Winterizing A Vacation Home

By Mark J. Donovan

June 30, 2017 5 min read

If you have a vacation home or summer cottage and do not plan to keep it operational and heated during the winter months, then it is important to properly winterize it before the cold weather hits. Otherwise, you run the risk of seeing in the spring that your home away from home suffered major damage. For example, if water were to freeze in your pipes, pressure would build, causing the pipes to burst. Summarized below are the various steps needed for winterizing a vacation home.

*Shut Off the Home's Plumbing System

First and foremost, you need to shut off the water supply line to the house. This is typically as easy as shutting off the electrical circuit breaker that powers the well pump.

With some artesian wells, there is also a shut-off valve that needs to be turned off in the well itself. If your well has a shut-off valve, then you should have a long steel rod tool that is used to turn it; it has a T handle on the top of it. You will need to remove the well cap and then use this tool to shut the water valve off. You simply slide the tool down a couple of feet into the well until it rests in place on the shut-off valve and then rotate it until the valve is closed.

Next, you need to drain the water from the supply lines that feed the faucets in your sinks, bathtubs, showers, etc. This includes both the cold and hot supply lines. To do so, open the valve for each faucet. Leave all of them open for the winter months.

To prevent any residual water from freezing in the various P and J traps, you'll need to add some house-safe RV antifreeze to them. You'll need to do the same for toilet tanks and bowls. First, flush the toilets to drain the water out of the tanks, and then add a little house-safe RV antifreeze to the toilet bowls and tanks. Also pour a little of it into each sink and tub drain.

*Shut Off the Heating System

Next, turn off the circuit breaker or electrical switch that powers your vacation home's heating system. Simply turning down the thermostat to its lowest setting won't suffice.

*Unplug Appliances

To prevent electrical appliance damage from thunderstorms, unplug all of your appliances.

*Clean Out Refrigerators and Freezers

The last thing you would want is to come back to your vacation home in the spring and find rotten and smelly food in the refrigerator or freezer. Make sure to remove all items from these appliances, and place an open box of baking soda in each.

*Protect Against Rodents

Mice, chipmunks and squirrels love to find dry and relatively warm places to reside during the cold winter months. Protect your home from rodent infestation by strategically placing a few boxes of d-CON around the home to prevent them from setting up permanent residence in it.

*Store Away Patio and Deck Furniture

Store any outdoor furniture in the home's garage or basement. If the home has neither, then bundle the furniture tightly and wrap it in a vinyl tarp. Securely seal the tarp to prevent it from blowing open during the winter months.

*Winterize Boats and Lawn Mowers

If you have a boat, make sure to winterize it after pulling it out of the water for the season. Water left in the engine or outdrive destroys it when it freezes. Unless you know what you are doing, I would highly suggest having a marina winterize your boat.

Also make sure to winterize your lawn mower by draining any gasoline from it and giving it a quick tuneup so that it is ready to use when the warm weather hits again.

*Remove Seasonal Dock System From the Water

If you have a seasonal dock, aka pipe dock, then make sure to pull it out of the water before the water gets too cold. The last thing you'll want to do is to have to go into icy water to pull it out. Leaving a seasonal dock in the water is illegal. It is also just plain dumb. If the body of water freezes, the ice will destroy the dock; during the spring thawing season, the water could drag the dock into deeper water.

*Clean Up the Outside Yard

After all the leaves have fallen from the trees, make sure to rake the yard and remove any debris from around the home's foundation. Leaving debris near a home's foundation is akin to sending out invitations to all the local pests and rodents. It also allows water to collect near the home, as opposed to draining away from it.

If you do all of the above, you should have no unwanted surprises when you open up your vacation home again in the spring.

Mark J. Donovan's website is at

Like it? Share it!

  • 0