Lake House Living in Winter

We use our lake house as a week-end retreat all year long.  It is close enough (90 minutes) that we just want to be there as often as possible, no matter what the weather.  We enjoy our pre-retirement vacation home that much.

Although we live in the mid-south, using our lake house in winter is an entirely different experience compared to using it in the summer.  Fortunately, the house is fully equipped for year-round living.  In fact, that is the first issue you need to address when looking to purchase a vacation home or home for retirement that is on a lake.  If you want to use it during all seasons and your proposed vacation home is in a region where winter weather is a factor, you should consider the following:

1.  Can you get to it?  In some extreme northern or remote locations, roads to lake front property are closed or impassable at certain times of year. 

2.  Can you keep it warm?  In my opinion, this means insulation and central heating.  Although the concept of staying warm in front of a fireplace in a lake cabin that is not insulated may sound charming or romantic, the pleasure won’t last long.  We have a heat pump and a fireplace and on very cold days, it can be hard to keep the entire house warm.  In fact, our next purchase is going to be a high tech space heater that we can move from room to room as needed.  You may get by with a fireplace insert heater but if your lake cabin is not insulated, forget it.  Even if you can keep enough heat in, you will spend a lot of time and money stoking the fire.  Cold drafts will probably be part of your life as well.

3.  Can you get water?  We draw our water from a county water system, meaning that as long as we protect our pipes, we can get water in even the coldest weather.  Many lake homes depend at least in part on well water or even lake water.  Reliably drawing water from natural sources during the coldest months can be a real problem.  Freezing is always a concern.  You don’t want to have to spend your time thawing out water systems for your basic water needs.

4.  Will you enjoy the downtime?  This is a big issue for some.  If your primary enjoyment from a lake house derives from water-based activities (fishing, boating, swimming), you will need alternatives for winter living at the lake.  In our case, we enjoy the solitude, the peace and quiet, and the natural beauty.  We are also fortunate to have some year-round neighbors that we are friendly with.  If you are hoping to attract visitors from family and friends, they may not find “winter at the lake” as enjoyable as you do.  If you tend to the more gregarious side with a need for outside stimulation, winter living at the lake may not be for you.  If you are content with your spouse’s company, reading, writing (I blog a lot from the lake), and TV viewing, that really helps.

5.  Are stores and other resources nearby?  In many lake communities, some of the stores and other commercial facilities depend so much on summer traffic that they close or drastically cut back in the winter months.  The marina closest to us is one example.  You need to be sure that you can find a grocery store, etc. that is reasonably available in winter.  Otherwise, you will be storing and/or transporting a lot of food.

These are some of my initial thoughts about winter living at the lake.  I will probably have some others to write about in the future.

Image credit:  Saso Skalic


  1. says

    We have two homes except they are over two days of driving apart. I think it would be perfect to have a home close by for weekends but make one home your primary residence. I sometimes feel like a divided person with no special roots. This year I think we are going to do eight and four.That might be a lot better.

  2. Billy says

    I recommend that you get an airtight woodstove. They will keep a bank of coals all night or at least most of the night and they put out a lot of heat. Get a heavy duty steel one. A flat top will allow you to put a kettle of hot water on top for humidification if you want. The walls should be hefty steel with brick liner. The doors should open enough to allow you to put in your logs. Usually they have vents that screw in/out on the doors so you can adjust the amount of air the fire gets. The doors will have a gasket around the opening so air doesn’t leak around the doors.

  3. Claudio says

    Hi,i have a house near the ocean —the only problem :the electronics–they keep breaking all the time(tv, stereo etc) do you know any brand that might be suitable for this type of condition(salt water). Thanks

  4. says

    Fort Loudoun Lake and Tellico Lake in East Tennessee offer year-round access to the water with water levels maintained at 813ft at full pool. Lake house owners can enjoy the mild winters and still have access to boating.

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