If you live in a seasonal climate, you are familiar with the major changes that can happen to the weather. If you live near the equator, you are used to constant heat and humidity, and sunrise/sunset at about the same time every day. Throughout most of the US, early spring through mid-late fall is t-shirt weather, and the temperature in the winter can plummet. Gone are the hot days and powerful sunlight. Say hello to the icy blast of old man winter.
Thanks to the changing global climate, seasonal changes have become more unpredictable. A polar vortex started above the Midwest and Canada in summer of this year. As global warming leads to an over all rise in the Earth’s temperature, winters are becoming milder and milder, right? Not exactly. Sometimes they are mild, but they are also more unpredictable. Sudden changes in humidity, temperature drops/rises, and wild storms are becoming the norm now.
Either way, we have some advice regarding winter construction. We intend to help you find answers to the following questions:What kind of problems should a construction contractor/builder expect in the winter? How can some of them be overcome or avoided? When do winter construction concerns effect you? How can a reliable commercial contractor help you if your project needs to get started in the winter?
When does mild winter weather actually effect your build?
If the winter months are mild in your location – then you might not have much to worry about. One of the biggest concerns is freezing temperatures. If your winter doesn’t usually involve freezing temperatures, you are better off than most in seasonal climates.
Storms can set you back
Another thing to look out for is winter storms. Even if you don’t experience freezing temperatures, humidity and inclement weather can stop construction as well. If your winter typically has torrents of cold rain, then construction will have to come to a halt. Mild wet winters can also rot wood, meaning halted construction can even be set back by the weather.
Whether your climate gets freezing or not in the winter, look out for incoming bad weather. Inclement weather of all kinds can halt building, or even destroy existing construction.
Less daylight means less work hours
One big problem working in the winter is that there is less daylight to work during. As the seasons change, the earth’s exposure to the sun changes with it. In the northern hemisphere, this means that the second half of the year sees the days get shorter and shorter. This culminates with the shortest day of the year on December 21st. It may not seem important, but less working hours can cause big problems. You are still spending the same amount of time and money transporting materials and people to the construction site, but the people working can get less done in a day than they can in the summer. Be prepared to get less work done per day than during other months. Costs will stay similar, but the work you can do for those costs is more limited. Some places in the continental US are already dark by around 4:30, 5:00 pm in the winter, and the sun rises later too.
Winter safety concerns
Winter is a more dangerous time to work than the summer in most of the US. Summer in certain hot states can be sweltering, with temps reaching into the 100s regularly. Summer heat is a danger itself, but it is the main danger in the summer. Besides heat and occasional severe storms, summer is a safe construction season.
Winter construction offers several other types of worries.
The cold is dangerous to workers. Especially cold mixed with chilling wind, workers can’t be out for too long in freezing places that drop to -20 or below. Additionally, the hard work that people do during building results in sweating. This sweat can freeze in the cold and become a danger. The cold makes hypothermia, frostbite (especially on the extremities), and trench foot all real concerns.
High winds can be very bad for construction sites. High winds can knock over high loads, destroy scaffolding, and dislodge unfinished construction. Also, workers working up high need to be careful not to be buffeted by strong wind.
Any precipitation can be dangerous when weather is near or at freezing. Water that gets in – or is not removed from – the construction site can freeze overnight. Firstly, this water can freeze, and when it does so, it expands. So if it is in a small area, it can damage the location that it is in, causing cracks, breaks, and other unexpected problems. Secondly, and much more importantly, the frozen water can be a big safety concern. People can slip on ice, as can heavy machinery. The last thing a construction site needs is a crane or bulldozer losing traction and backsliding to do some damage to the site or hurt someone.
One off the biggest problems with construction in winter is that you can’t use concrete on frozen ground. This is because when the ground warms back up and thaws in the spring, the ground will settle. This means that it will go to a more normal resting position. Normally, this is good, but when there is a big concrete block poured, it’s not, as the changing earth can crack/break the concrete. Poured concrete also takes ages to set in freezing weather. A concrete pour might have crusting, as the top freezes and the bottom is still soft.
Pouring concrete in freezing temperatures is a great way to ruin your project.
What to do if you have to build in the winter
If you don’t have a choice, and need a construction project finished or started this winter, come to Reliable Commercial. We are a large team with over 35 years of experience. Not only can we help you decide on what parts of your construction can be done over the winter, but we can ensure a winter build goes smoothly. Our experience and professionalism ensures your project will be completed on time, on budget, and to your highest standards. Contact us today to get started.