It’s hard having to admit the cottage season is coming to an end. Thankfully, it’s really only a handful of months until you can come back, right? Keep your cottage in tiptop shape for the next summer using these 10 steps to closing the cottage for the season.

1. Inspect the roof

Check its shingles, replacing any that are damaged or missing. Consider adding supports to help overhangs deal with snow load. Clean out the eaves troughs so melting snow can drain properly.

2. Survey the trees

Trim any large or dying limbs that are hanging close to or over your roof. If the tree itself looks to be dying or even dead, considering cutting it down before you leave to avoid potential off-season damage.

3. Check under the cottage

Under the cottage is a prime area for moisture, debris, and homes for insects and animals. Clean out everything you can and close off any access points. Spread mothballs around support posts to deter animals from trying to enter, then block any holes you can find with steel wool.

4. Shut off and drain the water

Disconnect and empty out the water heater, outdoor taps, indoor water appliances and all water lines. This will help prevent any pipe from freezing and bursting over the winter. For any plumbing traps left in the cottage, use plumbing antifreeze to protect them. Remember to always follow instructions.

5. Clear out the kitchen

Grab a corrugated box or three and leave no food in the cottage when you go—even boxed or non-perishable canned goods. They’re still a draw to hungry animals who will damage your cottage as they fight to get in.

6. Defrost the fridge and freezer

Unplug all your kitchen appliances. Grab a plastic bin and remove the food from your fridge and freezer, disinfecting and wiping the inside of them clean. Place a box of baking soda inside to control odours and use chopsticks to prop open the doors slightly to avoid mildew build-up.

7. Protect your furniture

Seal beds with mattress bags and then wrap them in moving blankets. Cover your soft furniture in blankets as well, then use furniture bags to protect them from mice. Place fabric softener sheets in drawers, closets and room corners. They’ll fight odours and help keep mice at bay.

Tip: Let your cottage breathe internally over the winter—keep doors, cupboards and even drawers open to encourage air flow.

8. Secure the cottage

Take all your valuables with you, or at least keep them out of sight. Closing the curtains and blinds will help prevent would-be thieves from snooping or breaking in. Often, if they can’t easily see something, they won’t try stealing anything.

9. Secure the property

Clean your BBQ, disconnect the propane tank and store both away safely. Stack boats, canoes and kayaks on sawhorses or racks, wrapped up in tarps and secured with a good lock and chain. Ensure your storage sheds are locked, with any garden tools empty of gas. Take outdoor furniture inside, or store it inside your gazebo—locked up and protected from wind, snow and inquisitive animals.

Tip: Ask someone who lives in the area during winter to check on your cottage when they can. Give them your contact info so they can let you know if anything happens.

10. Do a final check

Take any garbage with you for dumping later. Inspect every room, area and structure to ensure you haven’t missed anything. Take photos of your grounds before you leave—in case of fire, theft or weather damage, it’ll help when dealing with insurance companies. Do one more check of the grounds (just to be sure), lock up and head on home.

Tip: Don’t forget when you’re closing the cottage to take your first aid kit home with you. Refresh it during the off-season!

Sure, it can be tough, closing the cottage for the season. But before you know it, next summer will be here and you’ll fish, swim and barbecue the days away. See you at opening the cottage next year!