Overcoming the Challenges of Winter Construction

Some may think construction companies shut down business in the cold winter months.

Like the birds, they fly south to work in warmer climates. But this isn’t the case. Why?

Because of budgetary planning, many decisions regarding construction projects are made in September, at the close of the second quarter. This peak decision-making time, however, could lead to projects being scheduled for cooler-weather months. And for those in northern climates, project owners have two options: go ahead with the project in the coldest weather of the year or wait until the spring thaw.

As construction professionals, we may face these less-than-perfect conditions at some point in our career, so it is crucial to know what problems or additional costs could arise ahead of time and plan for the worst (while, of course, hoping for the best).

Perhaps the greatest challenge for winter-weather construction is frozen ground. When the ground is frozen, a number of problems can arise. Concrete footings cannot be placed, only so much digging can be done on frozen ground, and melting frosts can lead to more mud and water in the construction site.

Schedule and budget construction projects in the winter

No matter what measures you take, sometimes these issues cannot be solved with anything but patience. If your business is contracted to begin a construction project in the cold winter months, it’s important to encourage patience among your project team and with your client. Although the waiting game can be difficult (and sometimes costly), it is a possibility that should be addressed during the planning phases of your project, in an effort to reduce the impact on overall project budget and schedule.

Another challenge of winter construction is fuel costs.

During the winter months, fuel usage can increase dramatically in certain kinds of equipment including concrete mixers (as it will take more fuel to run the boiler to heat the water, etc.), on-site heaters, and more. It is imperative to not only plan ahead for these increased costs before the project begins. If the costs are greater than the benefits of completing a project on time, the project owner and contractor may want to discuss closing shop during especially cold weather.

Get tight ASAP

If time allows, you can also try to reach project milestones, such as having the structure completed and tight to the weather before the cold sets in. If you can have the building ready for internal project completion, you can use the permanent heat system inside the building for construction site heat, saving a considerable amount of money over using temporary heating systems.

Finally, take all the challenges of winter construction into consideration during the project bid

When negotiating a contract with the owner, make sure to fully explain all the implications and costs association with winter building. If the timeline can be adjusted to complete a project before winter or after the spring thaw, that may be the best way to avoid costs from winter construction.

No matter your situation, two key factors are vital to winter construction: patience and flexibility. If you can encourage both and have adequate planning, construction projects in winter months can be possible and profitable.