canoe and chairs on the dock

Helpful Tips for Opening the Cottage

Finally, the warmer weather has arrived and it’s time to open the cottage! If only it could be as simple as flipping a switch, but the reality is that there’s a fairly extensive checklist that needs to be followed in order to get your cottage up and running. 

- Plan ahead

A few weeks before opening make sure all of your utilities such as phone, internet, hydro and heat have been turned on. It’s also a smart time to call your insurance company to confirm the insurance on your cottage, boat and trailer is active. 

TIP: Before arriving it’s a good idea to look online to check for any changes to your municipality’s land fill or transfer station hours and whether any burn bans are in effect.

- When you arrive it’s time to inspect! 

Upon arrival do a thorough walk around the cottage and property to assess the condition and look for any wear and tear, damage or anything that looks out of place.

Be sure to check for: 

  • Broken windows, torn screens, damage to the exterior siding or roof, holes made by critters. 
  • Snow or ice damage to shoreline, deck, exterior stairs and dock as well as raised nails or screws. 
  • Tree limbs hanging too close to the cottage or overhead wires.
  • Leaf gutters and down spouts to determine whether they require any repair or need to be cleaned out. 
  • The area around your septic tank. If you don’t know when the tank was last pumped out it’s prudent to have it scheduled to be done prior to the guests arriving to avoid any issues.
TIP: If you arrive to discover that someone has broken into your cottage, call the police immediately but do not go into your cottage. By entering the crime scene you may be inadvertently destroying important evidence. 
cabin in the woods

Once you’ve completed the exterior it’s time to take the inspection indoors. Walk around inside the cottage and look for any signs of water leaks, especially on the ceiling, mold or mildew and rodent droppings or nests. 

TIP: If you find animal droppings be sure to spray down those areas to be cleaned with a water/bleach solution before sweeping it up.

Be cautious turning on the power    

It’s extremely important to pay attention to the order in which you turn on the water and hot water tank. One of the biggest mistakes that cottagers can make is to walk into the cottage, go directly to the breaker panel and turn on the power to everything. Why? If you turn on the breakers to everything it includes the power going to your hot water tank and doing this in the wrong order will risk the chance of burning out your hot water tank element.

TIP: Do not turn on the power to the hot water tank until you have got your water up and running. Otherwise you risk burning out the element. 

  • Prior to turning on the water inspect the water lines for damage. If you draw water from the lake, inspect the line, foot valve, pump etc. Inspect and change your filters. If you have a softener you will likely need to add more salt. Once you turn on the water carefully check for leaks. 
  • Then, once you’ve made sure all taps are running and there is no air coming out, especially out of the hot water taps, you can safely turn on the power to your hot water tank. 
  • Turn on the furnace. Check vents for debris. This is a good time to change the filter. 
  • Change the batteries in your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms. 
  • Check your flashlights. Make sure there’s a flashlight on hand and that it’s in working order. It’s also a good idea to have emergency candles and matches.

- Lawn Care Tools

Most likely you'll be spending a few hours on the opening day raking up leaves, picking up sticks and cleaning up the property. If you do intend to use any of your lawn equipment be cautious using any gas in Jerry cans that have been left on the property over the winter. It’s good practice to bring fresh fuel and fuel stabilizer with you to open the cottage for equipment like lawn mowers and generators.

cabin in the woods

Here’s a handy list of items to have on hand for opening day:

  • Rags and disinfectant cleaners 
  • Double strength vinegar 
  • Rubber gloves and work gloves 
  • Garbage bags. TIP: If it is a new cottage to you be sure to find out whether your garbage bags must be clear. 
  • N95 mask if dealing with mould or animals droppings
  • Mouse control products or live trap 
  • Caulking / Duct tape 
  • Fresh batteries for flashlights and smoke detectors 
  • A Jerry can of fresh gas
  • 2 stroke engine oil  
  • Wasp and hornet spray
  • Ant traps and insect spray 
  • Matches/ Firestarter /Emergency candles 
  • New BBQ brush, tank and lighter 
Tip: small pieces of hardware cloth (wire mesh) are always handy to have on hand should you find holes from chewing intruders as a temporary fix and/or spray foam.
canoe and chairs on the dock

Opening the cottage is an extremely exciting time as you gear up for making memories at the lake with family and friends. As exciting as it can be, it’s still important to be thorough, methodical and take your time with your own checklist and inspections. We hope you find our suggestions helpful but ultimately you will develop your own best practice for this important job. It's worth it though. Just think. The more time you take to thoroughly open the cottage, the more time you’ll have to sit, relax and enjoy the summer!


Roger and Rose 

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