The Essential Cottage Opening Checklist

For a while there, it felt like winter would never loosen its icy grasp on us. But now that spring has finally sprung, it’s time to start writing your cottage opening checklist. Here are some cottage-opening essentials you won’t want to miss!

Before You Go

Don’t hit the road without a plan. There are a few items to check off your cottage opening checklist before you go.

  • Call the utility companies and arrange to have them restore gas and power to the cottage in time for your arrival. Forgetting this step will limit what you can do once you land.
  • Gather what you’ll need to open the cottage, including cleaning supplies and spare batteries. Packing these supplies will save you a trip into town (and spare you some change, since the essentials cost more up north.)
  • Pack any relevant property insurance forms. You will want to consult these if you find any damage.
  • Grab the cottage keys on your way out the door! You don’t want your first cottage activity to be calling a locksmith.

When You Arrive

First, take a nice, deep breath of that clean country air! You’ll need the energy for this step.

Before you unlock the front door to the cottage, take a walk around the property to inspect for obvious signs of damage. You want to know sooner than later if something is in pressing need of work.

  • Look up. Much of the cottage country is subject to harsh winter weather, so you will want to check for missing roof shingles and fallen (or nearly fallen) tree branches.
  • Look down. Do you see any holes in or around the foundation of the cottage? If so, it could be an entry point for unwanted pests. Be aware of this possibility before you head on inside.
  • Look around. The spring thaw was particularly harsh this year, leading to greater erosion than in many years past. This concern applies mainly to cottages on the lake or rocky terrain.

By the Lake

While the weather doesn’t always permit a dip in the lake during the May long weekend, you should still take time to inspect the state of the dock. The structure requires yearly maintenance to stay safe and stable.

  • Remove moss or lichens growing on the dock. Watch your footing; these slimy fungi can be slippery.
  • Inspect the metal dock hardware, including rings, hinges, cleats, and chains anchoring the dock.
  • Look for signs of rust or rot that could compromise the structure’s integrity.

Up and Running

The process of restoring water and electricity to the cottage is designed to minimize the chance of leaks or electrical damage. Don’t let your excitement to bring the cottage to life make you rush through these important steps!

Restoring Water:

  • Inspect water pipes for cuts or other signs of damage.
  • Reconnect any pipes you disconnected last fall.
  • Prime and start the water pump.
  • Fill the water heater with water before you turn the hydro back on.

Restoring Power:

  • Inspect visible wiring, power lines, and the meter. If any of these components need repair, call a professional to have a look. Your power company will likely be willing to shut the power off for repairs at no charge.
  • Replace fuses in the electrical panel.
  • Ensure all branch circuits are in the Off position.
  • Switch the main breaker back on and energize each circuit one by one.

Note for cottage owners in Ontario: much of the province saw flooding during the spring thaw in 2018. Be cautious of water damage to your electrical equipment. If there was flooding in your area, call a licensed electrical contractor to evaluate it before you turn the power back on.

Safety First

The cottage may be a reprieve from the stressors of everyday life, but that doesn’t mean you can ignore taking safety measures. The same things you do each spring to keep the house safe back home are also necessary at the cottage.

  • Replace batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. It is mandatory to have CO alarms in the cottage as well as in your home.
  • Ensure the fire extinguisher is charged – and if you don’t have one, pick one up from the hardware store.
  • Crack open the first aid kit and make sure it is fully stocked with the essentials.

This cottage opening checklist covers the essentials – add to it and customize it to fit your needs, and you’ll be well on your way to a relaxing, safe, and memorable cottage season.


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