Poll: How Do You Winterize Your Vacation Home?

Time to think about winterizing the cabin.  Or, maybe with the October snow last week, I should be saying… well, I’m too late to winterize the cabin.

If you have a seasonal vacation house, you might partake in the annual ritual of closing down the cottage for the winter.  If you have indoor plumbing, that is – camps with outhouses and no running water are exempt from the ritual.

If you have a seasonal vacation home, it’s that time of year again.

For years and years, we’ve been having the plumber drain the pipes at our cottage every autumn. It’s usually done sometime at the end of October or beginning of November (although some plumbers insist they are not liable for damages caused by a freeze after a certain date – usually October 1st or October 15th).  The pipes and hot water heater are drained and the water lines are ‘blown out’ so there is no standing water remaining to freeze during winter.   Then the plumber pours antifreeze down into the toilet.  Maybe he does other things too… I’ve never actually watched him.  Our cottage is simple – one first floor bath, one kitchen sink.  The kitchen and the bathroom are adjacent to each other.  We don’t have any outdoor spigots or an outdoor shower.  However, a year or two ago, we did have a washing machine installed in our bathroom.

Last autumn, my husband decided that he would drain the pipes himself (bear in mind, he’s a musician, not a handyman). He embarked on the job while on the phone with a plumber friend who talked him through it.  It took him a few attempts – I wasn’t there, but apparently the first try briefly flooded the bathroom floor – but finally he was successful (and very proud of his work).  It was a nice feeling to be able to save some money by doing it ourselves.  Or so I thought.

As we went though winter, the cottage was, as usual, out of sight and out of mind.  About January, I don’t know what made me think of it, but I looked up from my morning coffee and asked husband if he remembered to drain the water to our new clothes washer.

He looked at me blankly. 

“The washer?”  I asked.  “The clothes washer?  The BRAND NEW clothes washer In the bathroom?” 

He continued to look at me blankly. 

After a way-too-long pause, he finally said, “ Hmmm.  I must have done it.  I’m sure I would have noticed it there”. 

Frustratingly, he couldn’t recall for sure if he had drained and winterized the washer.

So I was on pins and needles the rest of the winter wondering if our brand new washing machine had become an iceberg in the middle of my bathroom.  I called a plumber (knowing that the damage would have already been done), just to inquire what would happen to a washer that had not been drained and winterized.  He matter-of-factly told me that if the washer had not been drained, it would pretty much be ready for the scrap metal pile at the dump. Great.  So much for saving some money.

When spring finally arrived, I  wasn’t taking any chances with hubby turning the water back on (even though I know that turning on the water is much easier than the turn-off) so I contacted our local plumber.  When I arrived at the cottage in April, I was greeted by a note from said plumber:  Ran washer through all cycles twice.  Appears to be working fine.

I think we dodged a bullet on that one.

(I mean, how can you not remember if you drained a washer or not?  Geez.)

This coming winter, I think I might try something different from the all or nothing approach.  I don’t know if it’s a foolish money waster or a smart idea.  Not having heat on during freezing temperatures does take it’s toll on structures.  Everything expands during the warm season, then contracts during freezing weather.  Our interior paint cracks, the doors don’t hang correctly, and the place smells really musty in the spring.  It’s really hard on the house to have those extreme temperature fluctuations.

So, I’m thinking of draining the pipes, but also leaving the heat on 40-45 degrees.   I just purchased a device from Amazon that you plug a lamp into and if temps dip below 45, a red lightbulb (also purchased on Amazon) will turn on.  Our neighbor will hopefully see it and check on our furnace. It goes without say that this will only work in a home that has a nearby neighbor.  It is a pricey solution, but not as pricey as another alternative  – leaving the heat on 60 degrees all winter.  The only problem that I foresee with this idea (well, besides the cost)…. although I am starting with a full tank of oil, if I need a delivery mid-winter, someone will have to shovel a path to the oil tank.  They don’t make it easy, do they?  Maybe I’ll just cross my fingers and hope for a mild winter.  Yeah, right.  Have you seen those wooly caterpillars?


Maria Lamb

About Maria Lamb

Maria is the owner of Wicked Awesome Maine Vacation Rentals based in beautiful Washington County, Maine.