Beyond the Build

Tips from the Field

9 Tips for Winter Grading Success

I was in Cincinnati earlier this week, enjoying some freezing temps, misty rain and a little ice. It reminded me of a few jobs where we did not work as smart as we should have in the cold weather. That was years ago and we’ve learned a few things about winter grading along the way.

Start Smart. Getting a project started in the winter months may not speed up the end date. Waiting a bit can also save a boat load of cost, but then sometimes projects have to be started in the winter regardless.

Winter is Coming. In July, I start to pretend that winter is right around the corner. All of the team (owners, design consultants, contractors) will benefit if this thinking is consistent.

Be Disciplined. If your site is across multiple acres, consider adding a network of roads to channel construction traffic. This keeps every truck or piece of equipment from going helter-skelter across the site. This will cut cost and storm water pollution.

Give yourself more time. Regardless of what you do, grading in the winter will take longer. There is more frost, higher moisture content, wetter soil, more weather days and wasted hauled-in soils.

Use the right equipment. Don’t go too heavy. This results is less pumping. There is no reason to take two steps forward and one step back.

Work Smart. On sunny and windy days, work from daylight to dark, if permitted. Use good weather to get larger areas opened up and then “safed-up”.

Leave the site high. It is much better to leave the grades a bit high and then clip in the spring or right before project completion.

Stabilize with chemicals. (if needed) If one cannot meet the goals working smart, then there’s always lime or cement. Lime will help dry soils and improve some clays. Cement will dry and also act as a stabilizing agent. Both will help waterproof the soils.

Practice good housekeeping. There is no substitute for keeping the site sloped to drain. Fill potholes, truck ruts and rough areas. Get the storm water away from the site using best management practices.

Are you experiencing tough site conditions this winter ? If so, do you have any best practices to share?


Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.