Winter Construction Tips for Both Contractors and Homeowners
When the leaves start to fall, one thing is sure—it is almost winter. And depending on your location, weather can certainly increase project costs and affect scheduling. Knowing the weather can take a turn for the worse at any time, it is important to take advantage of every nice day. Below are some tips for winter construction you may want to consider:
- A contractor’s bid for the project is where it starts. You might bid a project in the summer that does not start until winter. This can be especially true today with long lead times for materials and specialty items. Winter protection, such as temporary shelter, heat, snowplowing, and salting, should be clarified in your proposal if needed.
- Site work is always a priority. Installing underground laterals, storm sewers, parking lot curbs, and the parking lot stone base can put the project ahead of the game. Depending on when the asphalt plants close for winter, being able to install the asphalt binder course and temporary parking lot striping can allow some businesses to open in winter before the asphalt is finished in spring. This also gives a clean staging area for construction. Grading and drum rolling the landscape areas around the building before freezing can help shed water and make exterior work easier.
- Getting the building enclosed is another priority. Sometimes, covering the exterior walls with proper sheeting and Tyvek can allow walls to be insulated if the roof is sealed up. Getting temporary heat into the building can move the project forward. Concrete floors may need to be poured at this time. Hanging temporary fans from the ceiling and sealing up any openings can help with heating costs. It is critical to have a proper heating unit with a fresh air intake. Proper ventilation and carbon monoxide monitoring are vital when indoor equipment is being used.
- Proper storage is necessary. Having temporary storage units and covering materials can help after a heavy snowfall. Covering ladders and scaffolding is always a good idea when snow, ice, or sleet comes.
- Worker safety is important. Keeping ice off sidewalks, ladders, and scaffolding can help prevent falls. Limiting employees’ exposure to freezing temperatures and wearing layers of clothing, insulated hard hat liners, face coverings, gloves, and insulated boots can help prevent frostbite or hypothermia. Limit snow shoveling to the physically fit and make sure proper shoveling techniques are used.
- Extra safety caution should be taken when operating equipment. Ensure all operators are properly licensed. Blind spots due to snow piles can be common. Storing material in an open parking lot can improve maneuverability. Properly maintaining equipment and performing a daily checklist is recommended. Do the tires give proper traction? Are chains needed? Is the block heater working? Are the rear-view mirrors and forks cleared of ice? Are fittings tight and not leaking? Do you have the proper oil weight? A full fuel tank with gas or diesel conditioner at the end of the day can help with winter morning start-ups.
- Materials can be damaged in cold weather and the structural integrity of those materials must be safeguarded. Poured concrete can be damaged if not protected from freezing for the first twenty-four hours. Paint and drywall compound can take longer to dry.
In our experience, it is wise to have employees who work outdoors take time off when temperatures are severe. This will reduce injuries due to cold weather exposure. In my opinion, those are good days to be in a warm icehouse fishing with a hot cup of coffee.