#AskTheExpert Local Advice courtesy of myNiagara Online Community Partner – Erion Insurance
Cottage life is often the best part of spring and summer in Canada. Many of us have been spending extra time at the cottage during the pandemic. With long-term remote work becoming a reality for many of us and travel restrictions keeping us closer to home, you may have even started to extend your cottage season into the fall and winter months.
So why are these tips essential for us to understand? Sometimes, our summer getaway home isn’t equipped to handle year-round living. Learning a few of these steps to convert your cottage property into an all-season home can help mitigate risk and costly repairs.
In this blog, we outline 5 steps to winterize your cottage and turn it into an all-season getaway.
1. Check your heating source
The first of many things you’ll need to consider is the type of heating system to use. This will depend on the location of your cottage and many other factors.
You may want to contact a professional for consultation and ask your agent/broker how different heat sources will affect your insurance. Wood stoves and pellet stoves pose safety risks that impact your insurance or even your eligibility for coverage.
2. Check your electrical and plumbing
Check your electrical and plumbing to see if it supports year-round usage. Your electrical and plumbing systems may need upgrading or replacing to support all-season living. To prevent your pipes and plumbing from freezing in the winter, you will need to run your pipes on the warm side of the insulation which may require removal or reinstallation. It is important that an electrician or plumber comes and inspects your house as they can tell you what work needs to be done to winterize your utilities.
Another preventative measure you can take is to install a shut-off valve so that if you leave your cottage for an extended period of time, you can rest easy knowing that if a pipe bursts or leaks you will be limiting the damage. Keep in mind, insurance companies have rules about leaving your cottage or home during the heating season. For example, during the heating season, the cottage must be checked every 72 hours.
A great way to ensure you always have electricity is to install a generator backup system. If you are using the cottage year-round and working remotely from the cottage you will want this to ensure you always have power.
3. Check your insulation
Canadian winters are notoriously cold, so you’ll need to install proper insulation in your cottage if you plan on being there this winter. Doing things such as adding a vapour barrier to prevent condensation from developing inside the walls and around windows can prevent the build-up and risk of mold and rot. Mold and rot are typically not covered under your home insurance so it’s best to prevent it as much as you can. It is also important to make sure your roof has proper insulation and ventilation as well to avoid leaks and unwanted pesky guests. Making sure the shingles are in good condition with no lifts to the edges or cracks will help prevent any damage. By checking and trimming the surrounding branches and tree limbs, you can avoid damage as well. Lastly, clean the gutters!! Maintenance and wear and tear to your cottage is not covered by insurance!
4. Upgrade your windows and doors
Having proper windows and doors in your cottage will prevent drafts from coming in and warm air from escaping (this also helps with energy savings). Depending on the type of windows currently installed at your seasonal property, they may need to be swapped out for a year-round alternative (such as new double-paned windows). Properly sealed windows and doors are easily skipped over but just are as important to year-round living at the cottage.
5. Create a dedicated workspace
Most of us will need to work while staying at the cottage and one of the most important pieces of working remotely is to create space between work and the rest of your living space. Do your best to create a workspace that mimics that of your real office space, whether that means using a double computer monitor or placing pictures and coffee mugs around your space that remind you of your other work desk. If you have an office, perfect! Clean it up, create a desk space, and work from there. If you don’t have an office, use the guest bedroom or even a part of the kitchen table.
Although, before taking the time and money to transition an area in your cottage to your workspace, it’s important to make sure you have high-speed internet that is flawless in order to avoid interruptions while working. Nothing worse than not having enough bandwidth in a zoom meeting or having your calls dropped on a regular basis. A popular solution in rural areas is cell phone boosters which avoid cell phone interruptions.
When you decide to stay at your cottage, make sure to contact your broker to ensure you have the right home or cottage insurance coverage as the usage of your getaway has changed and can affect your policy.
In addition to these year-round cottage tips, it’s also important to consider any additional costs you might incur. Additional costs such as snow removal for your driveway may be required to prevent accidents and could be required by your insurer. As always, we recommend speaking to your broker to make sure if you plan to stay at your cottage all year round, you are fully Protected.