How to winterize a summer home

A 10-step checklist to prepare your vacation home for winter.


Goodbye, warm weather. Hello, freezing temperatures. When winter hits, tourism in several destinations goes into hibernation—especially along the coast where homes are typically built for summer vacations, in remote mountain areas, and around lakes and islands where transportation access is limited or on hiatus altogether. If you own a vacation rental in these areas, you might choose to shut down your property and prepare it to sit empty during the cold winter season.

From freezing pipes to losing roof shingles, the potential impact of not properly winterizing your vacation home can rack up thousands of dollars in damage (or, at the very least, lead to higher utility bills and wasted water and electricity). Most of these issues are caused by quick drops in temperature, thermostats set too low, or poor insulation. David Willis, who manages Vacasa's operations across 10 states and 2,000 vacation homes in the northeastern U.S., has overseen the winterizing of hundreds of homes. He outlines how to properly winterize your beach house or cabin to prevent any costly repairs come spring.

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1. Start with an inspection

You should be regularly evaluating your vacation home’s condition. It’s one of the best ways to avoid major or last-minute repairs. A few weeks before shuttering for the winter, closely examine your property, inside and out, from top to bottom. For instance, look for cracks or crevices in your home’s foundation, siding, and trim. Needed repairs can worsen in frigid temperatures.

“Then, continue to stay on top of small repairs as they come up throughout the year,” David advises. “You don’t want to be burdened by home improvement projects during your own stays.”

At Vacasa, we have local staff in all of our destinations who consistently keep an eye on our vacation rentals, plus schedule needed home repairs and manage maintenance.

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Stay on top of small repairs as they come up throughout the year. You don’t want to be burdened by home improvement projects during your own stays.

2. Heat and insulate properly

What’s most important is to not let the temperature inside your home get cold enough to freeze pipes in the first place. Some steps to take:

  • Set your thermostat to a temperature between 50° and 55°F—just high enough to prevent freezing inside your home. This range is also best to prevent mold and mildew from forming and grouted tiles from buckling.
  • Insulate exposed pipes and hose bibs.
  • Check insulation in your basement, attic, and crawl spaces.
  • Seal air leaks to stop cold air from blowing in. Common spots to inspect are around pipes, dryer vents, and electrical wiring.

3. Shut down your gas line

Whether you use natural gas or propane, call your service provider to shut off your gas line to prevent gas from entering your vacation home while it’s closed for the winter. This eliminates or reduces the risk of gas accidentally being released or ignited, David says.

4. Unplug all electronics and appliances

Pull the plug on all computers, toasters, entertainment centers, washer/dryers, and any charging devices. This will protect them from power surges.

If you’re shutting your vacation home down for the entire winter, unplug your refrigerator. It’s not efficient once ambient temperatures reach near freezing, costing you more money. Clean it out completely, including the freezer, and leave the doors ajar.

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5. Shut off and drain the water

Turn off the main water supply. Then, work your way around the house, starting with the lowest faucet and opening it up. Turn on every shower, sink, or faucet. And don’t forget to drain outdoor hoses and appliances, like washing machines and dishwashers. Flush toilets a few times to completely empty all water out of the bowl and tank.

Every home is plumbed differently and your summer home may require more steps beyond these basics, David adds. Consider calling in a professional plumber to help you protect your pipes in the winter.

If you rent through Vacasa, we’ll work with local plumbers to take the necessary precautions specific to your home.

6. Check the roof

Climb up to examine for raised shingles, which could mean the attic is not adequately ventilated or the shingles were improperly installed. Plus, strong winds could also lift up the shingle completely, exposing your roof to leaks. Check underneath your eaves for pests seeking a warm refuge and building nests. Also peek under the chimney, close the flue and damper, then place a cap on the top to prevent animals (and cold air) from coming in.

7. Clear your gutters

An often overlooked task, cleaning out your gutters is actually pretty vital for seasonal maintenance, David says. This ensures that melting ice and snow flow freely away from your home, instead of draining into your ceilings and walls. Top off the gutters with screens to stop pine needles, falling leaves, and other debris from falling in while you’re away.

8. Clean out your pantry and kitchen cabinets

Leaving food behind can attract rodents, the same culprits behind damaged electric wiring. So, it’s crucial to clear out your pantry or at least store non-perishables in air-tight containers. Thoroughly wipe down the kitchen counters and pantry shelves so no crumbs are left behind.

9. Protect outdoor furniture and amenities

“Your outdoor items deserve as much protection from winter’s harsh elements as your home’s interiors,” David advises. Wrap and cover furniture with waterproof tarps, or let your deck chairs hibernate for the winter by bringing them inside. Severe winter storms can easily pick up and dislodge even sturdy outdoor furniture or heavy barbecue grills. If your area is susceptible to storms, clear out and store all items that can easily become projectiles. Vacasa handles both protecting and storing items for all of our vacation homes.

10. Ask a trusted neighbor to check on your vacation rental

Even after doing everything right, things can still go amiss. For instance, power outages could shut down your thermostat, leaving your pipes vulnerable to freezing, or loose tree branches could crash through a window. Recruit a neighbor to periodically drop by your vacation home in case of any emergencies.

Even better, hire a property manager to check on your home. Vacasa has staff that live and work near all of our vacation rentals. “Our local team keeps watch over all of our rentals in the area, especially after severe weather events, such as heavy snows and deep freezes,” David explains.

