As we head into autumn lots of people are frantically trying to get their building projects finished before the weather takes a turn for the worse. It is certainly better to get building work done in the warmer months. Not least because it makes working conditions much more pleasant!
But if your build will be ongoing throughout autumn and into winter, don’t panic. It is possible. There are just a few extra things you’ll need to think about to help keep your project on track – planning is key.
Here are a few considerations if you’re managing a building project that will span the colder months.
Beating the cold…
We usually avoid any major extremes of temperature here in the UK, but if the temperature drops to around freezing, it can cause some issues. For example, if water in mortar freezes, it can fail due to the cement and sand pockets not being bound properly. The same applies to concrete and render. And frozen water expands which can cause cracking to brickwork.
Try to plan this work for before or after the coldest temperatures are due to hit. As a general rule, work shouldn’t proceed if the temperature is below 2oC. It’s really important to cover any materials and newly laid masonry and concrete to protect them from frost damage.
…And the rain
Some moisture sensitive building materials may require specialised protection and storage from the harsh weather elements. Remember to recover them at the end of every working day.
The mobility of everyone working on your build is likely to be hampered by extra layers of clothing – gloves can be a particular hindrance. There’s a greater risk of slipping and sliding. It’s a good time to review any safety procedures and put extra measures in place to tackle these added risks.
Productivity can be affected by poor weather – some construction companies report a drop in productivity of 50%! This is in part down to battling the elements – frozen ground will make any digging task that much more difficult. You may even need to clear snow before any real work can begin. But a dip in team motivation is often a significant contributor. It can be more difficult to concentrate. Find ways to keep yourself and the team motivated. We find a round of “posh” coffee can give everyone a boost (and warm the hands!). Making sure there is a place the team can have a break and warm up in will also help keep things moving.
Maximising daylight hours
The shorter days can limit the amount of progress that can be achieved each day. Floodlighting and heating are certainly a big help in maintaining full a day’s work, if budget allows. Apart from that, there’s not much that can be done apart from adjusting the project plan to allow for limited hours and planning any administrative tasks for the end of the day.
Another word of warning on increased hours of darkness. This may pose increased problems with security. Bad weather and early finishes can leave the site unmanned for greater portions of the day, giving thieves a wider window to strike. Make sure you lock away as many tools and materials as possible every time you leave the site. Stagger deliveries of materials to suit the fixing schedule to avoid high-value items sitting around tempting fate. A good CCTV set-up may also pay dividends.