A cottage, just like your home, needs regular maintenance, and if you want to keep enjoying it for years to come it’s important that you give it a little TLC (tender loving care) the next time you go.
Working our way from the inside out, there are a few things you should be checking to ensure your family’s safety and your cottage’s long-term durability.
Keep an eye out for is chewed up electrical wiring and electrical chords. This is a very big hazard. In a worst-case scenario, it could lead to an electrical fire. If any electrical wiring is chewed up it means you have critters—most likely mice—and you will need to make two calls: First to a professional pest control company and then to a licensed electrical contractor. They will check your cottage’s electrical system and make sure it’s safe because if electrical wiring is chewed up in one area there’s a very good chance it’s chewed up in others too.
If you have any wood-burning appliances at the cottage, including stoves and fireplaces, get them WETT (Wood Energy Technology Transfer) certified. Some insurance policies require it.
You will you need to hire a WETT certified inspector to examine all of the components related to any wood-burning appliance. They will make sure everything is installed correctly and complies with local Building Code and regulations. This helps minimize the risk of a fire, as well as prevent any pollutants from entering your indoor air.
Let’s move to the exterior.
One thing that most cottage owners forget to do is check the chimney. Every chimney should be checked at least every two to three years, no exception. You want to make sure the flue isn’t cracked or that there’s any build-up of creosote (or soot) on the inside, which is a big fire hazard.
You should also remember to clean the gutters and make sure they’re clear of debris that can prevent proper water drainage. Also check the perimeter of your cottage and the roof for any signs of critters coming in, such as mice droppings, chewed up materials, siding or substrate, as well as any cracks or openings. Rule of thumb is any hole bigger than your thumb is an open invitation for mice.
Double-check any discharging vents for your cottage’s mechanics. If your cottage has a furnace it will have an exhaust and fresh air return. If your hot water tank is power-vented it will also have an exhaust. Make sure there aren’t any gaps around the venting and that they’re properly sealed. You should also peek inside to check for any blockages, such as debris or nesting material. This could choke the system.
Also, check the caulking around all of your cottage’s windows and doors. If the caulking has shrunk or is starting to crack or separate from the framing, you must re-caulk. You don’t want to risk getting a leak or have moisture penetrate through any gaps around framing. The SikaBoom® foam is perfect for weathersealing and insulating around windows and doors. It's easy to use and can even be used as a pest blocker. The weatherstripping on your doors should also be in good condition. If not, get it replaced.
Propane tanks should be put on a service schedule with your fuel provider, who should be checking it once or twice a year. If your cottage has an oil tank your fuel supplier should be giving it a full inspection every year. The main thing they will be looking for are leaks. You do not want an oil leak because remediation can cost a fortune, and your insurance will not cover it. I’ve heard of homeowners going bankrupt because their oil tank leaked and the remediation cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The septic tank also needs to be cleaned every 3-5 years, depending on usage. Check the greywater line to make sure it’s not clogged at the end by any debris or nesting material.
And finally, look for any trees or branches that could cause damage to your cottage and surrounding property (i.e., deck and patio), especially while you’re away. Call in a pro if you need to get any trees cut back or big heavy branches removed.
When it comes to maintenance, whether at home or at the cottage if you take care of the regular stuff you can avoid bigger problems down the road.
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