Does Construction Slow Down in the Winter?

Published Categorized as Construction
Construction in Winter

If you’ve never worked in construction, you might wonder why your project suddenly takes that much longer to be completed in winter as opposed to summer. Why does construction slow down so much in winter?

Construction slows down in winter as wet weather and cold temperatures cause increased preparation time before building onsite. Winter can also cause materials to deteriorate and freeze the ground, making it impossible to build. Most constructions also slow down in winter for safety reasons.

In this article, we will be discussing why construction seems to stretch on in the winter. If you want to learn more about this subject, keep reading.

Why Does Construction Slow Down in the Winter?

Construction slows down in the winter due to the wet weather, snow, and colder temperatures. Here’s how these unfavorable conditions affect both the workers and the materials used.

Frozen Ground Hinders Progress

When temperatures drop below 0℃ (32℉), water in the ground freezes, making construction almost impossible. Although the ground cannot freeze entirely due to the earth’s molten core, frozen upper layers can extend to several feet within the ground.

Projects that require digging become either challenging to perform, slowing progress, or impossible if the freezing extends beyond the superficial layer of soil.

In either case, it is no longer cost-effective to continue with operations. More workers or more extended use of equipment is needed to make indents in the ground.

Besides this, the freeze and thaw cycle of water in the ground can cause constructs to shift or topple over, creating an unstable exterior structure.

Due to this issue, project planners often try to schedule the exterior skeleton to be built before wintertime. If a project begins in winter, you run the risk of overshooting the deadline.

With that being said, any projects that do not require digging can go on as relatively normal, although at a slower pace.

Increased Preparation Is Required in Winter

Colder temperatures mean more preparation is needed, and workers must take additional precautions before, after, and during the construction process.

During construction, workers frequently have to change clothing layers for dexterity, dryness, or various other reasons. Although the amount of time taken might not seem like much, it adds up to detract quite a lot of time from the project in the grand scheme of things.

After work is over, clean-up also takes longer. Materials will need to be moved indoors and covered up to protect them from wet weather and cold temperatures. This means that they will also need to be retrieved from indoors before work, which takes away some extra time from construction.

Other time costs involve cleaning up the construction site from snow or frost to continue with construction and warming up equipment.

Besides this, the materials also need to be handled with more care. When working with materials like concrete, it needs to be subjected to a winter curing to prevent it from weakening and collapsing.

Materials like wood and iron might also rust or come apart if exposed to wet weather, requiring extra care when used.

Other perils like high winds might even stop construction entirely, especially when dealing with steel structures. These structures run the risk of collapsing and severely harming or killing workers onsite.

Shorter Days Mean Slower Progress

During winter, the number of daylight hours is reduced to below 12 hours, which means construction workers cannot work longer since the days are shorter. This will slow down workers as more days need to be allocated to the same task, resulting in more days for the project to complete.

Winter Increases the Risk of Worker Injuries

Construction workers are more likely to get injured on-site during winter. Because of this, most constructions slow down in winter to prevent injuries among their workers.

In 2014, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 42,000 workers had to take at least a day away from work due to injuries caused by ice, sleet, or snow.

Workplace injuries are strenuous for both the worker and the project manager. Severe injuries like fractures will occur more easily, resulting in the worker moving with more caution and the project taking even longer.

To avoid injuries, here’s a list of workplace safety rules during the winter:

  • Wear appropriate protective gear. Although protective equipment is essential, it is vital to balance the trade-off between mobility and work. Some types of protective gear might lead to eye fog or prevent hearing, which could be dangerous and cause more injuries.
  • Provide a heated break area. Frostbite has ways of creeping up on us despite wearing insulated clothing. It’sIt’s important to provide workers with a heated area to ensure that they are kept healthy and safe.
  • Limit the use of caffeine. Drinks like caffeine increase heart rate, which can make you feel warmer than you are. This makes it challenging to detect temperature changes within your body, meaning you could have symptoms of frostbite and not even realize it.
  • Watch the weather. You should always check the weather forecast before leaving for work. If there’s a blizzard heading your way, inform your boss or your workers to prevent getting stranded in harmful conditions.
  • Mark dangerous zones. Before commencing work, you should ensure that slippery zones are marked out in some way to prevent workers from slipping and falling. This prevents injury-related time costs for projects.
  • Carry emergency kits. In case something ends up going wrong, and the construction site becomes a blizzard site, it is necessary to have an emergency kit carrying essentials for the worst-case scenario. Your kit should have water, non-perishables, a sleeping bag, shovels, and a torchlight.
  • Work in pairs. A buddy system not only helps with work distribution but also ensures that there’s someone to help you in case something goes wrong. Your buddy will help you with tasks you potentially find difficult.

Final Thoughts

As it is not possible for subcontractors to perform large-scale tasks in the winter, they often have a lot of free time on their hands. This means that it’s the perfect time to hire workers to work on smaller projects like the interior redesigning of your house that you swore you would get around to.

No matter the scale of the project, workers should ensure that they follow appropriate safety rules to prevent injury.


By Giovanni Valle

Giovanni Valle is a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is the author and managing editor of various digital publications, including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place.

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