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Button up your cabin for winter

Take these steps now to make sure your cabin is ready for the off-season and in good shape next spring.

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Turn off the water

Turn off the water

Water damage from undetected plumbing leaks will quickly ruin ceilings, floors and walls, leading to repair bills in the thousands. This is especially true if nobody is around to notice it when the leak starts. Look for the main valve near the water meter and turn it clockwise to close it. If it's stuck, leaks or doesn't turn on again, hire a plumber to replace it. The ice maker in your refrigerator may freeze up while you're gone, so shut it off or thaw it with a hair dryer when you return. If you have a well, turn off the curb stop to stop all water entering the house. Or, you can turn off the circuit breaker that controls the well pump, but even after doing that, you still have to drain water from the interior plumbing if your cabin remains unheated in the winter. Add RV glycol solution to toilets, floor drains, sink and shower traps to keep them from freezing. If you don't heat in winter, drain the pipes by attaching a hose to the lowest point in the plumbing, then blow out all the water with an air compressor.

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Disconnect garden hosesvubaz/Shutterstock

Disconnect garden hoses

A small bit of water can cause really big damage. A garden hose that's left connected to a spigot will trap water inside the spigot. When that water freezes, it can bust open the spigot, the hose or both. Sometimes the pipe behind the spigot bursts and sprays hundreds of gallons inside the house. This can happen even with a frost-proof spigot and even if the water supply is off. So always disconnect garden hoses before winter arrives. To install a new frost-proof outdoor faucet, follow these five steps.

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Store boats and water sports equipmentAnne Kitzman/Shutterstock

Store boats and water sports equipment

Clean and store boats, dock paraphernalia, dock ladder, life jackets and other water sports equipment. Store outdoor furniture and hammocks. If the cabin is in the snow belt, either cover outdoor tables or tip them up so that they don't get damaged by the weight or the melting of snow.

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Winterize cabin furnaceSerenethos/Shutterstock

Winterize cabin furnace

If you leave the heat on, make sure to clean your furnace filter to maximize efficiency. A badly clogged air filter can cause the furnace to overheat and shut off, so replace it if it's dirty. It can be hard to tell with some filters, so consider installing an air filter gauge that lets you know when it's time to replace the filter.

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Trim overhanging branchesIndy Edge/Shutterstock

Trim overhanging branches

Trim trees around the cabin so dead branches won't crash down on the roof because of a windstorm or snowstorm. Trim overgrown branches from bushes growing next to the cabin so snow-laden branches don't damage the siding or offer shelter to critters seeking a cozy spot to hunker down for the winter.

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Block pestsFamily Handyman

Block pests

Look for gaps around the foundation, eaves, soffits, windows, doors and siding. Seal leaks with insulating foam to keep out cold air and pests. Or you can try one of these methods: fill gaps with steel wool, cover with sheet metal, or fill with caulk, plaster or cement. Remove all perishable foods; store canned and dry goods in air-tight/critterproof containers. Close the damper to the fireplace and seal it off to prevent animal invasion. Make sure the chimney cap is secure and undamaged. Mice can enter a building through surprisingly small holes.

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Change the gas in all your small enginesPhotographee.eu/Shutterstock

Change the gas in all your small engines

Standard gas at the pump can gum up a carburetor on a small engine in just a few months. Suck out the gas from the tank with a turkey baster and run the engine dry. Then add a bit of non oxygenated gas, which has a longer shelf life. You can also add a splash of fuel stabilizer and run the engine for a while on the good stuff before storing it. Find out what small engine mechanics say about how stale gas could be killing your small engines.

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Empty flower potsphotoiconix/shutterstock

Empty flower pots

If you leave clay, ceramic, or glass pots outside over the winter, you may end up with cracked or broken flowerpots because the moist soil inside them expands when it freezes. Empty the pots or make sure the soil is dry (and keep the pots covered) or take the pots in for the winter. When you're planting next spring, remember this tip for making sure flower pots don't get too heavy to move.

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Pack away the gas grillPhotoSerg/Shutterstock

Pack away the gas grill

With winter on its way, now's the time to pack away your grill. First give your grill a thorough cleaning to remove grease and food scraps, and then take these steps to help prevent any unpleasant surprises when you fire up your grill again next spring.

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Clean up roof and guttersIndy Edge/Shutterstock

Clean up roof and gutters

Clean out gutters, and inspect roof for shingles that are raised or cracked; leaking roofs and clogged gutters can lead to significant water damage.

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Reduce Fire Risklittleny/Shutterstock

Reduce Fire Risk

Store firewood and rake and remove leaves at least 30 ft. from buildings.

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Protect appliancesLuisa Leal Photography/Shutterstock

Protect appliances

Install a surge protector to protect electronics from power surges caused by lightning strikes. If you don't have surge protection, unplug computers and major appliances. Leave the door ajar on an unplugged refrigerator to prevent musty odors or mildew from developing. Place a dishtowel in the door to keep it from closing.