10 Fall Cleanup Checklist

Seasonal Vacation Rental Property Fall Cleanup

The Fall season is now in full swing. Leaves have totally turned to its glorious, colorful state. I just love the Fall colors! And it is stunning and breath taking in cottage country. But here’s the rundown on how we do our seasonal vacation rental property fall cleanup.

You can also refer to it as the “cottage closing” checklist. Most seasonal vacation homes closes down after the Thanksgiving (Canadian) long weekend.

Haliburton highlands fall foliage

People’s cars lined up in the highway to get a glimpse and a photo on Haliburton Highland’s gorgeous landscape. But with all its glory, comes the ugly truth, now is the time for us to do some serious cleanup. No getting away from it. If you think it’s daunting to do it at your primary home, it is going to be even more, think 10X more with your vacation home!

Fall Cleanup Checklist – Summary

Is your property a waterfront cottage? If it is, then you might want to start on tackling your dock and all your water toys, boats etc. when you still have time. Why? Because you cannot rely on the weather once fall sets in. Snow can come at your door without knocking!

Below is the summary of our checklist. I will break them down to the dirty, gritty truth below.

  1. So that will be number one on my list – your water front .
  2. Motor boat, speed boat, fishing boat and what not.
  3. Non-motor boat – your canoes, paddle boat, kayaks etc.
  4. The Bunkie – or your waterfront storage. At least for us, that’s where all the water/garden toys go. Portable charcoal BBQ and lakeside patio chairs.
  5. Patio furniture on your deck.
  6. Garden decors and solar lights
  7. BBQ cleanup – charcoal and gas
  8. Grounds clean up – we don’t wait until all leaves has fallen out.
  9. Waterline – the lake is where we get our water supply
  10. Firewood storage – pile and store

The Water Front

As I have stressed above, this should be number one in your list. Most Canadian cottages do their close down, during or the week after the Canadian thanksgiving weekend. Once fall sets in, you are really in the mercy of mother nature.

Depending on where your cottage is located, you can expect a snowfall anytime during the month of October. Luckily in Ontario, not that much. But rain, is not really a better option, Especially when it starts to rain almost every weekend.

Paddle boat submerged

Perfect example is this poor paddle boat that needed rescuing! 2 weekends of heavy rain in cottage country, pushed as back pretty bad. You can’t do much when the ground is wet either. The paddle boat has totally submerged and has been filled with water inside.

Extra work (and heavy!) we have to do, but nonetheless necessary. We don’t hire a maintenance crew for everything cottage related. We can still do it ourselves and the cost can skyrocket. You don’t want to spend all your rental profits paying for things that you can still do yourself.

That brings us to the next one – Motor boats

When you own an old boat like us, you run into the risk of your boat not starting. It can be due to a number of reasons. But ours is partly due to it being out in the rain for two weeks, hence the battery went dead.

Also, all boats old and new alike, need to be winterize. Even when you have a regular go to guy for this, you run into the risk of getting rejected when you wait for the last minute.

In cottage country and during the fall season, these guys are super busy, and there’s not very many of them here. Fortunately, we got a spot! After the battery charges for one full day, the boat finally started, so off we go.

Get your boat winterized

Non motor boat and bunkie clean up

After the rain finally stopped, we did what we can during that one full day of dryness. We supply water toys and lawn/garden toys for our renters, and every year it multiplies! People have been leaving their inflatables as “donation” at the cottage since day one.

Most are still usable, but there are some that should have just went directly to the dump. That also is true for the water gun and sand toys. So sorting the good from the bad can take some of your precious time too.

Don’t wait for the next season to do this, as there’s quite a bit of task to do at this time. Check out our spring checklist here. All the bad goes to the dump and all the good get stored in the Bunkie.

All beach side patio chairs goes inside the Bunkie, as well as the lakeside charcoal bbq grill. Do this all at once and you are done with your clean up.

Paddle boat and canoes, must be dealt with right away, before the next rain fall starts to pour in. we have a real muscle workout turning that paddle boat upside down to drain all the water inside. Boy that’s heavy, as we found out the hard way!

Lawn chairs and patio furnitures

When you are like us, we have two sets of patio furniture for the renters, including 2 chaise lounges and probably more than half a dozen Adirondack chairs or Muskoka chairs as we call them here.

We store them in our basement so it is very important that these furnitures are bone dry before it goes inside. It is quite a challenge so timing is really of the essence. And once dry, we are ready to roll them in.

Garden decors and solar lights

Yes, they are on my list. Why? Because they cost a fortune and I wreck them almost every year for leaving them out all winter long! They just wont last if they get covered in snow for more than 3 months. Depending on when the snow thaws and finally reveals the forgotten solar lights!

I have a lot of solar lights by the lakeside patio, and they are so easy to be forget during clean up. Mainly because I love to leave them out there in the fall.

This year, I remembered them, but there’s quite a few that’s already dead. I would try and revive them and hopefully it gets a second season. Otherwise, another casualty that is added to my list.

All the same with your garden décor. When it will be covered all winter season in mostly 6 feet of snow (yes, it goes that high in cottage country), you are better off taking them in for the next summer’s use.

10 Fall Cleanup Checklist

BBQ cleanup

When you are a seasonal rental property, it is very important that you do this cleanup right after the rental season. You would be able to roughly gauge your renter’s usage, although this can vary every year.

It is still good to use this estimate when trying to figure out how many propane tank to store in a weekly or monthly basis, depending on how many times you want it checked out. When you run out of propane gas for your BBQ, you may end up paying more to have someone come in and change it. Even worse, have the renter change it themselves during their vacation!

Grounds cleanup

Leaves starts to fall and accumulate early in October. But mid-month is the best time to start doing the sprucing up and rid of those leaves on the ground. Paying someone to do the dirty job for you is costly, due to the amount of work they do.

The cost can range between $175-250, so if you want to save on maintenance, just grab yourself a nice leaf blower and do it yourself. Just remember to do it on a slow pace and making sure you do it on different days so as not to physically stress yourself.

Waterline (Pipe)

If your main source of water is the lake, you have ensure your waterline(pipe) is off the water before the lake starts to freeze. You are looking at mid-October to early November. Last weekend, our temperature dipped down to -3 overnight, sending us into panic mode. So we needed to fill up our drums and be ready than sorry and our waterline must be off the water in a week or two.

Off course this routine is not applicable when you have a heated waterline (one thing we are considering next year) or a drilled well as your main water source.


If you are like us, you are probably still keeping it “open for business” for personal or family and friends use only. Either way, you need to stock pile those firewood for the coming cold weather season.

Not very many waterfront cottage property will have a propane gas furnace hook-up, and are mostly just equipped with a wood stove like us. We supplement our electric baseboard heater with our wood burning stove.

Electricity cost way too much at cottage country and firewood cost less than what you would be willing to pay for the entire season. Another reason most cottages closed down after the summer season is over. But we love going up during winter time. Not to mention again, cutting back on winter maintenance cost.

Nothing wrong with learning through experience with regards to everything cottage related. You want to start living the cottage life, this is part of it. Now pile up those firewood as it is going to be a long cold night ahead!



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