapses and
- Crumbling walls.
And none of these vulnerabilities is something your insurance company wants to risk.
So, as you're shutting your cottage down for the season, don’t forget to shut off your main water supply too!
3. Empty your pipes, water tanks and drain lines.
Standing water in your pipes, tanks and lines can lead to freezing and even bursting - causing extensive home and plumbing repairs.
To avoid this issue, remember to drain your:
- Water Tanks
- Drain Lines
- Appliances etc.
4. Turn off your electricity.
Since there is no heat or running water in your cottage during the winter, turning off your electricity is the next obvious step.
According to the ESA, there are four critical steps in powering down your cottage:
- Unplug all appliances before powering down.
- Turn off each breaker before flipping the main breaker switch. This protects your large appliances from experiencing a damaging power surge when powered back up in the spring.
- Store extension cords safely in a waterproof and rodent-proof location.
- Check for tree branches near powerlines on your property to prevent electrical damage and fire hazards).
Note: Before turning off your electricity, remember to empty your fridge and freezer of any perishable goods.
5. Inspect your roof.
A damaged roof increases the risk of leaks and cave-ins over winter. That’s why repairing your roof before winter arrives is so important!
Heavy snow and high gusts of wind can cause severe damage to your home - both internally and externally - if your roof is not secure.
When inspecting your roof, look for:
- Broken or missing shingles
- Mould growth
- Sagging areas
- Rusted nails
- Insect/Animal infestation
- Dark patches
And while you’re up there, don’t forget to clear your gutters!
6. Clear out your eavestroughs and downspouts
Rain water can’t drain properly from your roof with clogged eavestroughs and downspouts.
This water buildup can cause expensive water damage to your home, both internally and externally.
Before leaving your cottage for the winter, ensure your roof’s drainage system is fully intact and cleared out. This will prevent water from pooling in and leaking into your home.
7. Trim overhanging branches.
Trimming large, overhanging branches on your property is incredibly helpful for more than one reason.
We already mentioned how trimming branches near power lines help prevent electrical damage and fire hazards. But those aren’t the only trees you have to worry about.
Overhanging branches around your home, boathouse and sheds can also present a problem. That problem could be the branches themselves falling on these structures or even heavy snow and ice falling off them.
8. Ensure unwanted critters can’t get into your cottage.
Over the winter months, most critters are looking for a warm escape, shielded from heavy snowfall.
Unfortunately, your vacant cottage is the perfect hideaway for mice, racoons, squirrels and even bats.
And all of these creatures can wreak havoc on your home, its structural integrity, furniture and other valuables.
To keep your cabin guest-free over the winter, follow these steps:
- Keep wood piles far away from your cottage.
- Clear out your gutters.
- Reapply caulking around pipes, dryer vents and gas lines.
- Check window and door seals.
- Use steel wool to fill in small holes.
- Cover your chimney.
- Seal foods like oats, pancake mix and pet food (or, better yet, take them home with you).
- Set traps in and around your cottage.
9. Store your boat and other recreational vehicles safely away.
To keep your water-crafts safe over the winter, we recommend storing them in a secure location and investing in boat insurance.
Are you planning on storing your boat on your cottage property over the winter? If so, you’ll want to ensure it’s well protected from harsh weather, uninvited critters and robbery.
This is why boat insurance is so important!
10. Remove the doc from the water.
As water freezes and unfreezes, ice expands and contracts. And, since wooden docks soak up water, this expanding and contracting can cause breakages.
Removing your dock from the water ensures it doesn’t get ruined over the winter months.
Note: If you plan to keep your dock in the water over the winter with water agitators, don’t forget to post a sign on its location! Snowmobilers and skiers who use the frozen lakes for recreational use over the winter never expect docks to lie in their path. So labelling the location of your dock helps keep them safe.
11. Go over your current cottage insurance coverages.
Once you've packed up your cottage, it’s time to review your current cottage insurance plan.
This is especially important if the usage of your cottage has changed recently. Having up-to-date coverages that reflect your specific needs helps ensure that you,
a) Have the right protection, and
b) Are not overpaying for any unnecessary coverages.
12. Speak with your insurance broker about recent or upcoming cottage renovations.
Have you made any recent changes to your cottage lately? Or plan to?
If these renovations are not currently reflected in your policy, they aren't protected. This means that they are not reimbursable in the event of damage or loss.
Making sure your insurance company is aware of these changes ensures your property is fully protected. And that includes any recent, pricy upgrades!
13. Remove all valuables from your cottage property.
As you’re doing a final sweep of the cottage, make sure you pack up all valuables. That includes expensive equipment, recreational vehicles (i.e. kayaks), landscaping tools etc.
Removing your valuables from your vacant cottage helps prevent break-ins and theft.
14. Secure your cottage.
Lastly, secure your cottage as best you can!
Cottage security tips:
- Lock all doors.
- Lock all windows.
- Draw your curtains so people can’t see indoors.
- Store outdoor ladders and furniture away from your cottage.
- Install a gate at the front of the driveway.
- Ask a nearby neighbour to check in once in a while.
- Install security cameras and an alarm system.
Need An Updated Cottage Insurance Policy? Contact Mackay Insurance in Belleville and Napanee!
At Mackay Insurance, keeping your family and home as safe as possible is our number one goal. And that includes your home away from home!
Want more information on our cottage insurance packages? Whether looking for a new policy or upgrading your current coverages, your Mackay broker can help!