De-Winterizing Your Summer Getaway Home

Dated: May 25 2023

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Wisconsin winters are no joke when it comes to your home, especially a home that sits unoccupied for the cold months. Each year people with summer getaway cabins and vacation homes winterize their properties before locking up and saying goodbye for the next several months. If the process of winterizing is not complete, you risk water damage from frozen pipes, the growth of fungus and molds, and even unwelcome critters sneaking in to make your home, theirs. Not to mention, because it’s a summer home, you will not likely be around to check on it often. If a pipe were to burst or if a family of racoons decided to get comfortable, it could be months before you realize!

When November rolls around and your camping season’s end is in sight and bonfire fire weather is fading quickly, a sadness comes over you that it’s all coming to an end until next year. But then the months pass, and in no time the sun is warm and the grass is green again. You plan your first big weekend at your home away from home: Memorial Day weekend. A long weekend away for you and your family is just what is needed after an everlasting winter, bit then you remember all the things that you have to do before you can stay there… That’s where we come in!

Start with your electrical! It’s not uncommon for homeowners to shut off all the electricity except where it is essential, like to the furnace and essential lighting circuits. Go to the main service panel and turn on any breakers that have been shut off. It’s important to be aware of the appliance you have in your home before turning the electricity back on to them. If you use an electric water heater in your summer home, it is vital that you refill the tank before you turn on the circuit breaker that powers it. If the electric water heater is not filled before, it could potentially cause a water leak, water damage, and end in a hefty bill for a new water heater! Once your electricity is restored, you can begin plugging in any of your lamps, appliances, and your carbon monoxide detector!

If your winterizing process includes disconnecting the flexible supply tubes from your plumbing fixtures, you will want to inspect all your fixtures before returning the water supply to them. This can be done very efficiently by going room to room in the home and inspecting the sinks, showers, tubs, toilets, and other water-supplied appliances. Once you’ve ensured that all the supply tubes are properly reconnected, you can slowly turn on the main water until it’s about halfway. If there is a nearby utility sink, it is beneficial to turn the main water supply on there as well. This will allow trapped air to escape as your pipes fill with water. Open the water heater, boiler, and water softener valves one at a time. Because all appliance manufacturers are all different, it’s important to look at the appliance manuals before returning their water supply, as they may require you to open escape valves to allow trapped water to exit or other specific instructions. Once these valves are all turned on, you can begin turning on the water source to each of your plumbing fixtures one by one. Open the fixture’s shutoff valve, then open the faucet on each fixture. It is likely that air will rush out of the faucet and that you may hear a loud, powerful splashing; this is completely normal! When your water runs steady and clear, you can turn off all your faucets. Check the shutoff valves for leaks, tighten any joints that are leaking, test toilets to make sure they are working and flushing properly and double check that all of your kitchen appliances have water if needed. When you’ve determined that everything is right and there’s no leaky water, you can finally turn the main water supply valve on to the fully-open position.  

Once your water is operating again, check your exterior spigot faucets to make sure it opens and closes properly without leaking. If you are experiencing low water pressure, it may mean there is a leak on the inside of your home and you’ll want to inspect that before moving forward, as this could cause lots of hidden water damage!

Although restoring your water and electric and ensuring that everything is working properly after a long winter are two of the most common de-winterizing tasks, there are several others you should keep in mind as well. If your vacation home uses natural gas, it’s important to turn that on and check to make sure there are no leaks. If your home has older, gas appliances that operate with standing pilot lights, you should relight those after the natural gas is restored to your home, as these burn constantly.  

In the late fall and throughout the winter months, leaves, sticks, and other debris can get piled up in your gutters, making it hard for water to escape properly from your roof. This can cause roof damage and damage to the area around your home from the water puddling where it shouldn’t. Because we have such unpredictable springs, it’s important to clean and maintenance your gutters as early as the weather allows. Because so much debris gets caught and Wisconsin’s springs consist of lots of rain and sunshine, it’s not uncommon for plants to take root, making it very important to remove everything from your gutters to avoid a bigger mess later in the summer.

If your home has a thermostat or alarm system, make sure to reprogram them to the appropriate settings for the year! Often the programmable systems are adjusted to special settings for the winter while the homeowners are away, so it’s beneficial and convenient to get it back to the normal settings right away!

After sitting vacant for the last few months, your property could likely use a little TLC on the inside and outside, but in no time, you’ll be back out enjoying it just as you did before you said your goodbyes in the fall.

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Garrick Olerud

Garrick grew up Westby WI on a dairy farm and has lived in Westby for most of his life.  He graduated from UWL with a Marketing degree.  He has been a licensed agent since 2014 and started Nex....

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