How to Winterize A Cabin – Closing Up in the Adirondacks

How to winterize a cabin in the woods

Somehow it always seems that winter is right around the corner in the Adirondacks! We’ve been spoiled this year with some extended warm weather, and this offers the perfect opportunity to learn best practices for how to winterize a cabin on your property.  If you are planning fall tasks including winterizing a cabin, here are some helpful tips to get organized and start checking off must do’s to close up your Adirondack camp like a pro.

Indoor Maintenance

When closing your camp down, doing your indoor maintenance with careful attention to detail is an absolute must. Poorly executed or overlooked maintenance tasks could lead to frozen or broken pipes as well as other major damage to the property. Critical indoor maintenance includes draining pipes, covering your furniture, completing pest control, and changing windows.  Make yourself a to do list with the following tasks or print this article to keep at your property to serve as an easy reminder of all the winterizing tasks that should be on your radar each fall.

Draining The Water Pipes

This is the most essential step of winterizing  a cabin if it will be closed up fully for the winter. Some camp owners choose to call in a plumber for this job, while others tackle it themselves.  If you are more in the DIY’er mindset, follow these steps when draining your pipes. First, turn off the water supply, then go around your camp and open your faucets to allow the pipes to empty.  Leave them open to ensure no pressure builds up in the system during the winter from any residual water in the lines. After ensuring that all faucets are open, go into your bathroom(s) and make sure to flush the toilet and double check that the tank is empty. While you are in the bathroom, also turn on the shower to empty those water lines. If your camp has a laundry area, also disconnect your washer’s water line with a bucket underneath to allow it to drain completely as well.

One last water line that is commonly overlooked is the water connection in your fridge that feeds your ice maker or water dispenser. Fridge winterization tasks include emptying out any current ice in the freezer and disconnecting the line to drain. For the final step to draining your pipes, most camp owners and caretakers in the Adirondacks pour RV antifreeze down all drains including toilets, sinks and showers to fill up any P or U traps and ensure that any residual water that may still be in the line won’t freeze and break the pipe.

Cleaning Cabin and Pest Control

After draining water lines, the next step to thoroughly winterize your cabin is to do a full and careful deep clean. Sweep, mop, scrub and empty out the fridge. Leaving any food crumbs or scraps throughout your home could attract rodents and other pests. These unwanted visitors can cause significant and costly damage throughout your property as they eat and climb throughout to find food. Also, forgotten food can release strong smells as it molds or rots leaving unpleasant odors in your living space and attracting pests to damage your counters and appliances.

Another pest control measure that property owners may want to consider is adding moth balls, cedar blocks, dryer sheets or other known rodent deterrents to sensitive spaces where attractants may have been missed during cleaning efforts.  Covering furniture is another layer of added protection to consider.  Throwing a drop cloth or plastic over your furniture can deter pests and also protect your favorite pieces from dust and damage from mishaps like broken pipes.

Unplug Electronics and Turn Heat Down

Once everything is cleaned and pest proofed, it is time to unplug all major appliances including your refrigerator. When you unplug your fridge make sure to leave the doors slightly open. Leaving doors cracked allows the appliance to breathe and release any residual moisture that could cause mold or foul odors. The same steps should be followed for your washer to keep musty and moldy smells at bay and ensure that it is ready to wash clothes and linens when you decide to reopen camp.

In very cold climates like the Adirondacks, leaving your heating system on offers your home extra protection from damage.  While it may be tempting to turn your heat off entirely to save money, turning the thermostat down is probably your best option. Some systems have a vacation mode that uses less power and keeps the heat at 55 to help protect the overall health of the property. Wood floors, roofing and pipes can all be vulnerable to winter damage in an unheated structure if there is any residual water or moisture build up. If your system does not have a vacation mode, consider setting the temperature to 55 and leaving it there for the winter.

Changing Windows and Sealing Up

Many original Adirondack cabins were built with screen porches or enclosed porches that allow homeowners to change between screens or glass panes depending on the season. Many windows installed in newer Adirondack cabins also have the option to use a screen or a storm window as the seasons change.  Older cabins may have single pane windows where you can pull out the screened windows and install storm windows. Taking these steps to adapt your windows to changing seasonal conditions will add an extra layer of insulation for your property in the winter months. If your screens cannot be replaced with glass or a storm window, another option to add insulation and protection is to add plastic to the window.  Property owners can also consider buying temporary sealers to add around windows and doors throughout the home to prevent drafts during the cold winter months.

Outdoor Maintenance

Outdoor property maintenance, a key task in how to winterize a cabin, is likely similar to general maintenance you complete at your property throughout the year. A short checklist of essential tasks includes making sure the grounds are mowed and cleared, cleaning any leftover fall debris from the roof and checking for roof damage, and cleaning and securing any outbuildings.

Grounds Maintenance

Taking good care of your grounds will be a save a lot of chore time whenever the snow melts, but will also ensure easy access to your property if there are any issues during the winter. Grounds should be raked and mowed to save time and effort on spring clean up after the snow melts. Gathering and storing any lawn art, hoses and other tools or decor will keep the property clear for winter and increase the lifespan of these items by protecting them from the harsh winter elements.  All gas powered summer maintenance tools should be run dry, to avoid leaving old gas in the lines which could lead to future line breaks or clogs from old gummed up fuel.  Taking this step will ensure that all of your tools are in good working order when you need them to open your camp back up in the spring. Lastly, if your property has shrubs or bushes, it is a good idea to put guards on them to protect from ice and winter damage.

Check Your Roof

While fall is beautiful in the Adirondacks, a good storm can bring leaves and branches down on your roof causing and potentially covering up roof damage. Thoroughly checking your roof before winter arrives is essential. Any small damage could worsen over the winter and lead to larger or more expensive damage inside the property. If there are any leaves, pine needles or branches on the roof, remove. These materials if left for the winter can add extra weight to the structure once the roof is covered with snow.  Roof debris can also contribute to ice dams forming during freeze/ thaw cycles to cause leaks and water damage .

Clean Outbuildings and Secure Grounds

Adirondack cabins are known for having outbuildings, especially if they are older. Cleaning and winterizing outbuildings for the colder months follows a process similar to cleaning the main cabin. Clean all surfaces and organize items inside the structure to ensure that no mold or damage will happen to your property. If you have a boathouse on the property, be sure to pull out, lift or add a bubbler to your boat protect it during freezing temperatures. Once you finish cleaning and organizing all outbuildings, be sure to lock and secure each one. While the Lake Placid, Saranac Lake and Keene Valley areas are generally safe, it is always a good idea to lock your property when you close for the winter. Locking all windows and doors can also be a good habit to prevent damage caused by old windows or doors that could come loose in a big storm.

There’s no doubt that knowing the in’s and out’s of winterizing a cabin brings big peace of mind to property owner’s winters. The most important aspects of learning how to winterize a cabin are planning ahead and carefully completing the essential tasks listed above.  Best of luck as you get to work and protect your property for the winter ahead!

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