6 tips for getting the cottage ready

Front door and porch of a cottage with pots of flowers.
Photo by Bobkeenan Photography/Shutterstock

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the buds are blossoming. Winter is finally over and the dogs-days of summer are barking in the distance. For cottage owners, the change in season means one thing: it’s time to open up!

The May long weekend is recognized as the traditional opening ceremony for cottagers, which means it’s time to get yourself ready. The amount of work that goes into opening the cottage in spring can seem overwhelming, so below is a list of tips that will not only help you get everything done, but will also help you have a stress-free summer.

Look closely

Close up of a hand testing a domestic smoke alarm.

Photo by SpeedKingz/Shutterstock

This is a big one. When you arrive to open up your cottage for the season, the first thing you should do is a complete inspection. Canadian winters bring all kinds of crazy weather, and if there is any damage, you’ll want to know as soon as possible so you can start assessing the damage.

Exterior: Check your power lines (and any phone or internet cables), siding, roof, doors, windows, and any patio or deck for water damage, structural integrity issues, or signs of vandalism. If you live close to the shore, check for any erosion (if there is any, it means you need to do some extra planting this year!).

Interior: Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, light switches, appliances, outlets, heaters, and faucets. Check to make sure your fire extinguisher is still good and replace batteries when necessary.

If anything major has gone wrong, you’ll need time to fix it before you can relax and enjoy your long weekends and summer vacation, so don’t procrastinate. Knowing that everything is up to code and working perfectly will ensure your summertime cottage fun goes smoothly.

Check for any unwelcome guests

Ordinary house mouse (Mus musculus) nose pokes through a hole in the wall

Photo by IrinaK/Shutterstock

Just in case a group of unwelcome guests threw themselves a party in your cottage during the off-season, make sure you have a thorough look around for any evidence of their existence. This can be anything from ants and other bugs, to squirrels and their furry critter pals. Not only will they make a mess, but they can also chew on wires and cables, creating serious electrical issues.

If you end up discovering an insect infestation, don’t panic! Drive to your nearest hardware store and grab some bug bombs, repellant, and anything else you might need (many grocery stores in cottage country will also carry these products). If things are out of control, you might have to put off your opening weekend and call an exterminator instead. However, that is a worse case scenario; most spring bug issues can be cleared up with a little fly tape and some ant traps.

If you have a visiting critter, things get a little more complicated. Mice love leaving “presents” in kitchen cabinets and drawers, and their little teeth will chew through packaged food and bedding. Squirrels like to hang out in your roof or attic space, so make sure you check all the hidey-holes. Raccoons are especially wily, and can end up anywhere from your basement to under your porch, and bats have been known to set up camp in darkened corners of decks, rafters and chimneys. Luckily, aside from mice (which can be taken care of with humane traps), most forest friends will high tail (pun intended) it out of there when humans arrive. And if they don’t, call animal control.

Let the outside (air) in

Opened plastic window with book open and view to green trees

Photo by vadim kozlovsky/Shutterstock

Once you’re inside, go around and open up all the windows. You might end up being cold (spring weather is unpredictable), so make sure you’re bundled up first. Letting fresh air into the cottage will not only make things smell a lot better, but it will also help dry out anything that might have accumulated dampness over the winter. This is also a great test to see how many flying bugs end up inside, which will let you know if you need to replace any screens.

If your cottage is a little on the rustic side, you’ve probably experienced issues with mold or mildew. That means you’ll need to make sure those issues haven’t progressed or recurred. After you’ve aired out the cottage for several hours, if there is still a strange musty smell, check it out; don’t end up with major water damage when you can nip it in the bud early on.

Prep for your stay

Woman making her bed with a white sheet.

Photo by Diego Cervo/Shutterstock

If you’re staying overnight, this is a good time to get everything ready. Start by throwing a yummy recipe into the slow cooker, so that the food will be ready when everything else is finished (if you arrived late in the day, you could also put the slow cooker on overnight and enjoy breakfast instead). Next, make the bed(s). You will be so glad you did this ahead when you are exhausted at the end of your long day and can just climb into bed and go straight to sleep.

Make a list

A to-do list book.

Photo by luminaimages/Shutterstock

This means anything that needs to be done (damages, upgrades, renovations, landscaping, etc.) and a list of supplies that you can stock up on so that you aren’t constantly running back and forth to the store. Keep this list handy so that you can add to it throughout the weekend, crossing off anything you take care of or purchase.

When it comes to damages or other structural work, make a list of everything you need in order of importance. Try to prioritize safety issues (trimming the flora back from electrical wires and around the fire pit), functionality (the broken kitchen faucet), and structural damage (the rotted floor planks on the deck). That way, you will take care of all the major problems first, leaving easy fixes for the rest of your summer.

You grocery list will be a lot more fun to make. Think about non-perishable items or things you use frequently, such as coffee, toilet paper, condiments, baking supplies, cereal, marshmallows, dishwashing and hand soap, shampoo, bug spray and sunscreen. Having the basics taken care of will mean less stress later on.

Get your hands dirty

A man cleaning a mirror with a rag and a spray cleaner.

Photo by Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

Roll up those sleeves and do a complete cottage clean. Start off by dusting everywhere and wiping down surfaces that might have accumulated some mildew or moisture over the winter. That includes disinfecting the kitchen and bathroom, and opening up the fridge and any cupboards and drawers and cleaning them, too.

Next vacuum and mop to get rid of any remaining surface grim. Throw in a load of laundry if you’ve got any beach towels or porch blankets that have been in the cottage all winter. And if you have any time to spare, wash the windows so that when you’re all done, you can sit back and enjoy the beautiful view!

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