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5 Tips For Closing Your Cottage For The Winter

Winterizing - Closing up your cottage - Quebec - Ontario for the winter

Fall is the most beautiful time of year and the perfect season to spend a long weekend in the country. I was away just last weekend and caught some incredible scenery!
In Montreal, Ontario and Quebec, we are lucky to live in picturesque regions that truly spoil us this time of year. With a diversity of areas to enjoy this natural beauty, many locals own cottages or cabins where they can enjoy the summer months into the fall.

How do You Protect Your Seasonal Home or Cottage?

Some cottages are winterized, however many are not. This weekend marks Thanksgiving in Canada, a perfect time to take advantage of the natural beauty in the Quebec and Ontario countryside on our last long weekend of the year!

Quebec and Ontario Tips for closing down the cottage for the winter - beautiful chalets

For many seasonal cottage owners, this weekend also marks the date for the closing of the cottage for the winter season. 

The Most Common Causes Of Damage To Cottages

Every spring, people return to their cottage with the hopes that there is no damage, however statistics would indicate that the top claims for cottages usually include water or wind damage caused during the winter or early spring months.

5 Tips For Closing Up Your Cottage

Here are some tips to help keep the cottage safe during the winter months while you are away:

1.    Avoid Water Damage:

Any time you leave your home during months that temperatures will drop close to zero Celsius or below, you should take precautions to avoid water damage. *

Did you know that almost 50% home claims paid in Canada this past year were related to some sort of water damage

The best way to avoid water damage is to drain the pluming and turn off the water so the pipes don’t freeze. 

•    Shut off the main water valve and any water supply valves like for example on a toilet, dishwasher or washing machine.

FamilyHandyman.com has some awesome detailed explanations on how to do this, if you want more details, you can check them out here.

2. If you have a sump pump, check it to make sure it is working.

Often the water will rise in the spring when the snow melts. If you will not be at the cottage when this starts to happen it is critical to make sure you have left everything ready to go. 3. Bring in all your décor and other items like lawn chairs, boats and BBQ’s from the garden and property. These items will preserve better indoors and you will also avoid the possibility of them flying off causing damage to property or others in heavy winter storms, or fall and spring winds.

Did you know that there are 80 confirmed and unconfirmed tornados that touch down in Canada each year? Most occurring in southern Ontario, the southern Prairies and southern Quebec? Learn more here.

How to take care of your wood stove and tips to close the cottage for the winter Photo Copyright Mila Araujo 2013

4. Close the flue or block the stove pipes on your fireplace, chimneys or woodstoves.

These make good places for animals to get into your home, or make nests in. This may also be a good time to have your chimney cleaned, the build up within a chimney can cause chimney fires and if left for the winter, you may have a nasty surprise in the spring when you go to use them again. 

If you have a BBQ make sure you disconnect the propane tank and store it in an appropriate location out of direct sunlight – you may want to refer to your BBQ manual for specific details for your tank. Remember that the BBQ tank carries contents that are explosive – handle this with care.

 

5.    Trim any branches hanging over the cottage, and inspect the roof and gutters to make sure there are no areas that will be vulnerable.

Weight of snow and ice in various circumstances, or blocked up drainage systems can create significant damage while you are away. Prevention is your best option. Clean out eaves troughs. Make sure they are clear of leaves and that the drainage is directed at least several feet from your home (the distance depends on the slope of the land and specifics of your property, however we recommend you look into this to avoid any issues with water damage).

How do you prepare the cottage for winter?

Everyone has specific lists of how they lock up their cottage for the winter, after you’ve enjoyed your final weekend away, we hope these tips help keep your property safe so that next year when you open the cottage, you’re ready to enjoy a  glorious spring!

That’s my list – what’s on yours?

