During the Winter: To Build or Not to Build

While building during the winter months has its own set of challenges, it can be done safely and properly with the right precautions.

As far as workers are concerned, hypothermia can be a very real problem and should be taken seriously. Limiting caffeine is important because caffeine increases the heart rate, which can make workers feel warmer than their bodies actually are. Signs of hypothermia can be shivering, slurred speech or mumbling, slow, shallow breathing, clumsiness or lack of coordination and drowsiness or very low energy.

Vehicle-related accidents are an issue during the winter. To prevent injuries during cold weather, site supervisors should add emergency kits to work vehicles that include ice scrapers, snow brushes, shovels, tow chains, flashlights with extra batteries, emergency flares, blankets, snacks and water.

Pouring concrete in the winter has been a major concern for the construction industry. It can be done properly, although there are temperature limits that need to be observed. Calcium chloride is added to the concrete mix to accelerate the curing process in cold weather conditions. Concrete with an additive is not significantly different in strength from concrete without an additive when both are fully cured.

Framing lumber, which is kiln dried, can be used year-round. Since wood is sensitive to moisture and humidity is a concern, there are advantages and disadvantages to framing in both the summer and winter months. The lumber industry continues to develop procedures used in the milling process that inhibit the harmful effects of poor weather. Snow has no adverse effect on lumber as long as the snow doesn’t melt on it.

While there may be additional expenses to account for when building a home during the winter, the cost of winter building may actually be the same or less than summer building when spring increases in labor and materials costs are taken into consideration.

The idea that winter projects take much longer than projects undertaken during the rest of the year is a myth. Working in the cold is not harder on a construction worker than working in the blazing heat. There are always weather-related obstacles in the construction industry, no matter what the time of year.

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