Nine Easy Steps for Opening Your Cottage

Find out what to check around your cottage, on your insurance policy and more.

Once the weather warms up, cottage season ramps up in full force. If you’re lucky enough to be a cottage owner, that first trip up will involve a little work. Before you can start enjoying lazy days on the dock and breezy nights on the deck, or even listing your cottage for rent, you’ll be faced with opening your cottage. Start by arranging to have utilities turned back on before you arrive. Then, once you get to the cottage, follow these nine simple steps from CAA Insurance to start enjoying cottage life in no time.

  • Start at the top
  • Walk around
  • Inspect the septic system
  • Check for mold
  • Check for critters
  • Test your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors
  • Make sure your cottage insurance is up to date
  • Fire prevention and detection
  • Keep an emergency kit on hand at all times

1. Start at the top.

Check your roof for any missing shingles, holes or damage caused by winter weather. Holes can cause drafts or allow water to seep in. If you notice anything that you can’t repair yourself, call in a professional to help.

2. Walk around.

The great Canadian winter can cause cracks in foundation, broken windows, damage to porch screens, decks or chimneys, so inspect for these. If you’re lakeside, check your dock and water toys for damage too.

3. Inspect the septic system (if you have one).

You should empty your septic tank every five to seven years. Unsure when yours was last emptied? Call a professional. Also speak to one if you notice any of the following: bad odours, water pools/damp spots around the septic tank, gurgling sounds in the plumbing system and slow draining bathtubs, showers and sinks. You don’t want water or sewage coming up your toilets, drains and sinks, so take the time to inspect carefully.

4. Check inside for mould or mildew.

If your cottage has sat unused for months, you’ll likely be greeted by stale air. Open the windows to let fresh air in and check for mould and mildew around the sills. Check the walls and in bathrooms too. You can clean smaller patches yourself with the proper products and safety gear. Bigger ones will require a professional.

5. Check for critters.

Nobody wants these types of guests at the cottage. Check drawers and cupboards for droppings; look for shredded paper or fabric nests; inspect food packages for chew marks; note any bad odours; look for holes in walls, window screens and floors that may be entry points. If you find any of these, proceed with caution. Then, purchase traps or call a professional.

6. Test your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors.

Carbon monoxide and smoke detectors save lives, so test yours before you start using your cottage again. Test your detectors by pressing and holding the test button. You should hear a loud sound; if the sound is weak, replace the batteries. Also, check the date on the back of your smoke detector, as these usually have a 10-year life span. While you’re at it, make sure your flashlight batteries are working too.

7. Make sure your cottage insurance is up to date.

It’s a good idea to review your seasonal property insurance policy before cottage season each year. Does your cottage insurance policy include all the boats, paddleboards, ATVs or jet skis you’ve purchased? Are you properly covered for fire, smoke and water damage? A good cottage insurance policy will cover damage caused by bears, burglary and vandalism. It will also protect you if you decide to rent out your cottage.

8. Fire prevention and detection.

Detecting a fire fast and early is key to staying safe and saving your property. Two of the most important items you must have for the inside of your cottage are a smoke detector and a carbon monoxide detector. If you have a multi-level cottage, install one of each of these on every floor and especially in the bedrooms. Detector lifespans range from five to ten years, so be sure to make a note of the date on which they were installed and change the batteries or replace the units periodically.

9. Keep an emergency kit on hand at all times.

Be sure to always have a first-aid kit and additional safety materials on hand. You should also have an emergency road kit in your car. Your basic cottage emergency kit should include:

  • First aid kit.
  • Water and/or a metal kettle that can be used over an open flame to boil drinking water.
  • Food that won’t spoil, such as canned food, energy bars and dried goods (replace food and water once a year).
  • Manual can opener.
  • Crank or battery-powered flashlight (and extra batteries that should be replaced once a year).
  • Extra car keys.
  • Some cash.
  • Candles and waterproof matches.
  • Hand sanitizer.
  • Other applicable items like prescription medication, infant formula, items and equipment for people with special needs.
  • Charged battery pack for your phone.

This list should be personalized according to your and your family’s needs.

CAA Insurance1 can help you find the right coverage as well as great ways to save on cottage and home insurance. Get ready for cottage season with a complimentary policy review by calling 1-833-673-3030 or visit to learn more.

CAA2 is CARP’s Recommended provider for Auto, Home, Travel, Life and Pet Insurance. To learn more about our offerings and special perks available for CARP Members, visit or call 1-833-673-3030.

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