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Moving South for the Winter? Shut up Your House Till Spring

December 19, 2018

Known as snowbirds, many Canadian homeowners fly south for the winter months and then return come spring. It’s a popular living situation for many retirees who don’t want to shovel snow or fall on ice.

But what happens to your house while you’re lying on a beach in Florida? Before you pack up and leave, you need to prepare your house for months without occupants.

Prevent disasters

One of the biggest issues homeowners can have during the winter months is a flood caused by a burst pipe. Burst pipes can happen when water freezes and thaws, causing pressure that leads to a rupture. This can be bad enough if it happens when you are at home, but what if it happens while you’re down south?

Prevent frozen pipes by taking the following precautions: First, drain the pipes. If no one will be staying at your house while you’re gone, you might as well shut off the water and drain what’s left. You can also pour some antifreeze into drains and toilets. Secondly, don’t turn off the heat entirely. While you certainly don’t need to keep your thermostat at the levels you would if you were home, shutting it off entirely could cause freezing. Set it low but warm enough to keep the temperature above freezing.

Clean the yard and gutters

Clear out the eaves of debris — leaves and such — so that when the snow piles on the roof and ice forms you won’t have a drainage issue when it starts to melt. Leaves from the fall can clog your eavestrough, preventing the water from flowing through the downspout and away from your house.

If you plan on leaving before the last of the leaves have fallen, consider hiring a maintenance company to clean the eaves while you’re away.

You also want your yard to look neat and well maintained before you leave. You don’t want it to look too obvious that no one is living there. Hire a neighbour or snow removal service to clear the driveway and walkways to make it look lived in and cared for.


Before you leave for your second home down south, you need to walk around your house and unplug all lamps, electronics and appliances. This includes your refrigerator, which uses a lot of electricity to run. Empty out freezers and refrigerators before unplugging, of course. You don’t want a power outage to occur while you’re gone, leaving a freezer full of food vulnerable to contamination.

Block critters

During the cold winter months, little woodland critters, such as mice, rats, squirrels and raccoons can attempt to move in for warmth. Under normal circumstances, when you are home, these attempts can be thwarted. However, when the home is left unoccupied, they might seek refuge without your knowledge.

The best way to prevent this is to block all possible points of entry. This means dryer vents, garage doors, outdoor taps and so on. Use steel wool to plug these holes and points of entry, because it’s hard to chew through.

Septic inspection

If your home or cottage uses a septic system, have it pumped out and inspected before you leave. Inspections cannot be done in the winter, as the ground will be frozen.

Making sure your home is properly shut down for the winter while you’re gone will give you peace of mind that you will return in the spring with little to no problems. It’s a good idea to let a trusted neighbour know the situation and provide them with your contact information. This way, if there is an issue, you can be alerted sooner rather than later.

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