You wake in the middle of the night. Something is moving in the house. It sounds like it may be coming from the kitchen. You roll out of bed and...
After a memory-making summer in your cabin or cottage comes the bittersweet job of closing everything up for the winter season. If you have a home that doesn’t get used for an extended period of time during the cold weather months, it’s important to close things up and take the proper winterization approach before leaving.
Use EarthKind’s 15-point checklist to make sure your vacation home is ready for the harsh weather that’s coming. We also recommend keeping a journal to make the task less of a chore and more of a joy—and to make next spring’s opening effortless.
Checklist for Closing a House for the Winter
- Shut the water off at the main valve and drain the plumbing system. The last thing you want to do is come back to your cabin and find that a pipe has burst or water has leaked. This can be both costly and a big mess to clean up. Once the water supply is shut off, flush the toilets so the tanks are drained. Make sure all plumbing fixtures in the house are drained including the faucets, and washing machine. If you’re not sure how to shut the water off, get trusted advice from your local hardware store, plumber, or other cabin owners. Be sure to ask about the proper steps to winterizing the hot water heater as well.
- Turn off the power. If you don’t keep your cottage heated and don’t have an alarm system or any other function that needs power, shut the power off at the main switch box. Unplug all appliances, TVs, and lamps. If you do keep the electricity on, use timed lights to make it appear that someone lives there and leave the thermostat on at a temperature that will stop water pipes from freezing.
- Protect your property from pest and rodent damage. When the air gets cooler, pests, especially rodents, are looking for a warm place to stay, and a vacant home is a perfect option. Placing a botanical rodent repellent inside your cabin can help prevent them from choosing your vacation home as their home. Place Fresh Cab pouches in all areas where mice and rats may go to feed, nest, hide or congregate. Areas like: the attic, pantry, under the sink, and by the stove. When you return, your cabin will smell like a balsam fir forest – instead of mothballs or mouse damage.
- Defrost the refrigerator and unplug it. Once you’ve cleaned out all the contents, leave the door open a crack by hanging a dish towel over the top of the door. Put an open box of baking soda inside the fridge to help neutralize odors.
- Remove all food. This includes all perishable items in the pantry, even canned goods. It’s possible these items might freeze and crack or burst open. Storing the food away in plastic containers doesn’t stop pests such as rodents or even bears.
- Protect from mold, must, and mildew. If dampness is common in your area, place some proven anti-mildew products from your local hardware store around the cabin.
- Put your garden to bed. Run the tiller through your vegetable garden and add fertilizer, compost, or even some fall rye to attract deer and add minerals and nutrients. Place a Fresh Cab pouch in your seed storage bin as a method of pest control. (I use an insulated cooler with a secure top.) When you come back the next year, there are natural ways to get your garden growing again.
- Put your yard to rest. Mow your lawn and either rake up the leaves for compost or mulch them and leave them on the grass. Apply natural fall fertilizer or lime. Trim branches that may serve as rodent bridges into the cottage. Keep all wood piles off the ground and at least 30 feet from the cottage to help keep rodents at bay.
- Winterize vehicles, implements, or property left behind. Put gas stabilizer in your gas cans and gas tanks. Start the engine or motor and let the gas and stabilizer run through the system to keep the carburetor from gumming up over the winter. If you’re near water, store your expensive property away from the water (which may rise), falling trees, wood piles (which attract mice), and direct sunlight. Lightly oil and lock all boat locks. Drain the water from outboard motors. Use a controlled storage area if possible.
- Secure your shed. Pick up tools that might help thieves break into the cottage. Store loose garden hoses and if there’s room, store outdoor furniture, too. Remove any debris that might attract rodents, place one Fresh Cab pouch for every 8 square feet of floor space, and then close and lock the door.
- Inspect the roof. Replace any missing or broken shingles. Check the caulking around the chimney flashing (don’t use foam caulking; it won’t stop critters). Install or inspect wire mesh screens over chimney or attic vents. Clean out the gutters so that rain and snow can drain properly.
- Check the dryer vent. Dryer vents are the most common portal by which rats and mice might enter. Make sure it’s fully caulked (but not with foam) and has a wire mesh screen. Place a Fresh Cab pouch just inside the vent to help further prevent pests.
- Close and lock all windows. Close the drapes or blinds, or hang blankets over windows. Remove the screens if possible to save them from weather damage in your absence.
- Ask neighbors to watch your place. Make sure they have your phone number and email address in case they need to reach you.
To make this cabin winterization process less of a chore, here are three last ideas to feed your soul:
- Keep a journal where you list at least 5 things about the cottage or the summer that you are thankful for. Count your blessings. Remember, your journal might be read for generations.
- List things that need to be repaired next spring and gardening changes you plan to make.
- Gather and prepare everything you need to make a fire in the fireplace: wood, matches, twigs, and starter fluid. It may save your life or someone else’s in an emergency this winter.
Completing all of the steps in our cabin winterization checklist will help give you peace of mind when leaving the property. Preparing your home for the winter season will help avoid costly repairs that may happen during the freezing temperatures.
Don’t overlook the need for pest control while you’re away. Taking preventative measures by placing Fresh Cab pouches throughout your vacation home will keep mice away, while also leaving a fresh, natural scent throughout the space. Shop Fresh Cab online or find a retailer nearest you.