Canadian winters can be harsh and relentless as we have been reminded of last year. Severely cold winters can be harsh with the freezing and thawing of the land and buildings (for those cottages that are closed down completely in the winter). Risk management can certainly help to mitigate loss and reduce the need to make an insurance claim when you return to your beloved property in the spring. Below are five reminders for closing your three season cottage for the winter.

Wildlife: They love to call your place their own when you have left the building!
Remove all food from your cottage and bunkies
Inspect your buildings for small holes that bats, mice or squirrels can wiggle into.
Close your fireplace damper and cover the chimney to prevent birds and other small creatures from moving in.

2. Water Supply:
Fully drain all of your pipes to prevent your water line from freezing during the winter and ultimately splitting. The water supply can be filled with non-toxic anti-freeze made especially for water supply pipes. Wrapping your pipes at junction points are better protected against the cold.
Check your faucets and plumbing before close up to ensure that you identify any damage that has occurred during the cottage season.

3. Boats, motors and other equipment:
– Add fuel stabilizer to motors and equipment rather than draining the gasoline from fuel tanks.
Store boat motors, lawnmowers and other engines in a dry, protected space.

4. Electrical System:
If you are shutting off the electrical for the winter season, be sure to turn off all major appliances, the water heater(s) and electrical room heaters. This will create the conditions for a smoother and safer start-up when you re-open your cottage in the spring.
If you leave your electricity on to operate lights and/or a security system, you should turn off the power at the electrical panel to all other appliances, including space heaters to ensure that they do not turn on in your absence.
Take a look at your hydrometer and power lines for damage. If you can visually detect any damage, stay clear and contact your Hydro company immediately.

5. General Property Maintenance:
If your cottage is in a heavy snow area, consider installing temporary supports to protect the roof from caving in.
Have a trusted person drop by on a regular basis to check your property throughout the winter season and report back to you. Have them check the following:
i. Snowload on roofs – have them shovel it off, if needed
ii. Check for signs of vandalism
iii. Check for tree damage due to weather (i.e. wind, ice, snow, etc.). Remove
fallen branches from your buildings, and branches that are hanging over your builiding(s), if it is safe to do so.
iv. Check your insurance policy to determine if you need to inform your insurance broker when you are away from your property for an extended period of time.
Spending some time addressing the risk management of your property will always be time well spent. Mitigating risk certainly can provide you with some peace of mind as you think of your cottage property during the long winter months. And, you will certainly appreciate all your efforts when you return to a smooth cottage opening in the spring!

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