The common assumption for homebuilding is that once the ground freezes and snow is a possibility, construction stops until spring. So for someone looking to invest in real estate, that’s a long period of time to be waiting to take the next step on a property purchase. The same goes for the 10% of American homeowners who plan to make additions to their homes this year. For them, waiting for winter to pass can seem like it takes forever.
However, construction during winter has become more of a possibility now with new tools and technology for construction. It may even be a better option for some homeowners. If you’re looking to build a new property or make an addition to your home during winter, here is what you need to know about building a home in winter.
The Challenges Of Building During Winter (And How To Overcome Them)
Building a home in winter comes with its own unique challenges. As you prepare for your project, you need to first learn the challenges you’ll face and home to overcome them. Preparing for the most difficult aspects of building during winter will help to ensure the most success during your project.
The largest issues you’ll face when building a home in winter is the weather. Depending on where you live, you may have to work with snow, freezing temperatures, sleet, hail, and more. This kind of weather is an issue not only because of the low temperatures but because it makes keeping materials moisture and mold-free difficult. However, snow can be easier to deal with than rain or sleet. Snow can be easier to keep out with a tarp than rain.
The key to dealing with winter weather is planning in advance. If you know you’re going to be working on a build during winter, plan to get the bigger elements done sooner in the season. Lay the foundation and do any digging before the ground freezes. Especially if you’ll be adding a well to your property, digging for the well and adding the well pumps are much easier before the ground is rock solid. If you get some of the key elements done before bad weather really starts to set in, like the foundation, the exterior walls, electrical wiring, installation of a fire sprinkler system, or framing, you should be able to continue through the winter season.
If you’ve planned accordingly for the weather, you will have your home sealed as much as possible to be able to start installing home systems, such as the HVAC or electricity, and won’t have to worry about the weather damaging them.
When you’re building a home in winter and are ordering materials, you may experience delayed or longer delivery times. The rough weather makes it more difficult for delivery to happen and materials may be in shortage as it’s technically the “off-season”. This is another area where you’ll need to plan accordingly. If you are concerned about the delivery of materials dragging out the timeline of the build, order them as soon as possible.
Building times can also be longer during winter as teams may have to pause construction due to bad weather. As long as you and your building team make an alternative plan for what to do and how to continue working if the weather takes a turn, you should be able to stick to your timeline.
Higher Prices For Materials
Another challenge of building a home in winter is the increase in prices for materials. More dangerous driving conditions can raise the cost of shipping, along with the shortage of some materials. Due to this, you may find that you are paying more for the materials you need for your build. If you’re working with a good contractor or building team, they should be able to find you good wholesale prices, but keep in mind that those prices may be higher than general. For example, if you’re working with swimming pool builders to put in a pool on your property, they will have an idea where you can get the best prices for the materials you need. Especially because pools are “off-season” during winter, you may be paying more for these materials. However, you will be able to save money in other ways that will be mentioned shortly.
Winter days have much less light than throughout the rest of the year. This drastically cuts down on the hours workers can be building, which in turn can cut down on productivity levels. This is another challenge that you should communicate with your building team about. As long as you are both aware of the added challenge, you’ll be able to discuss a schedule that will work for both of you and will help you with completing your build within your timeline.
Benefits Of Building During Winter
While it’s no secret that building a home in winter comes with some challenges, there are also quite a few benefits. If you can plan and prepare well for the challenges, the benefits may well outweigh them.
More Attention From Builders
Custom home builds can take an average of nine months to finish, but when building a home in winter, your project may be completed sooner. Homes can take longer to build during the busier seasons because construction companies are working on multiple projects and need to split their time. Winter is the off-season for construction which means custom home builders may have fewer projects and more time to spend working on your build.
When building a home in winter, you will also have the added benefit of more access to other tradesmen. Construction companies aren’t the only ones who are experiencing an “off-season”. You’ll be able to hire other tradesmen for home construction projects much easier than you could during spring. For example, locksmith companies will have more openings and will be able to work on your home sooner. Plumbers and electricians will also have more openings and may be easier to work with during winter.
