Winterizing Your Lake Home


You may be a snowbird shutting down your lake house until spring arrives, or you may be coming to your lake house occasionally this winter to enjoy the season. Either way, there’s a checklist of things you need to do before the cold settles in. Get them done now, so you’re not scrambling to get them done at the last second, forgetting important things in the process. Here are a few important things to get done. 


If you are coming up a few times this winter, you will still need to do some winterizing just in case there are power outages from a winter storm or whatnot, and there’s no one there to check on the house right away. Some simple things that you can do as a homeowner that don’t require technical skills include draining out the gas of the lawn mower, weed wacker or other lawn equipment you might have. Drain the fuel lines to protect the carburetors. Unplug electronic devices and appliances in case of storms that could knock out the power. Remove food from the refrigerator for the same reason. Reduce the risk of fire also by removing combustibles. This could include paint, house cleaners, fuel storage containers, etc. Check all smoke alarms. You may have neighbors that would be able to hear them if they were to go off. Make sure your neighbors have your contact information for the winter.


Consider pest control by a professional, but there are simple things you can do on your own. If you have an older lake house, check for openings that pests may use to squeeze their way in. They can wiggle their way through smaller crevices than you think. Spray foam insulation works or caulk. Lay out some mouse traps in places such as basements, crawlspaces, closets, kitchens, etc. Your chimney should have a rain cap and spark arrestor. If not, make sure the chimney is covered to prevent animals from entering. You definitely don’t want any unpleasant surprises when you open the damper later this winter or next spring.


Have a handy man, neighbor, or local friend check on your house occasionally to make sure the house hasn’t been broken into by a burglar or pest. Have them check on things after a severe storm. Ten minutes around the property will give you peace of mind.


Either pay to have a deep clean done before winter or do it yourself. Now’s the time to do things like carpet cleaning. Do a thorough look for stains on furniture or rugs. If they are there through the winter, good luck trying to get them out when you notice them next spring.


Other outdoor chores include such jobs as cleaning the gutters, shutting down/blowing out your sprinkler system. Mow your grass and rake up leaves to prevent mold from growing on your grass in the spring. Do not take your boat out of the water until you are ready to winterize it, shrink wrap it, or put it in storage. Water remains in the lower unit of inboard/outboard drives and plumbing until flushed. Water can freeze and damage your boat in hours if the temp drops below 32. Your boat is less likely to freeze if it remains in the lake. Disconnect hoses from outside pipes to prevent freezing, swelling and breaking of pipes.


Take special care of you mechanicals. I recommend having professionals do this, but if you’re pretty handy, you may be able to do the following items on your own.


Drain your humidifier. Most humidifiers today are located on the furnace. If your lake home has forced hot water and steam systems for heating, drain all water unless the liquid contains anti-freeze. Installing a low-heat thermostat can help conserve energy. Your lake home could be maintained at 40° Fahrenheit without a freeze-up, rather than at 55 F. which is the lowest temperature at which most thermostats can be set. I think it’s best, however, to leave some heat in the house because mold and mildew could form from condensation, and your furniture could retain moisture and encourage mold and mildew to form.


If you are turning the heat off for the entire season, turn off water systems by turning off your submersible well pump or turning off the valve if you have municipal water. Drain the pressure tank. Open all faucets. Flush toilets and dip all water out of the flush tank. Drain flex spray hoses in showers and sinks. Drain water softeners so water will drain back from soft water pipes and controls. Brine tanks will probably not freeze. Drain water heaters. Consider installing a Freeze Alarm. This is an alarm to alert you before pipes freeze. It automatically calls up to three numbers to warn of a drop in temperature.


Here are some final suggetions. Shut off water supply to washing machines. Remove and drain inlet hoses. Clear water valve by setting the timer for fill cycle. Press the warm water button and run the machine a few seconds. Drain water from drain hose. Disconnect electrical supply. Remove the inlet and outlet connection to the valve on your dishwasher. Operate the valve to remove any water. Remove drain hose from the pump and drain. Disconnect electrical supply.


Septic systems also need to be winterized. Water should be forced out of traps by using a plunger if you are doing it yourself. Add antifreeze to each trap.


Create your own checklist and modilfy it each year according to your needs. Talk to professionals such has plumbers, HVAC technicians, and electricians to see what else they recommend to help you better take care of your house for the winter months.