Beyond the Build

Tips from the Field

How to Turn Inclement Weather Days into Workdays, the Best You Can

Recently, it seems unseasonably cold and wet weather has been affecting our job sites, impacting our concrete and masonry work the most. The question: What are reasonable, cost effective measures to keep things going?

Sometimes the most practical approach is to adjust the schedule of the project to align the most resilient time periods with the worst conditions. This varies regionally. Do not assume that winter work in the South is easier than the North. It is far more productive to enter into a tough situation with local trade contractors that deal with those conditions every day–those who have equipped themselves with the right tools and the right attitudes–to deal with the frost, let’s say, instead of waiting for better conditions next week.

For example, we have found winter site access and staging to be easier in the Great Lakes region, where the ground typically never thaws in the winter, over areas in the upper South, where the ground might freeze at night and thaw during the day, leaving a muddy and inaccessible mess.

5 recommendations for success in winter work:

  1. Plan like a pessimist. Set aside plenty of effort and money to deal with weather adversity. Be pleasantly surprised with a mild winter, not devastated by a bad one.
  2. Negotiate the terms up front, when the weather is nice.
  3. Assess winter safety considerations. Production is not the only concern. Carefully evaluate what it will take to get the job done right.
  4. Be aware of the capabilities and experience of the trades. Hire folks who know the area and what it takes to be successful in the worst conditions.
  5. Know when to call it a day. There is a point of diminishing return. (Perhaps that’s why deer season is in the winter, when all the ironworkers are available?)

A smart approach on the front end can turn weather days into work days.

Merrill Stewart Jr.

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