Living At The Cottage Year Round

I knew when I retired from working a day job it was going to come to this….lot’s of free time and wanting to be at the cottage. The trouble is of course, the cottage is called a ‘summer home’ or summer place’ for a reason, it isn’t winterized.

Now by winterized, I don’t mean winterizing a cottage by disconnecting the water so the water pipes etc don’t freeze through the winter, nor do I mean winterized so that it is warm enough to stay in overnight occasionally.

What I really mean is that it would be capable of being fully used year-round. In other words, having heat and running water 12 months a year, not having to drain the water system and not closing up the place for 3 or 4 months because it is too cold to use and there is no running water.

Not having any running water wasn’t too bad for the few weekends we would use the cottage during the winter when we were working. But now, now that I have lots of time, not having running water at the cottage is a problem, or shall I say ‘big inconvenience’ because we want to stay there longer than a day or two at a time.

 I don’t mind roughing it anymore than the next person, infact I enjoy ‘roughing it’ occasionally, but not for days on end.

While I can appreciate that lots of folks do, and of course lots of folks live without running water all the time, that is not my idea of fun.

So I have been thinking about the options for having year round use of the cottage, specifically the water.

I have come to the conclusion that although it certainly can be done, it comes at a price. 

Other than some kind of makeshift arrangement that allows us to connect and disconnect the water quickly and easily each time we want to use it, having year-round running water requires quite a few changes to the existing cottage and it’s plumbing system.

First of all, we need a way to keep the water on all year, which means drawing water from the lake is not very feasible given that the lake freezes solid for 3 or 4 months, January to March, (at least) and sometimes earlier.

So that means we will need a well of some sort, either a dug well with crocks etc, or a drilled well.

While both of those options are doable, they come at a price, sometimes quite a steep price, although a dug well may be the lesser of the two, considering that there is probably no problem to find water on my cottage land.

Of course the water has to be “good water” meaning potable, or drinkable water in order to be of much use, that could be a problem given the arsenic and other undesirable substances that can be found in well water.

A drilled well is probably the preferred way to go, but one of my neighbors went that route recently and at something around 1000 feet down still only came up with sand…..not a good sign….and drilled wells get costly too.

On the other hand another neighbor not too far away has a drilled well and has no problem with water whatsoever, so a little bit of luck is involved too, obviously.

Assuming we get water, i.e. we dig a well etc, and all is fine with the water, the next thing is getting that water to the house without freezing.

That’s not the problem really, the water line just goes underground until it comes into the camp, the problem then becomes keeping heat on in the cottage all the time so that the water pipes inside don’t freeze.

It also means finding a way to keep the water line coming from underground up and into the cottage from freezing as well.  

Unfortunately a wood stove won’t cut it. It might provide lots of heat, but only when you are there 24-7 to keep feeding it fuel. So that means oil heat or electric heat, or some version of that, maybe a heat pump. More money…..

I haven’t mentioned that  in order to have running water year-round, we’ll probably end up needing to put the cottage on a foundation instead of posts.

It could be done without a foundation, by bringing all the pipes and the water pump inside the camp, similar to a mobile home, perhaps no foundation just “skirting” but of course either way, we are talking about spending even more money…..and without a foundation, I have a nagging feeling that keeping the water from freezing could be problematic.

Of course a foundation turns the place from a camp or cottage into a house, and if it is a house we probably would end up moving there to live and that means the building itself might not be quite big enough to be a house, so then what-do-ya-do?  I would have to build onto the place, more closets, bigger bedrooms, a second bathroom, increase the floor space…..more money…..

Of course there are undoubtably some creative ideas that folks have for doing this, and I would absolutely love to hear them.

This year, as in other years, whenever I am crawling around underneath the cottage disconnecting the water I find myself saying, “there must be a better way” but as yet I haven’t figured it out.

 I have considered moving all the water pipes inside, run them along a wall etc, but that might be rather unsightly.

I have also considered moving the bathroom and kitchen so they are back to back, which would enable me to have all the pipes, the water pump etc in one small area under the cottage, which could be closed up, insulated and heated, perhaps with a light bulb.

To date that is the best idea I can come up with short of a foundation, but that means some dramatic changes to the interior of the cottage to move the bathroom closer to the kitchen. 

All this thinking is making my head hurt……….

I guess it is all fun to ponder, gives me something to do to while away the long, cold winter. Other than spending lots of money I think my only hope might be global warming…..hmmmm….that might not be so bad, hot days year round….the concept sounds better all the time….boating in December, balmy days in January, swimming in the lake in February,  gardening in March…..I wonder how much an air conditioning unit costs?

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