Islanders are a lucky bunch. During wintertime, they don’t face as many of the challenges other cabin owners do in the interior or other parts of the country. The temperate climate of Howe Sound rarely delivers the worst winter has to offer, BUT winter does rear its head, and those who don’t prepare could face some nasty surprises come spring, or worse, during a mid-winter visit.
Whether you plan on closing your cabin for the winter season, or even just using it less frequently, it’s important to prepare for the effects of a cold, dark, rainy season. Here’s a checklist of some of the most important issues you need to consider.
When it gets cold, pipes freeze. When pipes freeze, there is significant risk they’ll crack. To avoid this:
Turn off the water pump, if you have one, at the circuit breaker.
Open all taps and valves to drain.
Turn off gas to hot water tank and drain (if you have one).
Turn off toilet water valve and flush to drain tank.
Don’t forget to turn off and drain other appliances such as washing machines and dishwashers.
Empty the fridge, give it a through cleaning, and prop open the door to prevent moisture from collecting and mildew from growing.
Sweep up every last crumb. Don’t give the mice any reason to move in.
Likewise, remove all food that isn’t in a can or bottle. You may even want to remove these if prolonged periods of freezing are expected.
Unplug all appliances.
If you are running solar, turn off the system and disconnect the batteries.
If you are running on a generator system, same deal. Turn it off and disconnect batteries.
Mildew is a major challenge on the West coast. It loves humid, warm places with little light, which means winter creates the perfect conditions for growth. To reduce mildew:
Try to keep your cabin as bright as possible by leaving the blinds open. More light means less mildew (See “Security”, below.)
Allowing more sunlight into your cabin to heat up during the day results in the generation of a convection current of air. Assuming you’ve installed air vents, this helps to keep humidity at bay.
Make sure all doors and windows are locked.
Take home your most valuable items, or at least hide them from view. In the unlikely event that a thief is on the prowl, why tempt them with an expensive-looking telescope or a portable stereo sitting in plain view.
Turn your thermostat all the way down and switch off whatever heating system you are using.
If you heat with a wood stove, give it a good cleaning, and cap the chimney to keep out the critters.
If you use your wood stove frequently, consider having your chimney cleaned.
Give your outdoor space a good cleaning.
If there are any trees that look like they might come down in a storm, consider a pre-emptive strike and have them taken down.
Clean the BBQ thoroughly and store it under cover if possible.
Store chairs under cover if possible.