Here’s How to Get Your Cabin Ready for Summer

Ready to kick back and relax at your family's summer cabin? Make sure your cabin is ready for you with this essential cabin checklist.

Whether you’re an old pro at cabin life or preparing for your first opening weekend, remember that no summer home is move in-ready just because you are vacation-ready. Expect to spend some time on maintenance tasks, repairs and even a few administrative duties before you shift into full-on chilling-in-the-hammock mode.

“(This) will help ward off future issues and ensure you can enjoy your home to the fullest extent possible,” says Chris Marotta, maintenance lead for Vacasa, a vacation rental company specializing in lakefront and mountainside cabins.

Not sure exactly what those cabin-opening tasks, repairs and duties are? We get it; it can be overwhelming. We’ve put together a checklist of the things you need to do to get your cabin ready for the summer vacation season.

Prepare for Returning to Your Cabin

Here are the things you need to do before you fill the cooler, toss your gear into the back of the car and hit the highway.

  • Make sure your cabin insurance is up to date. This includes your homeowner’s insurance, as well as insurance on all your recreational equipment (boats, ATVs, etc.).
  • Do you like to fish at your lakeside cabin? If so, you probably need a fishing license. Get one before you go so you’re all set once you arrive.
  • If you turned off the utilities while your cabin sat empty over the winter, call the utility companies in advance so you’ve got heat, air conditioning, running water, internet and phone service once you get there.
  • Pack and replenish your essentials. This includes anything you take home at the end of the season and anything that does stay but that you ran out of last year.

Common, Everyday Cabin Essentials

These include:

  • Cleaning supplies;
  • Towels and linens;
  • Toilet paper and paper towels;
  • A basic toolkit;
  • A shop vacuum (not a regular vacuum) to quickly clean up the dust and debris that accumulate over the winter, including wet messes;
  • First aid kits;
  • Sunscreen and insect repellant;
  • Keys. Have a spare set made, just in case.

Work on Cabin Maintenance Over a Weekend

Fixing Up a Cabin Westend61/Getty Images

Now that you’re at the cabin, the fun can begin, right? Well, not exactly. Your first visit to the cabin should be dedicated to work, says Spike Carlsen, former Family Handyman editor and author of Cabin Lessons: A Nail-by-Nail Tale.

“One big thing is to just set aside a weekend (to make sure the cabin is in good shape),” Carlsen says. “Don’t bring a bunch of friends right away thinking you are going to party.”

Why? Because you never know what might need your immediate attention. Your entire stay will be much more enjoyable if you do these tasks right away. “If you open things up right … you can kick back (and relax) much more quickly,” Carlsen says.

Dedicating a few days to cabin maintenance is always the right call, according to Leaf Home Solutions President and CEO Jeff Beck. “Routine home maintenance is the best thing you can do to avoid surprises and avoidable costs … and enjoy it all summer without a second thought,” Beck says.

Maintenance Task Checklist

Here are some maintenance tasks you should do as soon as you arrive:

  • Check for structural damage to the foundation.
  • Wind, rain and ice can cause damage, so inspect the roof, deck, windows, doors, etc. to ensure your cabin is safe for occupancy. Make repairs if needed. If you have a dock, inspect it as well.
  • Insects, mice and other pests sometimes make themselves at home in unoccupied cabins. Get rid of these critters ASAP, for obvious reasons.
  • Change your smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector batteries, or replace the entire unit if necessary.
  • Turn your water on at the main valve. If you have a well, start the pump.
  • Inspect your pipes for cracks and leaks.
  • “Walk in with your ears and your nostrils open,” says Carlsen. Sound and smell often alert you to anything out of sorts.
  • Change filters and lightbulbs.
  • Clean everything. This includes dusting, sweeping, wiping down all surfaces and scrubbing appliances. Open the windows, too, to replace stagnant air and get the place smelling fresh.

That should get you started. Your own list might differ slightly, depending on the age of your cabin, where it’s located and whether you spent any time there during the off-season. Once everything’s in tip-top shape, relax and have a great summer!

Dawn Weinberger
Dawn Weinberger is a freelance writer who has contributed to numerous publications and websites over the past 20 years, including Reader's Digest, Forbes Home, Glamour, Women's Health, Entrepreneur, Your Dog, Northwest Construction News, and many others. Dawn has a BA in journalism from Western Washington University and is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA). With the help of her well-honed research skills and arsenal of subject matter experts, Dawn has written about a variety of topics for FamilyHandyman.com, including home improvement, pet care, insurance, trampoline safety, pests, and more. Dawn is a former landlord who recently completed a largely DIY renovation of her Portland, Oregon, home, where she lives with her husband, daughter, and cat.