Close Your Cottage with Care
By William Laflamme
The summer months have flown by. It seems like just yesterday you were
opening up your cottage for the summer.
Things were so hectic then; cleaning, repairing, hooking up the waterline,
installing the dock and mooring, and launching the boat, in anticipation of
those fun-filled days on the water. Now it is time to get the cottage ready for
the harsh fall and winter months ahead. You probably have a list of things to
do to ensure that expensive repairs will not be needed next spring.
When going through this yearly winterizing ritual, it is important to consider
possible impacts to water bodies and the surrounding environment from these
activities. After all, one of the main reasons you go to the cottage is to enjoy the
area’s unspoiled beauty.
Winterizing a cottage requires preventing pipes from freezing. Unless the
structure is heated year round, most owners drain the water system to ensure
that it won’t freeze. In the past it was common practice to use antifreeze to
protect plumbing. Antifreeze is toxic and it poses a threat to ground and
surface waters not to mention the danger of it being ingested by pets. Adding
antifreeze to plumbing fixtures is not necessary, provided all the fixtures are
completely drained. If you can’t do this, use low toxicity antifreeze to minimize
Damage from rodents such as mice and squirrels are also a concern for cottage
owners. Refrain from using pesticides or poisons. To prevent these unwanted
guests, inspect the building inside and out to make sure there are no openings
for rodents to enter. Remove all food sources from the cottage before you close
To make sure that shorefront areas will not succumb to ice or wave damage,
inspect the shoreline thoroughly. Stabilize any eroding areas with vegetation or
rock riprap if necessary. If using riprap, or patching a retaining wall, anything
more than minor maintenance and repair will require state and local permits,
so plan accordingly. This is also a good time to inspect parking and
landscaped areas for signs of erosion. When removing docks and boats from
the water, try to store them in an area that will not kill vegetation.
A stable shoreline and healthy vegetation are important in keeping eroding soil
from harming water quality.
Regarding boat motors and other power equipment, do not try to drain
gasoline from fuel tanks. Instead use fuel stabilizer (available from your dealer
or auto parts store) to keep fuel fresh for next season. Winterize your engine(s)
away from the water. When changing lubricating oils, collect the oil and bring
it to a recycling facility for proper disposal. Wash boats away from the water,
preferably at a commercial car wash. Many detergents and motor oils contain
chemicals that can pollute water bodies.
Following these simple rules when winterizing your cottage will go far in
protecting the natural resources you so enjoy as a cottage owner. We all must
work together to ensure that our natural resources remain in good shape for
About the author:
William Laflamme, is an Environmental Specialist with the Maine DEP's
Bureau of Land and Water Quality.