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Getting Your Muskoka Cottage Rental Ready

Flooded with city dwellers chasing staycations and tourists checking out prospective property purchases, the Muskoka area has been unusually active this season.

Capitalizing on this renewed interest, many residents are moving into the rental market but making that leap can be intimidating. Getting your home ready for guests needn’t be a hassle, however. With a bit of advance preparation, you can earn your extra income worry-free while introducing newcomers to the beauty of the Muskokas.

7 tips to prepare for renting

1. Check the rules

Before opening your door to renters, check your local bylaws. Most Muskoka areas allow short-term rentals but have their own protocol around how they’re managed. 

For example, the Town of Huntsville operates a Short-Term Rental Accommodation program that requires property owners to get a licence if they want to rent for 28 days or less. And last year Gravenhurst announced it would be implementing a similar program.

2. Think about how you’re marketing your property, and to whom

Experienced renters know that there are various ways to rent your property so don’t fall into the trap of heading straight for AirBnB. 

Home exchanges provide a more formal alternative. These are generally longer-term stays so property owners have a chance to develop a relationship with their renters and both parties tend to be more forgiving. 

It’s important to consider beforehand who you want in your property, and what they might need. If you’re renting to a family, is your home kid-friendly? Are you willing to accept pets? Do your renters need any special accommodations e.g for a disability? Find out beforehand so everyone knows where they stand.

3. Clear your clutter

Once your rental is booked it’s time to get busy! Start by moving all personal items and other clutter to a storage unit or your primary residence if there’s room. This not only makes it easier for renters to unpack and settle in, it also minimizes the risk of them damaging your belongings.

4. Clean up!

Don’t forget to clean up before guests arrive. It sounds obvious but many property owners forget this step or do a hurried wipe over visible surfaces and call it a day. 

Invest in a professional cleaning service to make sure everything’s as clean as possible and your renters will appreciate the extra attention to detail – especially given the recent pandemic.

5. Leave a guide for your renters

Every house is different, with its own quirks and oddities. You can’t expect your renters to automatically know how everything works so spell it out for them. 

Leave clear instructions on your utilities – covering water, heat, internet, TV, and anything else people need to know when living in your space. 

Creating a guide for renters is also a great opportunity to go the extra mile. You may want to include a section on local amenities, sharing your knowledge as a local so they can quickly get to know the area. Little touches like this will help you attract repeat business.

6. Troubleshoot in advance

If you’ve been procrastinating on any repairs, now’s the time to tackle those jobs. Renters will expect everything in your home to work properly and shouldn’t be put in the position of having to call someone for a repair job or, worse, attempt their own DIY fix.

Operate from the principle of ‘what can go wrong, will go wrong’ and cast a critical eye over your home before opening it up to guests.

7. Don’t forget the exterior

Your renters aren’t coming to the Muskokas to sit inside all day. Expect them to make full use of the entire property. 

This means the exterior has to be as sparkling clean as the interior. Wash off any decking, mow the grass, pick up the leaves, clean the hot tub, and don’t forget to warn your renters of any potential hazards like a steep drop to the water or a deep pond. 


If you’re thinking about renting, you want your cottage to look its best. The experienced team at Muskoka Window and Door Centre can help you tackle any repairs or renovations, providing professional service, quality products, and post-project customer support. Contact us today to see how we can transform your property!

How does maintaining a cottage differ from a “regular” house?

Ontario cottage country has long been known as a coveted destination and the recent real estate boom continues to drive a steady stream of house-hunters to the Muskoka market. But for many of these purchasers, it’ll be the first time they’ve owned a cottage, rather than a house, and cottages come with their own unique quirks and considerations.

Are you closing it for the season? What about the water system? How’s it heated? There’s lots to think about before investing in a Muskoka cottage and savvy buyers do their homework. Being prepared will help you avoid any unpleasant surprises post-purchase so you can relax and enjoy your beautiful new home. 


Utilities are one of the most important considerations when moving from an urban area to a rural. For many new Muskoka homeowners, used to city services, it can be an adjustment to suddenly switch to well water or wood stoves.

Many cottages in the area are supplied by their own wells and operate on a septic system. If this is the case, it’s always a good idea to get the well water tested and the septic system inspected before buying. 

Some local municipalities offer a free well water testing that covers the basics but you can also pay a little more for a comprehensive test from a private lab. Septic tanks should be pumped every four years, so be sure to check the date of its last clean. And be careful what goes down your pipes – use septic-safe paper and avoid harsh drain cleaners. 

Pay attention to your new cottage’s heating source too. There’s more variety in rural areas, with some relying on oil, others choosing gas, and some opting for a hybrid system. The last thing you want in the depths of the freezing Muskoka winter is a furnace failure so it’s wise to invest in a back-up heat source, such as a wood stove. You may also want to consider a generator as the power supply is less reliable outside the city and your cottage could be without power for some time if there’s a bad winter storm.


Maintaining your cottage means more than just keeping it beautiful with a fresh coat of paint every so often. Safeguarding your features, fixtures and fittings against the lake country weather is a year-round job.

Given the dampness of the Muskoka area, wood rot is a common issue so take a close look at wooden window and door frames – it’s better to catch this invader in the early stages before it gains a foothold and spreads.

Regularly check your property for any leaks, cracks, or gaps. Improperly sealed windows and doors let the heat out, driving up your energy bills, and invite critters in. From bugs to raccoons, there’s a lot of cottage country residents you don’t want in your house. 

And don’t overlook the outdoors! Are there any landscaping features that will need continual upkeep? Is there a dock or other waterfront features that need to be maintained? 

