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As the days get shorter and the nights get cooler, it is time to start thinking of what we must do to get our cottages and residences ready for winter.  The following are some of things you should consider when making preparations for the cold, snowy months ahead1.

Plan Now for Spring Runoff

  • Check how your drainage system is working by walking your property during a rainstorm.
  • Make the necessary modifications to your drainage system and install runoff control devices as required.
  • Clear drainage ditches and culverts of sediment, rocks, and other debris that could block the flow of water.
  • Clear eavestroughs and downspouts of debris.
  • Clean out silt deposits from driveway runoff areas.
  • Ensure that water surge deflectors are in place, if required.
  • Be sure to consult your neighbour if any of the measures you plan to take could adversely affect his property.


  • Weigh the pros and cons of wintering your dock on shore. If you are new to the area, talk to neighbours to learn about winter conditions. Beaching your dock can help prolong its life and protect it from being buffeted by winter storms or being squeezed by ice. However, the process of dragging it ashore might weaken the structure each time you move it, and damage your shoreline.
  • If you have a floating dock and feel it is save to leave it in the lake over the winter2 , remember to loosen the anchor chain to allow the dock to rise in the spring high water. Then, disconnect the ramp from shore and place it on top of the dock.  As long as your dock is anchored well and not attached to the shore, it should not be affected. Although docks can be left in a lake, deciding where to leave it can be challenging. Assess your conditions over a few seasons. If you’re not sure your dock will be safe, re-anchor it in a more sheltered location.
  • As for the chains, except for those still anchoring your dock, it’s fine to leave them in the lake over the winter. The easiest way to retrieve them in spring is to tie polypropylene rope to their ends before letting them drop to the bottom. The rope floats, so in spring it will be on the surface, ready to be used to haul up the chains.  

Plan for Snow Removal

  • To avoid flooding problems in the spring, designate areas for piling snow that will minimize interference with spring runoff,
  • Stake and mark all trees, shrubs, large rocks, runoff logs and other objects that could be damaged by snow removal equipment, or that could damage your plough or snowblower.
  • If heavy snow build-up on roofs or overhangs is a concern, investigate ways to reinforce the roof and/ or make arrangements to have the snow removed during the winter.


Avoid negative encounters with wildlife by keeping them away from and out of your home.

  • Block all means of entry for insects, rodents and bats via foundations, porches and steps; through doors and windows; via holes in roofs or eaves; through cracks in floors, ceilings or walls; and via access points for wires and pipes.
  • Trim tree limbs that touch the roof or walls of your home. Store firewood away from main buildings or in a special shelter. Use yellow light bulbs in all outside light fixtures – insects will be less attracted to your house at night.
  • Securely store food and garbage. Use animal-proof garbage cans, keep pet food inside, and keep barbecue equipment clean and in a secure area. Do not put meat, bones, dairy products, fats or cooked grains in your compost.

Fall Leaves

  • Compost leaves or use a mulching mower. Don’t dump leaves over banks or  into ravines or the water.


  • Make sure that water pipes, pumps, and outside faucets are either properly insulated or drained so they can withstand cold temperatures.  Put antifreeze— use non-toxic propylene glycol, also known as RV antifreeze—in anything that can’t be drained, such as the toilet trap.
  • Protect unheated crawl spaces. If necessary, insulate footings.

Electrical System

  • If you choose to shut off the electricity to your home/cottage in the off-season by throwing the main switch at the fuse box, be sure to turn off all major appliances, your water heater, and electrical room heaters before you turn off the main switch.  This will ensure a smoother and safer start-up when you re-open your home.

Boat Motors and Other Power Equipment

  • When storing boat motors and other power equipment, do not drain gasoline from their fuel tanks.  Instead, use a fuel stabilizer (available from your dealer or auto parts store).  Winterize your engine(s) away from the water. Store boat motors, lawnmowers and other items with engines in a dry, weatherproof place. Cover anything that may rust over the winter with a coat of oil.



For more handy ideas on how to close the cottage for the winter, check out these two articles in Cottage Life:

  • “How to Close Out the Cottage in 2 Days” at "cottagelife.com/14197/diy/tips-diy/close-up-the-cottage-in-2-days". (Page no longer exists.  2017-11-29)
  • “5 Things To Do Before Closing the Cottage” at "cottagelife.com/41324/diy/tips-diy/5-things-to-do-before-closing-cottage". (Page no longer exists.  2017-11-29)


1 Many of the tips offered in this article originally appeared in “On the Living Edge: Your Handbook for Waterfront Living” by Sarah Kipp and Clive Calloway as part of the Living by the Water project. Others were drawn from the Cottage Life and Canada Safety Council websites.
2 As a minimum, your shoreline should not be exposed to either heavy weather or more than two kilometers of open water. Because the prevailing winds on Blue Sea Lake are from the north, it is recommended that floating docks on the south side of the lake be placed on shore to avoid being damaged by shifting ice during the spring breakup.

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