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Seasonal Cottage Checklists

Whether your plans are to keep the cottage open or shut for the winter, each cottage owner needs to maintain the mechanical systems that are part of the cottage. Because few of the owners live in their cottage full-time this is easily forgotten. Every cottage relies on a mechanical system to help prevent winter-time damage. Mechanical systems can and do eventually break down.

A critical part of making sure your cottage functions properly over Lake Superior’s harsh winters is preventive maintenance. The cost of this is very small compared with the consequences.

Fall Checklist - All Owners
  • Check beneath the cottage for any possible screen and insulation damage by large critters.
  • Check to see that your Heat Line is plugged in.  The Heat Line is the well line heater located in the mechanical closet.  It is recommended that it be unplugged during the spring and summer because of possible shorting when lightning is near.
  • For those cottages with a forced air furnace or a boiler system, have those systems serviced each fall.  Modern systems have become computerized and are complex.  Servicing needs to be done by a professional.
  • For those cottages with a heater in the floor system, check to see that the heater is operating.  These are the more recently built cottages without a broiler, furnace, or bunker.  The heaters are accessible from an access panel in the mechanical closet.  They are similar to the “toe-kick heater” in your kitchen and come on when the temperature drops.
  • For the cottages with bunkers, make sure the heater is operational.
Cold Weather Departure Checklist

Even though our cottages are heated and insulated, environmental impact concerns and construction techniques used to accommodate those concerns give rise to the need for all cottage owners to take extra care during extreme cold conditions.  Accordingly, if you wish to keep your cottage open during the entire winter months, it is absolutely essential that you or your representative strictly adhere to every item on the cold weather checklist.  The checklist is a compilation of very useful recommendations borne from years of experience.  The checklist can be used as a roadmap during an inspection.

New Designs and Technology

As developers, we constantly continue to research new designs and materials that come into the marketplace.  We have found three new preventative maintenance design and repair items for utilization at Brickyard Creek.  We are incorporating these new procedures into new construction.  Although implementation of one or more of these procedures may not be necessary provided that you strictly adhere to the procedures in the cold-weather checklist, you may wish to investigate their use in your cottage.

Before describing these new procedures, some background will be helpful.  There are two areas in the cottage that are most vulnerable to water freeze-ups in the winter.  The first is at the point where the water line comes out of the ground from the well into the cottage (the “well line”).  The second is where the water line that furnishes water to the kitchen sink comes from the utility room and ultimately down through the outside wall in front of the wall insulation (the “kitchen line”).  A well line problem should not be a factor in cottages that have bunkers.  The kitchen line problem can affect cottages with or without bunkers.  Interior water lines should not be a problem unless the cottage is not closed down and is left without heat.

With this background in mind, well line problems can be alleviated or solved by a new product manufactured by HEATLINE Corporation, a Canadian company.  This product consists of an internal heating element that is flexible, fits into the well line (like a catheter), typically for a distance of 15 feet and plugs into an electrical outlet.  This product has proven enormously successful in the Canadian Provinces and in Alaska where temperatures exceed our low temperatures by a wide margin.  The kitchen line problem can be alleviated or solved by abandoning the present copper lines that are in the outside wall and running new lines inside the cottage through the cabinets.  The exposure of the new copper lines will be minimal, mostly hidden by the refrigerator and cabinetry.  Costs are approximately $500 for each procedure.  If you wish for more information or are interested in one or more of the procedures, we recommend that you contact Mike Wright at (715) 209-6415.  Mike is the only certified installer of Heatline products in Bayfield County, and he knows several plumbers who can bid for the kitchen line work.

The third upgrade you may want to consider for your cottage involves floor insulation.  The newest cottages at Brickyard Creek utilize Icynene foam insulation, as opposed to the traditional fiberglass batten insulation.  The Icycnene product is a far superior insulator, as it stops all air movement and it does not allow heat to radiate from the floor to the exposed underside of the cottage.  Radiating heat is what attracts animals, many of which are small enough to squeeze through a hole left in the wire mesh by the cable guy or the fireplace installer. These animals, usually mice or squirrels, can do a tremendous amount of damage to insulation and electrical wiring.  Additionally, bears and large raccoons can rip the wire mesh right out, and proceed to hibernate in the floor.

Winter Checklist - Keeping Cottage Open

The best way to avoid winter problems is to drain and shut down your cottage during the winter months.  For those of you who do not plan to use your cottage during the winter, or plain to use it sparingly, we recommend draining and shutting down your cottage.  For those of you who wish to keep your cottage open, and for those owners who rent their cottages during the winter months, we highly recommend that you contract with a care-taking service that is familiar with the unique characteristics of a Brickyard Creek cottage.

There are alternatives to shutting your cottage down for the entire winter.  You may decide to enjoy the use of your cottage through New Year’s and close your cottage during the coldest months of January and February.  Or you might close down and open your cottage periodically during the winter months. This alternative may provide a sensible balance between use and the associated costs during winter months.

Maintenance Contract

If you choose to keep your cottage open during the winter months, we reiterate our strong recommendation that you enter into a maintenance contract with a qualified local service or individual.  We must remember that we are dealing with infrequently occupied cottages located in the north woods and maintaining interior heat at about 55 degrees, not a full time residence that is kept at 70 degrees.

The maintenance contract should address general conditions such as storm cleanup, exterior repair, mechanical systems and interior repair, and, most importantly, frequent cold-weather inspections.

See the Vendors & Services page for a list of home service providers.

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