Lakefront Living – Winterizing Your Lake House

It is time to think of protecting your lake house from cold weather, snow, ice, and winter winds. You will want to make sure that your year-round lake retreat is ready for winter. Even though you will be there from time to time, you will need to ensure that some basic winterizing is done to protect it. If you get your lake home ready now, when you come back for your winter getaways, you’ll have a terrific weekend! Here are some tips to make sure everything is battened down for winter. Even if you plan to leave some heat on in the house, winterizing means you’ll be covered in case of power outages.

Protect Your Lake Home From Fire Hazards

  • Unplug electronics and appliances in case of a power surge or lightening strike.
  • Clean and dispose of ashes from fireplaces and woodstoves.
  • Remove all combustibles including paint, turpentine, household cleaners, etc.
  • Drain gas out of mower, trimmers and other lawn equipment as well as draining the fuel line. This will avoid varnishing in the carburetor, which would result in a repair next spring.
  • Remove all containers used for fuel storage.
  • Remove rags used for gas, oil, turpentine, etc.
  • Check smoke detectors batteries and test them. A neighbor may be able to hear them go off in your absence.

General Upkeep

  • Check for any openings that pests may use to find their way into the house. Stop up any places in the foundation or around the eaves, windows or doors where squirrels, chipmunks, mice, snakes or other small animals can enter. Put mousetraps or other mouse control devices in basement, in closets and kitchen.
  • Check the chimney to be sure it is covered to prevent animals and birds from entering.
  • Remove food, cosmetics, or medicine containers that contain liquid that could freeze from shelves.
  • Food in paper or plastic containers should be put in large metal containers to protect from mice or other rodents.
  • Remove or hide valuables, or any articles in the house that can be sold and converted to cash such as guns, radios, TV sets, and tools.
  • Lock all doors and windows.
  • Remove any tools a vandal may use to enter your buildings.
  • Ask a local permanent resident to check on your property periodically.
  • Have your furnace checked annually. If you have air conditioning, pour bleach into the condensate pump to keep the condensate line clear.
  • Do a thorough cleaning. Stains that sit for six months are much more difficult to remove.
  • Make a list of what needs fixing. Make a note of any part or model numbers so you can get parts over the winter.
  • Make a list of things you want to bring back in the spring or on your next visit.
  • Check with your insurance agent to be sure you have your lake house properly insured. Find out whether it is insured at replacement value or at actual cash value. If you have any new items make sure they are added to your policy.
  • Check into local home management service companies. They will “manage” your property by doing such things as removing your dock, cleaning the gutters, irrigation shut down, water softener salt, etc.
  • Invest in a security system. They can do everything from warning of a break-in to alerting you at your winter residence if there were a fire, etc.

General Outdoors Tasks

  • Check roof for loose or damaged shingles and make repairs accordingly so you don’t have leaks in the spring.
  • Seal or cover vulnerable windows to prevent breakage.
  • Remove boat, lift, jet skis and other recreational items. After a thorough cleaning, check them for any damage. Jot down any items you need to purchase for repairs. It is easier to wait for a replacement part during the winter months than during the summer when you want to be enjoying things.
  • If your boat is in the water, do not take it out of the water until you are ready to winterize it! Water remains in the lower unit of inboard/out drives and plumbing until flushed in the winterizing process. This water can freeze and do damage to your boat in a matter of hours if the temperature drops below 32 degrees. If your boat remains in the lake it is much slower to freeze.
  • Blow out sprinkler system if you have one.
  • Rake up or mow any thick areas of leaves covering grass to prevent mold from growing on your grass in the spring.

Heating Systems


  • Electric heating systems require no maintenance other than shutting off the power to the heating units.
  • For hot air heating systems turn off burner emergency switch
  • Drain humidifier, which is usually located on the furnace.
  • Forced hot water and steam systems: Drain all water in the system unless the liquid contains anti-freeze. It is wise to have this type of system drained by a plumber unless you are well informed on the procedures necessary.
  • Winterize your summer home as you do your winter home. To help conserve energy when the home is not occupied, install a low-heat thermostat. By doing this your home could be maintained at abut 40° F. without a freeze-up, rather than at 55 F. which is the lowest temperature at which most thermostats can be set.

Water Tasks to Prevent Broken Pipes and Leaks

  • Disconnect hoses from outside pipes to prevent freezing, swelling and breaking of pipes.
  • If you are turning the heat off, shut off water systems by turning off the pump or shutting the valve if on city water. Drain the pressure tank. Check for traps in these locations: kitchen sinks, bathroom sinks, bathtub and/or shower drains, toilets, washtubs, floor drains and maybe a sump pump.
  • Open all faucets.
  • Break a union close to the valve so water will drain out clear to the shut-off valve.
  • Drain the pump and run a second or two to be sure all water is out of lines from the pump.
  • Flush toilets and dip all water out of the flush tank.
  • Be sure to drain flexible 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. Determine whether you need a Freeze Alarm. This is an alarm to alert home and cabin owners before pipes freeze. It automatically calls up to three numbers to warm of a drop in temperature at a remote cabin or home.

Washer and dishwasher

  • Water left in hoses and internal components can cause damage when it freezes. Shut off water supply to clothes washer. 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.
  • For a dishwasher, remove inlet and outlet connection to the valve. Operate valve to remove any water. Remove drain hose from the pump and drain. Disconnect electrical supply.
  • It is also a good idea to clean the equipment and to protect the finish with a coat of appliance polish.

Sewage system

  • Force as much water as possible out of traps with a plunger.
  • Add antifreeze to each trap so you have at least a 50% solution of ethylene – glycol and water. Sometimes fuel oil can be substituted for antifreeze.

One last tip. Take some pictures of the lake and post them on the refrigerator at home or at work, that way, even though the lake home is closed, you can always take a quick peek at what you have to look forward to next spring.

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Posted by:

Scott Freerksen “The Lake Guy”
Owner/Broker, Realtor®
Lakefront Living Realty, LLC
Office: (508) 377-7167

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