Having a summer cottage is wonderful, but can you spend all year there? Assuming your work allows for it, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t make a four-season cottage to live in. Regardless of size or style, any home can be updated to suit every type of weather and temperature fluctuation. It will take some work to change things up, but I’ll walk you through the basic steps and help you get started on the perfect year-round cottage. Mostly this involves upgrading things like your insulation and moisture barriers, but it can take some time, so be prepared to put some serious effort into this project. Fortunately, it’s well worth it, and in the end, you can relax and enjoy your new year-round getaway every day. Cottage living doesn’t need to be limited by arbitrary calendar dates and weather apps.
How can you make a cottage ready for all four seasons? To make a cottage ready for all four seasons, you need to update insulation, heating, moisture barriers, and other aspects of the cottage that were originally only meant for part-time use. For example, pipes freeze in winter. When they’re meant for summer use, you need to drain them in the fall, but for an all-season cabin, you need pipes that can run water in cold weather without bursting.
Steps To Make Your Cottage Ready For Four Season Living
Living in a cottage all four seasons of the year may seem like a dream come true. Indeed, it can be. However, if you don’t prepare appropriately, then your dream home could turn into a nightmare before you know it. Cottages tend to be isolated or semi-isolated. Making sure you can handle the weather is only part of year-round living away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
On the plus side, the dream is very achievable. Look over every area you use and every vital piece of equipment carefully before you pack up that truck and move in. Fortunately, once your cabin is ready, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do this years ago. Below is a list of steps to make sure your cottage is as prepared for this big change as you are.
Do These Things to make a Cottage a Four Season Home
- Take a look at what you already have. Is your cottage built for winter, summer, or more than one season? It will determine what you need to adapt for other seasons depending on what is already in place. You may find there’s less work to do than you anticipated.
- Start outside. Take a look at your access routes. Will you be trapped in winter if it snows or stuck at home during the rainy season due to dips in the road? If you are going to be unable to leave for a time, then you either need to make arrangements to fix that problem or stock up on emergency supplies so you don’t run out of toilet paper, food, and potable water when rough weather rolls in.
- Consider fire safety. Many cottages are in heavily wooded areas, and fires are a serious issue. Ensure you have an appropriate amount of clearance around your home, at least two plausible escape routes, and fire safety equipment. Put in more extinguishers. A fully underground root cellar can solve both the emergency supply issue and provide a haven if you are ever in a position where escaping fire or storms is impossible.
- Water is life. You need to look at your water sources. Pipes need proper insulation, and it may be time to look at some fixture upgrades. Using equipment a few days or weeks out of a year is not the same as daily wear and tear.
- Check your heat source. If you have gas pipes, find out from the local utility company what you need to make them usable all year. For fireplaces, wood stoves, and electric heat, you’ll need to stock up or get a backup generator. No one wants to be snowed in during cold weather with no heat beyond your own body and some blankets.
- Insulation protects you. Warm weather cabins almost certainly lack the necessary insulation for cold weather. Replace warm weather insulation if you plan to stay in the colder months.
- Stay cool. In summer, you may not need any adjustments. Unfortunately, if you live somewhere warm, air conditioning or at least a window cooler is necessary to avoid overheating and getting sick.
- Moisture barriers matter in wet and snowy climates. Especially when you live in the not, making sure your moisture barrier is up to the task of keeping out water, mold, and mildew is essential.
- Look for leaks and fix what is broken. A cracked window pane or a small gap between boards in a wall may not seem like a big deal when you visit for two weeks but staying year-round is a very different issue. Insects and pests will be attracted if you have food. Plus, you’ll eventually have a water leak in or heat leaking out at inopportune times. At best, it’s uncomfortable and messy, but at worst, it can be a significant source of damage or a health and safety threat.
- Double-check windows, doors, and your roof. Make sure everything is sealed up tightly. You don’t want mold, bugs, or other unwelcome intrusions and expenses.
- Make sure you have a place for your vehicles. Parking on the dirt downslope from a cabin on a beautiful summer afternoon is nothing like dealing with a muddy hill or tires slipping in the snow. Find a level area for vehicles with proper drainage. Consider putting up a pole barn if there’s no other garage or vehicle shelter.
- Get to know the neighbors. Both the humans and the animals in the area can interrupt your peaceful retreat. It’s best to learn everything you can about who and what is in the area so you won’t be surprised by a bear or accidentally wander into someone’s private hunting ground without a safety vest.
