G. Bruce MacDonald Real Estate

Independently owned & operated, Brokerage


Cottage Inspection Tips and Information

A cottage is your escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life - a place to relax and enjoy nature with family and friends. But nothing can spoil your summer fun like a cottage plagued with costly and time consuming maintenance problems. The best way to avoid these headaches is to know how to spot common problems and pitfalls before you buy.

As with a house, a qualified home inspector should be hired before purchasing your vacation home. The inspector will determine the structural and mechanical soundness of the cottage as well as existing and potential problem areas. By commissioning a home inspection prior to purchase, you're protecting both yourself and your investment, as well as buying a little peace-of-mind. Your Royal LePage sales representative can recommend a reputable home inspection service or arrange for a home inspector to visit your property, but there are areas that you can first examine on your own.

Cottages differ from houses in that they are typically unoccupied for large portions of the year. This makes them more vulnerable to infestation, freezing pipes, mildew, vandalism and theft. When viewing a cottage you should examine the following problem areas. While no single problem may be a reason to dismiss the property, it will give you an idea of what you will need to repair before you move in.


Signs of infestation: Check along the foundation, under eves, around windows, doors, vents and chimneys for signs that animals or insects have entered the cottage. Small piles of sawdust, unsecured holes, nests, signs of chewing and animal droppings are good indicators.

Roof: Look for loose or missing shingles. A sagging roof means that a costly replacement is imminent.

Decks and stairs: Check for rotten timber, missing nails, warping and peeled paint. If the deck is listing or sagging it may not be safe.

Dock: Look for signs of rot, missing nails and warping. Are the floats and/or supports in good shape? Are swimming ladders, tie-ups and other hardware affixed firmly to the dock?

Trees and utility poles: Check for dead or leaning trees or utility poles that could be a hazard to you or the building.

Windows and doors: Check caulking and weather stripping around all doors and windows. Check for signs of rot on frames and sills.

Siding: Examine the siding for loose or missing planks. Look for peeling or bubbling paint.

Driveway and access roads: Is the driveway full of potholes, puddles or trenches? Is the access road private or publicly owned? If it is privately owned who maintains it and are there any special conditions concerning its use?

Septic and water supply: Is the water pump, well and pipes in good condition? Is there a sewage system or a septic tank/field? How old is the septic system?


General state of repair: Note the general state of the cottage. Is it clean and well kept? Walls in need of paint, loose banisters etc. can be an indication that larger problems have also been ignored.

Electrical: Check fuse box for signs of water damage. Test all light switches and outlets. If any appliances are included ensure they are in good working order.

Furnace: Check for overall condition. Turn on the heat to determine effectiveness and noisiness.

Water damage: Examine ceilings and walls for stains and bulges. Excessive mildew can be a sign of a leak or poor ventilation.

Infestation: Small piles of sawdust, signs of chewing and animal droppings are good indicators.

Plumbing: Turn on all faucets to test water pressure and hot water. Flush toilets to ensure proper drainage. Examine the base of faucets, bathtubs and under sinks for signs of water damage. Ask about water quality. Is the water drinkable or will you have to boil it or bring your own for drinking and cooking?

Security: Unoccupied cottages can be an easy target for burglars. Are there good locks on all outside doors and windows? An alarm system?