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Closing up a holiday home or cottage for winter

If you’re locking up and leaving your holiday home during the wilds of winter it’s important to winterise your property and take a few precautions to prevent it from deteriorating while you’re away.

Here are some tips from fellow holiday home owners to make sure everything will be in order when you open the cottage back up.

Fighting the damp

Interior mould is not only a health hazard, but can also ruin soft furnishings, leather items and wood. To reduce the risk of returning in the spring to surface mould about the house try these solutions.

  • Leave portable dehumidifier boxes around the house, or as a cheaper alternative put bowls of salt around. They draw in moisture.
  • Electric dehumidifiers are also an option, dispose the accumulated water into a shower tray, sink or toilet.
  • Leave doors open in order to let air circulate between rooms.
  • Buy some cheap bed sheets and put them over furniture then mould will be on these and not your furniture and furnishings.
  • Pull your furniture away from walls and damp windows, to let air circulate.
  • Use vacuum bags to store bedding, cushions etc.

Utilities and plumbing

  • Turn the water supply off and drain the hot and cold water system. Open taps to drain off water from pipes and drain the toilet cistern by flushing it.
  • Pour a cup of salt or antifreeze into the toilet bowl and plugholes to prevent residual water freezing in the system.
  • Putting neat bleach in the toilet bowl or covering the bowl with cling film slows down evaporation and keeps the bowl clean.
  • If you are leaving your heating on to keep the inside temperature above freezing, take precautions in the event that your heating fails. Cast iron radiators can crack if the water freezes so ask a plumber to put anti-freeze in them.
  • If you need to leave the electric power on unplug all unused electronic equipment to avoid the risk of fire and power surges.
  • Empty and clean the fridge/freezer, turn off and leave the doors open.
  • Don’t forget the gas, for long absences turn gas off at the mains.

Security and final checks

  • Store outdoor furniture inside. Leave nothing outdoors that can be blown about by a strong wind or be stolen.
  • Check that all your windows and doors are shut and locked when you leave to prevent thieves or vandals gaining access.
  • Food attracts vermin. Any food that remains should be locked in metal containers with tight lids.
  • Find someone local who can pop in on a regular basis to air the house and check for damage whilst unoccupied.

Make a checklist of all the things you’ve done so when you return you remember all the things that have to be “un-done”.

Know your cover

More than half of Britons fail to read the terms and conditions on their insurance policy. Your holiday home is at the most risk when it’s left empty – that’s a fact.

If you are leaving your holiday home unattended for a long time over winter you should check you are covered by your holiday home insurance. Do you have to drain down? Maintain a minimum temperature? Increase security? Or check your home regularly? These clauses could void your insurance coverage if you don’t fulfil your obligations.


  • simon |

    Its worth considering the security of your property if you are leaving it empty.

    We recently installed 3 light switch timers on our holiday property which work very well as they simply fit over the light switch on the wall in seconds. Make the place look occupied.

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