Possibility Of Saving Money
Because winter is generally the off-season for home builders, they will usually have fewer jobs. Due to this, some contractors or home building companies will offer special deals or discounts for builds during winter. This can be a huge benefit for you and a great way to save money. While you may be spending more money on materials, you may be able to save money here.
Waiting for spring to build on a property you already own will also cost you more money. If you have purchased a property and decide not to build during late fall or early winter, you will have to finance the land you’ve purchased as well as pay for the residence you live in while you wait. Getting started on a project sooner means you’ll move into that property sooner and save yourself from having to pay for two properties at once longer than you need to.
You may also be able to save money on rentals for equipment. For example, a forklift rental may be less expensive during winter because there are fewer rentals happening. Keep an eye out for deals rental companies may be offering during winter months to save yourself money on your project.
Faster Permit And Inspection Process
Another benefit of working on a construction project during winter is the possibility of getting through government processes faster than normal. Waiting for a construction permit or an inspector to have an opening in their schedule can drag out your timeline by weeks, even months. However, during winter their schedule is generally less busy which means you’ll get your permit or schedule your building inspections much quicker.
One of the most common headaches for homeowners when working on building a home or a home addition during spring or summer is dealing with a torn-up yard. If you’re building during the winter, the ground is generally frozen and less likely to become a muddy pit, as it could during spring. If you live along a waterfront, you can also work on seawall erosion control much easier as you are dealing with the dry ground rather than soft, moist spring dirt.
If you finish your home during winter, you will also be able to get a head start on landscaping once the weather warms up. Those who work on construction during spring usually have to forfeit their landscaping as space for material and tool storage. However, having your home done before spring arrives means you will be able to get started on landscaping and preparing your garden as soon as it’s warm enough.
Believe it or not, the same weather that causes challenges when building a home in winter, can also be a benefit. Because there is generally more moisture during winter from snow, rain, and sleet, you can more easily get a feel for the “lay-of-the-land” on your property, that’s to say, you can tell where water gathers and what kind of landscaping you need to do to fix it. The water can also help to compact gravel which creates a stronger base for concrete and saturates dirt which in turn helps to avoid “settling spots” after excavation and landscaping are done.
Common Myths Of Building In Winter
While winter isn’t the most common season to start a building project in, it seems as though myths have started to circulate that would scare potential home builders from getting their project done during the colder months. These are some of the most common myths that simply aren’t true about building a home in winter.
Myth: Concrete Poured In Winter Is Weaker
During winter, calcium chloride is added to concrete mixtures to help it cure faster. Somewhere along the way, it was assumed that these additives made concrete weaker in the long run. However, it has been proven that both concrete with the addition of calcium chloride and that without are not significantly different once they have fully cured.
The thing you do have to remember is that at a certain temperature point, the cold can damage freshly poured concrete. There are ways to protect the integrity of new concrete poured during colder temperatures, such as covering it to keep in the heat. You do need to be careful of cold snaps, as there is not much that can be done when there is a sudden drop in temperature.
Myth: Lumber Can’t Hold Up To Cold Weather During The Framing Stage
It’s true that poor weather can damage lumber and that the best time to install it on a warm, dry day. However, the lumber industry has come up with new ways to protect lumber during the framing stage as builders can’t always work during perfect weather conditions. Lumber used for framing is delivered with a certain percentage of moisture content and will likely absorb more moisture based on the humidity and moisture levels at the build site. As long as it is protected from direct contact with rain or melting snow and is allowed to dry out, it will be just as strong and lasting as it should be.
Choosing to build a house during winter may not be the most common choice. There are challenges to overcome that differ from building a home during the busy season. However, as long as you plan ahead for the potential challenges, find a good team to work with, and remember the benefits of building during winter, you will surely have a successful build and be well on your way to moving into your dream home.