 

*Please note that insurance coverage varies from state to state or province to province, the information in this article and on this site is given to serve as a information to empower consumers, and as a bouncing board to lead to a discussion with a licensed broker or agent that can review your specific needs and explain various coverage options to you. Every insurance company has their own policy wording, in all cases the policy wording will take precedence over any blog discussions or examples. Empower yourself with information, so you know the questions to ask, and take charge of your insurance to save money!

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3 Steps To Protect Your Home From Oil Tank Damage and What's covered by insurance

Abandoned Oil TankAbandoned Oil Tank (Photo credit: massmatt)

Oil is a popular fuel source for heating, heat pumps/air conditioning. During the summer months, we aren't thinking of heating too much, and it's not unusual for people to just forget about the tank unless something goes wrong...

Can an Oil Tank Leak Really Cause That Much Damage In My Home?

According to The IBC,

  • One litre of leaked oil can contaminate 1 million litres of drinking water.

  • A pinhole in your tank can empty 1,000 litres of oil.

  • Cleanup of an oil spill can involve everything from replacing the tank and supply lines and removing contaminated soil, to replacing your home’s foundation.

 

Who Pays for damage resulting from an oil tank leak or spill?

 

If you have an oil tank and it leaks out due to a malfunction, maintenance or simple wear and tear you are responsible for the damage caused, not only to your own property but to the surrounding areas (such as your neighbours property) if it spreads. I have seen claims where people had an oil tank and it leaked causing damage to the neighbouring land - these situations are very stressful and require experts to come in and do soil evaluations as well as specialized removal and other tests.

 

Outdoor and Underground Oil Tanks

Note: 

Outdoor oil tanks must be declared to insurance companies because of the fact that they have a higher incidence of leakage, corrosion and spills.

If you have an underground oil tank, or are considering buying a property with an underground oil tank, call your insurance company first, many insurers will not insure a home with an underground tank (even if it isn't being used). Underground tanks should be removed and never left to "rest" on the property.

 

3 Steps in Prevention

How to make sure your oil tank is safe:

  1. Make sure your tank is installed properly by a professional and is ULC or CSA certified. Poor installations are a major cause of damage. Never purchase a used oil tank - the risks associated with taking an old tank are high. The most serious damage to oil tanks (and hot water tanks) occur from the inside out.
  2. Have your furnace and tank professionally checked and serviced at least once a year. Make sure they change the filter, inspect the integrity of the tank, and remove any excess water or sludge to avoid/reduce corrosion. 
  3. Don't wait for a problem before you replace the tank.  The average recommended time line to replace a tank is about 10 -25 years depending on the tank itself and its location  - make sure to check the specifications for maintenance and expected lifespan for your tank specifically. Even 10 years sounds like a safe number, but if we look at the data in this study (p.6), there is a very high incidence of damage and claims from oil tanks in the 6-10 year range - up to 44% of claims.  That's not a small number. 

Just because you have home insurance, doesn't mean you are covered for oil damage!

Every home policy is different, however in many cases there is no coverage included in your policy.  Many insurers offer an option to add the coverage up to a certain limit on your policy for a small charge. Having this coverage could help you dramatically in the event of an incident, so please be sure and contact your insurance provider and ask them if this is available to you, and find out what your policy will provide you with.

Bonus step: Add Oil Coverage With Your Insurance Company

Those are three easy steps to reduce risk and keep your home safe from oil damage. Even in the best of conditions, things sometimes go wrong, so your bonus step is to make sure and call your insurance company and ensure you add coverage wherever possible for damage resulting from the use and ownership of an oil tank.The coverage is usually not expensive - a few dollars a month, and well worth investigating.

Summer Tip:

Did you know its recommended to keep the oil tank mainly full during the summer to minimize condensation?

 

Taking care of this now will save you money and a lot of problems later!

If you've had an oil spill, I'd love to hear what your experience was, and  if there was anything you  would recommend to prevent spills in the future. 

You can share your story in the comments below!

  • Do you have an oil tank at home?
  • When was the last time you checked it?

 

 

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