Sure, those hazy days at the cottage are over for now, but there’s still plenty of work to do in the off-season. Owning an idyllic spot by the lake, like owning a sports franchise, is a year-long commitment.
“If you haven’t already, you should be getting your cottage prepared for the long, dark winter ahead of us,” says Bryan Baeumler, “Empty out all the food that’s going to rot over the winter, so mice don’t get into it. If you’re shutting off the heat and hydro, make sure you drain the toilets and all the P-traps in the house. If your P-traps don’t screw open, pour a few jugs of antifreeze down them so you don’t wind up with any horrible plumbing explosions.”
Hi Bryan. We had an extensive fire at our three-season cottage. It’s been gutted down to the two-by-fours and has no heat during the winter months. I need help deciding what type of flooring to put down. I want it to look like wood and easy to clean. I’m afraid a floating floor will buckle or shift if I use the wrong product. Also, I have a choice between replacing all the outside wood siding or switching to vinyl siding. The latter is appealing as it never needs painting, but would it devalue the cottage? Regarding kitchen cabinets: is wood best or will MDF (medium-density fibreboard) be OK? - Jessie P., Scarborough, ON
Well Jessie, I’m sorry to hear about the fire. That’s terrible. If you want the look and feel of hardwood, then I don’t see why you’d be afraid of a floating floor. If you install one, you’d leave about a quarter-inch between the floor and the wall, and you’d cover that gap with trim. This will allow the floor to move around a little bit, but there are options: you can glue or nail it down into place or leave it floating. If anything, a floating floor will actually allow for more expansion, contraction and moving around, and be more resilient than a solid hardwood that is actually installed and left over the winter with no heat on.
When it comes to choosing the siding, that depends on what the other cottages in the neighbourhood look like. Vinyl siding is certainly more affordable to install. It looks to me from your pictures that the existing wood siding isn’t in horrible shape. And if that’s the case, then you’d really just have to repair the portions of wood that need it and paint the entire cottage. Certainly, if you want to go over top of it, you could go with a board and batten or vinyl siding — I don’t necessarily think it would devalue the cottage, but that’s really a question for real-estate agents in the area of the cottage itself.
Regarding kitchen cabinets, considering that you won’t be heating the cottage over the winter, MDF or particle board will probably be more affordable. Because they’re man-made, they won’t expand, contract and move as much as solid wood doors would.
Hi, Bryan, we would like to replace the flooring throughout our family cottage. It’s a toss-up between laminate wood planks or vinyl wood-look planks. Which one would be more durable for the hot, wet and sandy summer as well as the freezing winter months when no one is there? Is there another option? Thanks. - A&W Bevis, Toronto, ON
Well guys, there are tons of options for cottage flooring. Anything you can put in a house, you can put in a cottage. There are certainly things to think about. If you’re leaving your cottage shut down or unheated over the winter, either the laminate wood planks or vinyl planks that look like wood would be great options. They’re very resilient, they’re not expensive and they’re easy to clean.
Another choice, if you want to step it up, would be engineered hardwood. All those floors would prove durable for the hot, sandy summer. The only note I would make would be on the vinyl planks: they’re laid poorly with gaps in between them that might be enough to allow for sand and dirt to accumulate. But the benefit here is you can just lift those planks up and clean underneath them.
We bought an old chalet in Beaver Valley many years ago. The roof insulation is not very good. How can we improve this? We don’t really want to insulate inside as it covers up the design.
Cathie and Scott C., Newmarket, Ont.
Hey Cathie and Scott: if the ceiling insulation isn’t great, there are only two ways to do this: insulate underneath it (which will cover the design) or put rigid foam panels on the roof. The latter means removing the shingles, installing the rigid foam panels all over the roof and installing new shingles above that. It’s going to be fairly costly to do, but you can certainly add insulation outside just by doing that. You can even frame an insulated roof deck on top of the roof but, again, you’ll spend a fair bit of money for that.
Your best bet may be to strap that ceiling, insulate it and then put some pine board atop the insulation. You’ll also certainly want to make sure you have some airflow in there if you do put conventional insulation in.
Hi, Bryan. Could you please advise me as to the most efficient and cost-effective way to heat a 700-square-foot cottage that is well insulated and has a new roof and new windows? It is built on cement piers on rock and is located near Minden, Ont., so winters get cold. I’m wondering if we should go with wood, an electric heat pump or propane? There is no basement or place for a furnace or ductwork, and we are hoping to live there approximately nine months of the year.
Catherine W.S., Barrie, Ont.
Well Catherine, there are certainly a few ways to go. If you’re willing to put in the effort to collect (or buy) firewood, a wood stove is a great way to go. It takes a certain amount of effort to collect wood, chop it, bring it in, season it, etc. It’s also a tougher heat to regulate; it’s not as instantaneous as a thermostat.
As for electric heat pumps, we’ve actually installed those in our home — they’ve been incredibly efficient and effective, but once things get really cold (into the -25 C range) they stop working as well. You’ll usually need some sort of backup furnace or heat source. You’re pretty much limited to having a ductless unit that is going to run outside to a heat pump and blow warm inside, or electric baseboards, which aren’t going to be very efficient. But it sounds to me like your best bet would be to go with a wood stove and use something like electric baseboards as backup heat for when you need it.