- Communication is key. Cottages near a lake with neighbors aren’t the same as being isolated in the woods. If there are no people nearby in case of emergencies, make sure you have a hand-cranked emergency radio. Also, get a means of communication with the outside world such as ham radio, or at least charged backup batteries for your cell phone if there’s a tower in range.
Make sure you choose high-quality insulation like SmartSHIELD from Amazon. This ninety-seven percent effective radiant barrier does a lot more than keeping out the cold. In addition to heat insulation, it works well as a sound barrier. Moreover, this non-toxic, easy to install closed-cell foam and aluminum insulation is an ideal vapor barrier, and it has a class one/class a fire rating. Read the reviews for yourself right here.
Extra Coverage For Cold Weather Cottages
Staying cool in summer and warm in winter is a big part of making a cottage four seasons habitable. In addition to all of the necessities, there are many commonly forgotten areas where you can add some extra protection in the cold months. Windows, window coolers, and attic openings are areas where you can waste a lot of heat without realizing it. Fortunately, I have a few tips and tricks to cut the loss and save on those winter heating bills.
A summer cottage in the mountains may be cool most of the year, but a window AC unit is a great way to prevent sleepless nights when the weather is unseasonably warm. By making a brace and taking extra steps to ensure the unit is semi-permanent, you can save yourself a lot of trouble.
However, a permanent summer ACU in the window is a significant hole in the side of your home when it comes to winter insulation. Consider getting a cover rather than going through the steps to reinstall it annually. This will help avoid accidental damage and save you a lot of time and effort.
I recommend Sturdy Covers AC Defender from Amazon. Not only will it help keep out those unwanted drafts, but it also protects your AC from unwanted debris and moisture. Adjustable straps fit all the way around to hold tight on all sides. Plus, Sturdy Covers come with a three-year warranty for peace of mind. Have one delivered to your cottage when you click here.
In winter, you have other issues. Windows lose a huge amount of heat. Moreover, cottages with attics may be wasting a lot of that warmth through a simple drop-down ladder area. You should cover both with proper insulation in the colder months to help keep that warmth where you need it most, around you.
Windows are easy to insulate with bubble wrap or leftover pieces of reflective insulation from a larger project. Cut to shape and place it over the window. A little bit of tape will hold your thermal barrier in place all season and come off easily when the weather improves. Attic openings are a bit trickier since you may still need access to that space.
Lemoone Attic Stairs Insulation Covers can help you stop unwanted heat loss by covering the opening your ladder fills with a reflective barrier. These simple to install heat barriers staple in place, leaving plenty of room for folding ladders to sit normally. Moreover, they have a flap on top that you can open to access your attic space whenever you need it. Learn more on Amazon by clicking here.
All cottages and homes lose heat in winter, but you don’t need to freeze. By taking a few extra steps to insulate these often ignored areas, you can lower your heating expenses and stay more comfortable when the weather gets cold.
Insuring Your Four Season Cottage
Every homeowner needs insurance, and four-season cottages are wonderful homes. It’s important to understand that big changes can also affect your insurance premiums. Make sure you contact your insurance company before you begin converting your four-season cottage. The rates may be very different depending on who does the work.
Homeowners in most places have the right to do their own upgrades. Still, local laws vary, and you may need to pay a professional to come out and check over your work, especially if you make plumbing changes or do anything electrical. Always check your state and county laws first as they are subject to change, and make sure you get appropriate permits.
Coverage during a building project is also variable. According to economical.com, Depending on the type of work you’re doing, your coverage may be limited while renovations are being completed, or you may even need to purchase a special builder’s risk policy.” Hopefully, nothing will ever go wrong during renovations. If it does, your insurance can be a real lifesaver.
Some projects are much easier than others. Don’t hesitate to hire the skilled help you need if you’re unsure about a project or need extra hands to do a job. It’s better to do your four seasons upgrades right the first time than it is to need to re-do them in the middle of rough weather because of a simple mistake.
Insulation and upgrades make all the difference when building a four seasons cottage. From weather-resistant walls and pipes to good heat and cooling, you need to ensure it’s safe and comfortable for every eventuality. Depending on where you live, this can include making allowances for salt air, snow, or extreme heat.
Additionally, you need to make sure you’re accounting for items intended for one or two season use. Boat owners need to dock their boats when the lake may freeze, and cottage owners may need to close the flu on a wood stove in summer or make other adjustments. You don’t have to use every aspect of your home during every season as long as it’s stored and adjusted properly.
Cottage life is delightful and serene, so it’s not hard to see why many people are transitioning out of more hectic city lives. Ensure you check every vital system from the roof to your underground pipes before you change your address for good.
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