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8 Questions Before You Open The Family Cottage

Dreaming of a green springtime at the family cottage? After the winter we’ve just had—who isn’t? It may seem impossible right now, but the white stuff will vanish, and we know you’ve got far better things to do than watch snow melt. For instance, getting ready to open the cottage for another great season of fun family time. To help you get started, here are some things to consider as you plan ahead for summer fun.

Answer These 8 Questions Before You Open The Family Cottage:

  1. Did I call about the utilities? Of course, this can include your hydro, gas, phone, internet, and cable—but do you have any additional unique seasonal services or amenities you need to plan for? Like scheduling the honey wagon, or do you have a pool pump that needs to be serviced? Be sure to call the various providers to have everything turned on.
  2. Is my insurance up-to-date? We’re not only talking about the cottage, but also any other vehicles you might use, including a boat and/or a trailer. It’s a very good idea to keep an easily-accessible file that includes your insurance records, operators’ licenses, instruction manuals and any phone numbers or email addresses that are important.
  3. When did I last have the fireplace inspected? We expect you’ll want to celebrate that first opening weekend with a roaring fire. Be safe: get your indoor fireplace cleaned and inspected by a professional beforehand. If the chimney sweep can come out to your cottage before you arrive, great, but they may only be available on the day you arrive. Either way, be sure to bring firewood or arrange delivery if yours is a wood-burning fireplace.
  4. Are the lines draining okay? A cottage in Manitoba or Ontario will likely have had its pipes treated with anti-freeze to ensure the pipes don’t freeze and crack during our famously frigid winters. Flush out the water and gas lines, leave the water heater breaker off until you’ve filled the hot water tank, start the water pump, and set up the hot water tank.
  5. What’s the state of our septic tank and/or outhouse? Yes, these essentials need to be a priority. Think ahead and book a service to have your septic tank pumped or your outhouse cleaned before you go to the cottage. If your septic tank isn’t pumped regularly you can end up with a sewage backup that can take thousands of dollars to fix. The same service provider often offers pumping services for outhouses as well.

Your septic tank takes drain water from various fixtures in the cottage, acting as a settling basin where the solids sink to the bottom. The solids are broken down by bacteria, following which water flows out of the top of the septic tank into the drain field where it leaches (or moistens) into the soil and makes its way back into the water table, filtered by sand and gravel on the way. So, if your septic tank isn’t pumped on a regular basis, soon those solids will reach the top of the tank and enter into the drain field. But before this even happens you’ll get a clue what could come if you start to notice problems with the draining of sinks and toilets. Once there’s an outflow of the septic tank, the solids enter the drain field. That’s bad news: your toilets won’t flush, your sinks won’t drain and it’ll cost thousands of dollars to fix. Don’t let this happen. If you have an outhouse, it’s possible to empty the pit yourself, but the earlier the better. Thanks to the time-lapse the contents of the pit look more like fertilizer than feces, which is at least more bearable, we’d say. The tool you need here is called a manual post-hole auger. Remove the seat, insert the auger and you should be done in an hour or two. Just a reminder to never throw non-biodegradable objects in the pit, as it won’t be any more pleasant picking those out of the pit.  Next, place the dirt into a wheelbarrow and just bury it somewhere in the bush, at the back of the property. It’s recommended you do this at least 30 metres (100 feet) from any water source, and certainly a good long distance from your neighbour’s property line. Be sure to cover it up well. Now that your pit privy has been cleaned out, simply re-install the sitting bench and you are, excuse the expression, good to go.

  1. Did I pack the things I really need? People’s lists may differ but we consider the following items essential: keys, cleaning equipment, tools, flashlights, batteries, candles, matches, toiletries, sun screen, insect repellent, towels, bedding, kitchenware, or even furniture. Don’t forget other recreational items including games, books, and/or music, and above all, food, water, and clothing! Oh, and cell phone and charger for those of you not keen to go completely off the grid.
  2. Did I leave my number with someone in case of an emergency? Definitely leave your emergency contact information with a friend or neighbour; one who can also keep an eye on your house while you’re away.
  3. Have there been any road closures today? Be sure to check the route to your cottage  before you hit the road. In Manitoba you can call 511, or check Manitoba511.ca.

By now you’ve probably thought of other questions, and that’s good! The idea is not to make you so crazy with worry that you can’t enjoy yourself—rather it’s to make sure you’ve taken every precaution to ensure enjoyment!  We hope this helps you and your family to have a great time opening the cottage for the new season.