How to Winterize Your Lake Home

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It’s that time of year. Fall. Temperatures are dropping, the leaves are starting to change, and lake home owners are starting the process of taking boats out of the water and winterizing their homes. If this includes you, no doubt you want to return to your lake home next spring, with confidence that everything will be ready to go for another summer of fun and relaxation. And if you plan to visit occasionally in the off season, winterizing means protecting your property, while also being able to use it from time to time.

Whether you’re away for a few weeks at a time or all winter long, you definitely don’t want to return to any nasty surprises from a long, cold winter.

To be sure that doesn’t happen, here’s a checklist of things to do winterize your lake home this fall.

Inside the Home

Be sure that your power and water are in the proper mode for extended absences. If you heat your place in the winter, go ahead and dial down the heat, but probably not lower than 55 degrees. If you don’t heat in winter, be sure to drain the pipes by attaching a hose to the lowest point in the plumbing, and blow out all water with an air compressor. Then put antifreeze in the traps and drains.


  • Clean or change the furnace filter to maintain an efficient heating and cooling system.
  • Unplug electronics and appliances in case of a power surge or lightening strike.
    If you’re shutting off the refrigerator, leave the door cracked open to prevent musty smells from developing.
  • Keep shades closed, or cover furniture to keep it from being bleached by the sun.
  • Put dryer sheets or mothballs near linens.
  • Restock and store first-aid kit.
  • Remove all perishable foods; store those that remain in air-tight/critter-tight containers. If you don’t heat the cabin in winter, carry out canned goods so they don’t freeze.
  • Turn off dehumidifier and water heater.
  • Remove any containers used for fuel storage. If you don’t plan to be back during the winter, drain gas out of lawnmowers, trimmers, leaf blowers and other yard equipment, as well as draining the fuel line.
  • Clean and remove ashes from fireplaces and wood stoves, and close fireplace damper.
  • Winterize washing machine, kitchen appliances and any other appliances that use water.
  • Check smoke detectors batteries and change if needed. If there’s ever an issue, a neighbor may be able to hear them go off in your absence.

Outside Your Lake Home

  • Check for damage, clean, then store boats, docks/lifts, ladders, life jackets, ski equipment, patio furniture and other recreational items. Jot down any items you need to purchase for repairs. It’s easier to wait for a replacement part during the winter months, rather than during the summer, when you want to be out using them.
  • Mow the lawn one last time.
  • Check roof for loose or damaged shingles and make repairs as needed, to avoid leaks.
  • Clean out gutters
  • Check for air leaks around electrical wires, dryer vents, pipes, windows & doors. Seal any leaks with insulation or caulk to keep out cold air and pests.
  • Insulate pipes & wires in crawl spaces by wrapping them with heat tape or heat cables
  • Consider leaving cabinet doors open to allow heat to get to uninsulated pipes under sinks and appliances close to outside walls.
  • Seal or cover vulnerable windows to prevent damage.
  • Blow out the line in your sprinkler system (if you have one).
  • Rake thick areas of leaves.

Winterizing Your Boat

  • In Michigan, we often have variable temperatures that can create condensation inside the motors. To prevent condensation, use a spray lubricant inside the motor.
  • Check to make sure none of the seals are bad.
  • Clean the bottom of the boat with a hull cleaner. There are different cleaners for aluminum and fiberglass boats, so be sure to get the right one for your boat.
  • If you’re storing the boat outside, the boat should be covered or shrink-wrapped.

Of course, if you expect to be away for extended periods, nothing beats having someone take care of your property professionally. In areas with a lot of second homes, there are often businesses that offer home checks, as well as cleaning, gardening, lawn mowing, leaf raking and snow removal.