How-To - Home Improvement

Winter cottage renovations

Is winter cottage living right for you? Find out all the things you need to consider before making the move.

Do you harbour fantasies of retiring to your cottage permanently? Or do you wish you could get more use out of your weekends at the cottages, not just hiking and swimming in summer, but snowshoeing and skiing in winter too?

Many cottage owners dream of leaving the city for good and living year-round at their summer properties. After all, you already own the cottage and the land it sits on; you’re on a first-name basis with the postmistress and the couple who run the local grocery store. How simple a matter would it be to add a little extra insulation here and there, maybe upgrade the windows, and give up the rat race once and for all?

Not so fast. If your cottage was originally built for warm-weather living only, retrofitting for year-round use is a bigger job than you think. It can also range from pretty expensive to discouragingly high, depending on the age and condition of your cottage, and what features (such as the kitchen or bath) you might want to improve.

Get advice from a local contractor
Before you make a decision, it’s wise to check with a qualified local contractor or builder. They can examine your cottage in detail and give you a realistic idea of what the upgrade would involve. If you’re planning a permanent move, you may be better off to tear down and build a new home. Also, if you are thinking of adding on or doing major renovations to the layout, in some cases starting fresh may be the cheaper and smarter option.

Understand zoning laws

You should check with the town or county building department; some vacation areas are not zoned for year-round, or winter living, or road access may not be maintained during the winter. And unfortunately, your property tax situation will likely be affected by the change from a summer cottage to principal residence (or a twelve-month, as opposed to summer-only, vacation property).
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