As winter is now upon us in the state of Michigan, temperatures are dropping. A common part of Michigan living is having a second home in the beautiful Northern Lower Peninsula or Upper Peninsula. While summers and falls bring pleasant weather to these regions, winter can bring harsh cold temperatures and snow. If you own a second home, cottage, camp, or cabin, there are several steps you need to take prior to freezing temperatures to protect your home.
Gutters are a key place to start. Make sure once the leaves come down in the fall that they are not obstructing the gutters. You will want to be sure that water can flow through them and that ice can’t easily build up. Also, look at your downspouts. Make sure they are pointed away from your basement foundation. Additionally, double-check that they are not positioned where the wind could easily blow them off or away from the gutters.
Visually, scan your roof and make sure you don’t have any issues. If you see missing shingles, make sure to get them repaired before snow or ice forms on them, possibly creating water damage.
Metal roof? You should have less to worry about, but make sure all of the screws going into your roof lines are in good shape.
Perhaps the most important consideration is what to do with your water. If you don’t have a consistent heat source, such as relying on a wood stove, then you will need to completely drain your water system. Every home has a different scenario for draining it out, but here are the basic steps to follow.
- Shut your water pump breaker off.
- Open every single one of your water sources. Wash tubs, kitchen sinks, bathroom sinks, tubs, and showers. Additionally, flush your toilets down dry.
- Next, be sure to pour a cup of antifreeze down every single one of your drains, as well as your toilet. Be sure to open up the back of your toilets and drip some anti-freeze in there as well.
- If you have hoses, be sure to open up the main outside valve and then shut off the valve that is inside your crawl space or basement. Likely, if you are on a well pump, there should be a valve near your water pressure tank. Be sure to open this up as well and be prepared to be able to drain it. Even with the house drained, they will be more water coming out than you think!
- To be thorough in your water winterization, take an air compressor, and blow the remaining water out of your lines. This can be tricky, but it does get all of the water blown out of your lines, especially in Ts and elbows within the piping.
If you plan on leaving your furnace on low heat all winter, be sure to do a fall inspection. One of the first things you should do is change your filter. And if possible, visit your cottage every 1 to 2 months in the winter to change your filter. They are cheap and are critical for your furnace to perform well, even if it is running on a minimal basis. Second, do a visual inspection of your furnace, taking the panel off. Look for any wiring issues as mice love to chew on wires. Check for any condensation build up in the furnace control box too. This can represent a cracked heat exchanger. If you are not handy, I recommend scheduling a routine furnace tune-up with a professional heating and cooling company. These tune-ups are cheap compared to a broken furnace.
It is recommended for efficiency that you turn your furnace down to the minimal setting. Also, open up the cabinets underneath your sinks. This allows heat to more easily travel into that piping.
Chimneys, fireplaces, wood stoves
Spending time at your Northern Michigan cottage in the fall and the winter can be a fun, cozy time as well. If you are going to be heating with a wood stove or fireplace, the winter is not the time to make sure all is working well. Use the fall as the time to inspect your flu and your chimney. Visually inspect your chimney for any cracks if it is stone. If you have a triple or double-wall chimney for a wood stove, make sure your 90s are in good condition. If there is an ash trap, empty it now before you start burning fires.
Owning a second home in Northern Michigan can be a very fun experience and getaway. However, a harsh winter can be challenging. Make sure to prep your cabin, camp, or cottage properly!