Winter is often brutally cold, depending on where you live. It’s particularly challenging for the construction industry. For the entire United States (excluding Hawaii and Alaska), the season averages just above freezing at 33.2 °F (0.7 °C).
Winter weather has historically slowed construction work in the USA. But that’s changing, according to a U.S. Construction trends and outlook report by JLL Research using Bureau of Labor Statistics in Q1 2015.
Q2 2015 completions were up 60 percent from Q2 2014, despite the winter building decline. Another positive indicator, according to the report, is that Q2 2015 starts exceeded the highest point since the economic downturn in the latter half of last decade.
When walking on snow or ice is unavoidable, workers should be trained to:
- Wear footwear that has good traction and insulation (e.g. insulated and water resistant boots or rubber over-shoes with good rubber treads)
- Take short steps and walk at a slower pace to react quickly to changes in traction
OSHA’s Hazard Alert web page provides tips to prevent injuries and fatalities. The overarching recommendation is that contractors should avoid working on roofs or elevated heights during cold weather. Other recommendations include:
- Pre-plan for safe snow removal
- Provide required fall protection and training
- Ensure ladders are used safely (e.g. clearing snow and ice from surfaces)
- Use extreme caution when working near power lines
- Prevent harmful exposure to cold temperatures and physical exertion
Easier Scheduling Contract Work
Winter doesn’t have to mean hibernation for contractors. Put down the hot chocolate and pick up your calendar to schedule your project for first quarter 2017.
Spring and summer are busy months for contractors and this reflects both in price and availability. Make the most of the slower winter season to achieve the best availability and best price for your project.
Lastly, while government agencies never slow down with work, they tend to be calmer during the winter. This means that you can expect the permitting process to move faster in the winter months.
Work Materials Availability
Advances in work material composition makes cold weather work all the more possible.
Things are always changing in the world of house paint. Just a decade ago, labels on exterior-paint cans warned not to apply the paint unless temperatures were at least 50 degrees F. But in the past few years, most manufacturers have brought out acrylic latex paints with a much wider application temperature range, allowing painters to work in temperatures as low as 35 degrees F.
Cement.org states that concrete can be placed in cold weather conditions provided adequate precautions are taken to alleviate the negative impacts of low ambient temperatures.
NRMCA.org (National Ready Mixed Concrete Association) recommends the following Cold Weather Concreting Guidelines:
- Use air-entrained concrete when exposure to moisture and freezing and thawing conditions are expected
- Keep surfaces in contact with concrete free of ice and snow and at a temperature above freezing prior to placement
- Place and maintain concrete at the recommended temperature
- Place concrete at the lowest practical slump
- Protect plastic concrete from freezing or drying
- Protect concrete from early-age freezing and thawing cycles until it has attained adequate strength
- Limit rapid temperature changes when protective measures are removed
Yes, winter offers a lot of advantages in scheduling, construction costs plus materials that are proven in cold weather temperatures. It is the perfect time to get your remodeling projects put in place. Check out our blog post on working with cement in colder months.
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