Seasonal shutdown

As any Canadian knows, a big part of home maintenance is getting ready for winter. If you’re shutting your Bracebridge bolthole for the season, you need to make sure it’ll be safe and secure all winter long. 

Look for wood warping, unsealed areas, worn pipes, unstable trees – anything indoors and out that could endanger your property in the cold months.

If you’ve decided to brave the blizzards and stick around, make sure you won’t literally be stuck – check the access to your property and whether your local authorities provide plowing and emergency services in your area. Some are zoned as seasonal and largely ignored by their municipality until everything re-opens in spring.

Future plans

If you’re hoping to do any renovations or upgrades to your cottage, plan them carefully. 

The first step is checking local bylaws to see if you can make the changes you want and the second is finding a reliable contractor. Where possible, pick a local firm – these contractors know the area and will bring all that invaluable experience and expertise to your project.

Family-owned and operated, Muskoka Window and Door Centre has been helping cottage country homeowners maintain, renovate, and beautify their properties for over two decades. Contact our team today to see how we can help you make the most of your new home. 

Need New Windows? Choose a Cottage Country Contractor

As the summer season ramps up, many homeowners are thinking about giving their Muskoka cottage a new look

But where to start? Whether you want to upgrade your windows, try out a new style, or simply do some much-needed maintenance, you need a contractor you can trust.

With so many of Muskoka’s seasonal residents hailing from the city, it’s tempting to hunt around the GTA for a big firm that makes big promises. But if you really want the most for your dollar, and the best quality work, it’s worth shopping locally.

Reasons to stay local

1. Cost

Everyone has a budget in mind when they embark on renovations. New windows are a great investment in your lakefront home, but they come at a cost and that cost can quickly skyrocket when using contractors who aren’t familiar with the area.

City contractors often charge more in labor costs to offset the logistics of working in a partially remote area like the Muskokas. They’re also not as connected to the local construction network so may have difficulty sourcing the best materials for the best price. 

2. Expenses

Another hidden cost that may sink your bottom line is expenses. Sending contractors north means covering their travel, accommodation if they need it, and other expenses – all of which will show up on your final bill.

3. Local lore

Local contractors know the Muskokas. From Gravenhurst to Huntsville and Bracebridge to Georgian Bay, they’ve lived and worked in these communities for decades. 

That means they’re intimately familiar with the area’s challenges and pitfalls. They know the best type of glass to keep out the lakefront winds, they can find the best local materials at the cheapest price, and they can help you design your home in a way that complements the Muskoka landscape.

Contractors that live here year-round have an appreciation for the Muskoka climate, and what it can do to a home. They’re your cottage’s best defence against winter, casting an experienced eye over potential troublespots where chilly winds could invade your home or snow seep in.

And if you’re new to the area, local suppliers are an invaluable resource for getting to know your second home. They can give you the lowdown on the best activities, eateries, and shops – all the hidden gems that only a local knows.

4. Trained & trusted

Muskoka Windows & Door Centre is a family-owned firm, born and raised in the Muskoka area. Our team prides itself on its reputation for sterling service and local expertise. Over the years, we’ve helped hundreds of homeowners create their picture-perfect lakeside retreat – bringing our local knowledge, experience and skills to every project. 


We don’t use subcontractors, only our fully trained and trusted team, giving you peace of mind while we work on your property. It’s not too early to think about your spring or summer project – book now before spots fill up and get a guaranteed start date for your renovations. You can’t prepare for everything 2022 will bring, but you can at least ensure there are no leaky windows in your future!

What is the Procedure for Putting a Door Where a Window is?

It’s spring, which means many Muskoka homeowners are thinking about renovations. If you’re casting a creative eye over your cottage country property, you might be wondering just how to tackle the more complicated upgrades – like replacing a window with a door.


You might decide it’s time to turn your external window into a patio door, or you might want to freshen up a tired frame by replacing it with a stylish sliding door. Whatever the reason, this type of renovation is best done by a professional installer to ensure picture-perfect results and minimize the risk of accident and damage. An expert can also talk you through the structural issues involved and let you know which, if any, permits you need for the project. 


Step one: Do your homework

While converting a window is easier than creating a new door from scratch, there are still many things to consider with this home improvement project. 

Always check local bylaws first to see what permits you may need. These are easily accessible from the Muskoka district website and strictly enforced so homeowners ignore them at their peril. 

Secondly, consider the space – is there wiring where you want to renovate? Are there any structural weak spots? What size is the opening and will it need adjusting to fit your dream door?

It’s helpful to choose a wide window for your replacement as this gives you more room to work with, and makes it easier to fit double doors, sliding doors, or decorative frames for a single door.


Step two: Choose your door

Once you’ve got your permits and selected the ideal window opening, you can choose almost any door for your project. Conversions can be done for double, single, or sliding doors. They can also be adjusted for custom-made doors if you’ve a specific design in mind and installed with many different styles of frames. A professional installer can help you decide what style, shape, and design would work best for your space. Bear in mind that custom orders take longer than standard designs, so you may adjust your renovation timeline accordingly.


Step three: Installation

Removing a window involves cutting through the siding around the window before removing the rest of the siding, insulation, window frame, and pane. The door and its hardware is then safely slotted into the opening. 

Again, this is a job for professionals. An experienced contractor will ensure your door is properly fitted, insulated, and sealed so you don’t run into structural issues down the road. 


Muskoka Window and Door Centre is the premier provider of window and door installation services in cottage country. Family-owned and operated, we’ve been helping local homeowners from Bracebridge to Huntsville upgrade and maintain their properties for over 30 years. Our team works with leading North American manufacturers to offer the most current styles and features on the market and all our installations come with a 5-year workmanship and materials warranty. Contact us today to book your home improvement job and get a jump on summer reno season.