How to winterize your cottage and turn it into a four-season home
If you have a cottage, chances are you’ve spent more time there this summer than in previous years. With long-term remote work becoming a reality for many and travel restrictions keeping us closer to home, you may have even started wondering how you can extend cottage season into the fall and winter months. But turning your summer getaway into an all-season oasis is a big investment and takes a lot of work. These are just a few of the steps you’ll need to take if you’re planning on converting your cottage or cabin from a summer property to an all-season home:
- Install an appropriate heat source. This isn’t as simple as installing a wood stove or fireplace, so you’ll want to consult a professional and find out which kind of heat source will suit your cottage best. This can depend on a variety of factors, from where your cottage is located to how much you’re willing to spend. It’s also worth noting that certain types of heat sources (like wood stoves, for example) may have an impact on the cost of your insurance or even your eligibility for coverage. Before you choose a heat source, you should contact your broker to find out how it might affect your insurance.
- Add proper all-season insulation. It’s no secret that Canadian winters are cold, so you’ll need proper insulation in your cottage if you’re planning on spending time there during the winter. You’ll also need to add a vapour barrier to prevent condensation from developing inside the walls. Without this protective layer, your cottage could be at risk for mould and rot — two things that aren’t covered by standard home insurance policies.
- Update your utility systems. If you’re used to only being at your cottage during the warmer months, your electrical and plumbing systems (including your septic system) may need upgrading or replacing to suit all-season living. You should have your property inspected by a licensed plumber and electrician, as they’ll be able to tell you what work needs to be done to winterize your utilities.
- Prevent frozen pipes. Generally speaking, closing your cottage for winter means draining the pipes. But if you’re planning on hanging around through the winter, you’ll need running water, which means you’ll have to take some measures to ensure your pipes are properly insulated so they don’t freeze and burst. This involves making sure your pipes are run on the warm side of your insulation, which may even require complete removal and reinstallation.
- Upgrade your windows and doors. All windows and doors in your cottage need to be properly sealed to prevent drafts from coming in and warm air from escaping (this also helps with energy savings). Depending on the type of windows currently installed at your seasonal property, they may need to be swapped out for a year-round alternative (such as new double-paned windows).
- Properly protect summer-only fixtures and toys. If you have boats or other water toys, outdoor furniture, or seasonal vehicles, be sure to properly store and protect them in the winter. You may still be at your property, but you’ll need to store these types of items as if you weren’t going to be there. If there are other buildings on your property that you won’t be using in the winter (like bunkies or sheds), be sure to properly prepare those for the season, too.
- Plan for other expenses beyond physical renovations. While renovations themselves might cost a pretty penny, there are some other expenses you should be prepared to cover if you’re using your cottage in the winter. Some of these expenses include:
- Heating, electricity, and other utilities
- Increased transportation costs
- Hiring someone to keep your driveways and walkways clear of snow and ice when you aren’t around
- Buying winter toys like snowshoes, snowmobiles, and cross-country skiis
Does winterizing your cottage affect your insurance?
Whether you’re planning on renovating your cottage yourself or having contractors do the work for you, tell your insurance broker about your plans so they can make sure you have the right coverage, during and after your renovations. Depending on the type of work you’re doing, your coverage may be limited while renovations are being completed, or you may even need to purchase a special builder’s risk policy. Your insurance company also needs to know if you plan on renting out your cottage once you’ve finished winterizing it, as your coverage may have certain limitations while it’s being rented out, or you may need to purchase a landlord policy.
If you’re thinking about converting your summer cottage into a four-season home, reach out to your insurance broker to make sure you have the coverage you need for year-round protection.
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