“You should also have snow removal contractors lined up in case of extremely heavy snow on your rooftops, decks, and balconies. When you rent your home through Vacasa, we’ll arrange that work for you.”

Another great option: Leave the heat running and the reservations coming

If you’ve invested in heating systems and your destination is still attracting visitors (and doesn’t normally experience severe weather conditions), a more lucrative option for the winter season is to keep your vacation home up and running and open for bookings. “Travel trends are changing. We have guests searching for quiet and peaceful beach and lake homes in the colder months, especially around the holidays,” David says. “Your winter rental revenue could quickly provide a return on your investment.”

Plus, your local Vacasa team will watch over your home all year round.

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We have guests searching for quiet and peaceful beach and lake homes in the colder months... Your winter rental revenue could quickly provide a return on your investment.

Winter is coming. And, along with it the snow, rain, and wind that can wreak havoc on your vacation homes’ exteriors and interiors if not properly protected. With these expert tips, you can safeguard your vacation rental every winter.

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Winterizing a vacation home FAQ

Take these precautions to prevent your pipes from freezing and bursting while you’re away in the winter:

  1. Turn off your water supply. If your home has a fire sprinkler system in place, don’t turn off the water to that safety system.
  2. Drain your pipes of remaining water by flushing the toilet to clear out the tank and bowl, plus open all faucets.
  3. Consider pouring non-toxic antifreeze in pipes and toilets to prevent standing water from freezing.
  4. Shut off your gas water heater using the valve at the bottom. Then, shut off the water supply to the water heating using the top valve.
  5. Clear the water heater by using a hose attached to the drain valve.
  6. If you have a pool, consider calling a specialist to drain that as well.
  7. Set your thermostat to a temperature between 50° and 55°F—just high enough to prevent freezing inside your home.
  8. If you’re not comfortable winterizing your pipes and plumbing on your own, consider reaching out to a licensed plumber. They’ll be able to blow compressed air through the pipes to confirm the pipes are fully drained. Plus, every home has different plumbing and your home may require extra precautions.

When calculating the costs to winterize your vacation home and protect it from possibly damaging cold conditions, consider what you can handle on your own (like unplugging appliances and securing outdoor furniture) and which tasks are best handled by professionals (such as checking your roof and emptying out a pool). When you work with Vacasa, we’ll arrange the proper vendors to make sure that your vacation home is protected throughout the winter, inside and out.

It’s best to set your thermostat between 50° and 55°F to keep your home’s floors and wall cavities (where your pipes are typically located) warm enough to prevent freezing. Consider also keeping room and cabinet doors open to help circulate the heat throughout the home.

From guest screening to regular inspections, see how else Vacasa protects your investment.

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California licenses
Vacasa Seasonals Inc.
California DRE #02160171

Vacation Palm Springs Real Estate, Inc.
California DRE #01523013

Vacasa offers property management and other real estate services directly through Vacasa LLC and through Vacasa LLC's licensed subsidiaries. Click here for more information about Vacasa's licensed real estate brokerage/property manager in your state. Vacasa’s licensed real estate brokerages/property managers include: Vacasa Alabama LLC; Vacasa Arizona LLC; Vacasa of Arkansas LLC; Vacasa Colorado LLC (Micah Victory); Vacasa Delaware LLC, 302-541-8999; Vacasa Florida LLC; Vacasa Illinois LLC 481.014072, Micah Victory Managing Broker Lic# 471.021837; Vacasa Louisiana LLC, Dana MacCord, Principal Broker, ph 504.252.0155 (Licensed in LA); Vacasa Michigan LLC, 602-330-9934; Vacasa Missouri LLC, Vicki Lyn Brown, Designated Broker; Vacasa Nevada LLC; Vacasa New Hampshire LLC,45 NH-25, Meredith, NH 03253, Susan Scanlon, Broker of Record; Vacasa Minnesota, Broker: Micah Victory, license #40877637; Vacasa New Mexico LLC, 503-345-9399; Vacasa New York LLC, 888-433-0068, Susan Scanlon, Real Estate Broker; Vacasa North Carolina LLC; Vacasa Oregon LLC; Vacasa Pennsylvania LLC; Vacation Palm Springs Real Estate, Inc., California DRE #01523013, Mark Graham, California DRE #00700720; Vacasa Real Estate LLC (licensed in Texas, Debra Brock, Designated Broker); Vacasa Real Estate LLC (licensed in Washington, Robert Brush, Designated Broker); Vacasa Seasonals Inc., California DRE #02160171, Lisa Renee Stevens, California DRE #01485234; Vacasa South Carolina LLC; Vacasa South Dakota LLC; Vacasa Tennessee LLC; Vacasa Vacation Rentals of Hawaii LLC, 69-201 Waikoloa Beach Dr. Ste. #2F17, Waikoloa, HI 96738; Vacasa Vacation Rentals of Montana LLC, Terah M. Young, Licensed Property Manager; Vacasa Virginia LLC; Vacasa Wisconsin LLC; Vacasa Wyoming LLC. In Canada, this advertisement is provided by Vacasa Canada ULC, CPBC lic. number 75826, 172 Asher Rd. V1X 3H6 Kelowna, BC.