Summer is far from over, but spending weeks at the family cabin may be in the rearview mirror for many. If you are lucky enough to own a vacation property, taking care of it properly is of utmost concern. Because these properties remain empty for long stretches of time, they are far more vulnerable than those that are occupied. Take the time to check on a few important details before leaving so that you can spend the winter months comfortable in the knowledge that your cabin is safe and secure.
Check your water sources
Water damage is by far the most common cabin insurance claim. If you haven’t already done so, inquire with your insurance broker or provider about extended water damage endorsements that include coverage for overland flooding incidents such as groundwater entering your cabin through basement windows.
Sewer backup coverage is extremely important, as these incidents happen often and can be devastating. One way to avoid your sewer backing up is to have a backflow valve installed by a professional.
Before you leave, shut off your water main and drain your pipes to prevent them from bursting after water has frozen in them. Also turn off the water supply for each toilet, then flush to drain the tank. Turn off the water supplies for each of your appliances and taps, as well. If you plan to leave your electricity on, it’s a good idea to keep your water heater on as well. Just turn the temperature dial to its minimum setting to save energy and close the water inlet and outlet valves.
If your cottage has a septic system, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s service recommendations and timelines. Always call in a professional to make sure it’s functioning properly before you close up to avoid any surprises in the spring.
Test your security system
We highly recommend all cabin owners install a comprehensive security system, as cabins are quite often targets for thieves. Because they are in remote locations and left unoccupied for long bouts of time, installing a security system provides more peace of mind and will even earn you a discount on your cabin insurance. Low-cost options can hook into your Wi-Fi and send an alert and sound an alarm to your cell phone if someone (or something) is noticed on your property. Plus, you can get the whole family involved in wildlife spotting.
For those who choose to unplug from the internet when at their cabin, there are alarms that connect to nearby cell towers. If there isn’t a nearby cell tower, you can install a cellular transmitter on your property.
Battery-powered security systems are also available if there is no electricity at your cabin, although, of course, they will need to be checked and changed regularly.
Window locks, solar-powered trail cameras and motion-detector lights will also work to deter thieves away from your home-away-from-home.
Make it a habit to test your detectors and extinguishers
When you arrive at your cabin for the summer and when you leave for the winter, make it a priority to go around and test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Batteries should be changed every six months regardless, even if everything seems to be working fine. Alarms must be heard clearly in every room of the house. To keep them in optimal condition, it’s not a bad idea to dust your detectors regularly as well. Smoke detectors last about 10 years on average, and carbon monoxide detectors last about five to seven years. You could also opt for models that are wired into your electrical and security systems, which keeps the batteries charged for up to 10 years and will let you know if there’s a problem while you’re away.
For additional fire protection, also check your fire extinguishers, all of which have service or expiry dates displayed on them. Fire extinguishers last about six years on average. They need to be replaced earlier if the pin has been pulled, they have been used, or they have lost pressure (the gauge is no longer in the green).
Cabin insurance can be costly because vacation home locations are often far from fire and emergency services, which insurers take into consideration when calculating your premium. Because it takes longer for help to arrive, damage is often worse when something happens. If your cabin is in an isolated area but you want to bring your insurance rates down, consider installing an interior sprinkler system if you have water service to your property. If you don’t have your own water supply, contact the appropriate municipal or county authorities about perhaps installing your own fire hydrant or bringing in water through an alternate source. Then, ensure to let your cabin insurance provider know when the upgrades have been made.
Landscaping for security
In order to improve the field of view for your security cameras, thinning out trees near your property is also a good idea. This also helps protect from wildfires encroaching. You’ll also want to make sure your windows are not blocked by shrubs and trees and that your entryway is easily visible from all angles. At the same time, double check all of your window and door locks.
Take care of concerns now
Don’t wait until the spring for necessary repairs. Things are more than likely to get worse over the winter, and bringing in crews before the summer starts may delay your enjoyment of your property.
Again, wander around and take a close look at all the trees surrounding your cabin. Keep them well-trimmed away from your roof and the side of your house. If there are any sagging or broken branches that could come down in a strong wind, have them removed by a professional arborist.
Then, it’s time for a quick inspection of your roof, which is primary for your cabin’s protection. While you’re up there, clear out your gutters to prevent blockages leading to floods in the summer and ice dams in the winter.
Also carefully examine your pathways, stairs, railings, patios, decks, and dock to ensure there is no damage and that they are all safe to use. If someone is injured on your property, you could be held liable for their treatment, recovery, and damages. Pound in nails, sand down splinters, and make the necessary repairs so that you don’t have to spend the summer warning people to watch where they step.
Provide comprehensive directions for your renters
Lots of cabin owners earn some extra income by renting out their property. Be sure to leave your tenants a comprehensive list of instructions and rules, which will also help protect you from liability. For example, many who choose to rent out their cabins do not allow tenants to use their boats or recreational vehicles to avoid having to purchase extra coverage.
Additional information to provide:
- The location of the first-aid kit (and be sure to keep it stocked!)
- Emergency phone numbers and addresses
- The location of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
- The location of the fire extinguishers
- If they should be aware of any steep slopes, tripping hazards, and so on
- Where pets may go (or not go)
- Which sports and recreation equipment they are allowed to use and instructions
- The depth of the water and other tips about use of the lake/river/stream
- The presence of wildlife
- Wi-Fi and entertainment centre information
- What to expect from annoying insects such as mosquitoes and ticks and how to treat bites
- Interesting sites and activities
The above list is not comprehensive. There is lots of information you can share with your renters to ensure they have a safe and happy stay. Keep updating your document each time you receive a question or notice a potential liability. It will help protect you and your guests.
Cabin insurance in Alberta
Lane’s Insurance is a leading Alberta-based brokerage with a deep understanding of the insurance needs of everyday Albertans. In addition to cabin insurance, Lane’s can help you find excellent rates on boat insurance, and every other type of protection you need to safeguard your financial security while making the most of summer.
Lane’s is partnered with the best and most trustworthy carriers in the Alberta insurance industry, so you can rest assured that you’re getting coverage you can count on for a price you can afford.
To learn more, please contact a Lane’s Insurance customer service representative.