The Advantage of Canadian Winters and Building

Having an outdoor job means that mother nature is in charge of the schedule. But there are less times that an unscheluded day off is issued by Mrs Nature than most people think. It also applies for Old Man Winter which argues a lot with mother nature (but they’re the best of friends).

Most areas of Canada are in Mr Winter’s hands for about 7 months of the year. Construction goes on during this time and actually has many advantages. The biggest reason to choose winter for a building project is moisture and water. Yes it snows in the winter, but it rarely rains. What’s the difference? Snow can be brushed off a pile of exposed drywall, but rain would all but destroy the top few sheets. There are so many building products that are adversely affected by rain that the threat of rain causes workers to go running for tarps. I would rather have my tools dump on with snow than rain, especially the ones that require electricity. Oh yah, I’ve lost tools in a flurry of fallen snow, had them frozen to the ground when I found them, but I wasn’t soaking wet in mud! Really, tools should be put away at the end of every day, but that doesn’t always happen – to other people of course! Me? I’m perfect…

I’ll run down my best reasons for doing construction work in the winter.

  1. No mud. I got a little story about pouring my concrete piers for the attached veranda on my current home. The foundation was poured in the fall of 2006, the frame went up during the first 2 months of 2007. In the spring of 2007 I dug the holes for the 11 supporting piers which would hold up the veranda, which wraps 2 sides of the house. At this point the house was at what’s called “lock-up stage”. roof on, windows and doors in. With the holes dug and the footing for each “sono-tube” poured (a 3’x3′ square pad 4′ below grade). I was ready for placing the sono tubes when it started to rain…and rain and rain! 3 days later the sun came out. The roof had no eves trough and the run-off poured right into each hole, taking with it most of the dirt that came out of each hole. The tractor couldn’t manage the mud, so I dug, by hand, the clay muck/water out of each hole. Half way done, it rained again. By the time I was ready for the tubes to be filled with concrete I was another 10 days behind schedule. If I had to do it again, I would rather work Christmas day.
  2. You can dress for the cold, but you can’t dress for the hot. Lots of jobs require denim pants and gloves. I like suspender type coveralls, but they get too hot in the summer. I love wearing them in the late fall over cotton pants. As for the gloves, I did have a challenge finding winter gloves that I could grab a small item with and kept my hands warm at the same time. It’s rather pointless to have nice warm mittens, only to pull them off every time you need to hold a screw. Try Wells Lamont SUG gloves
  3. No mosquitoes, horsefly, deerflies, blackflies, houseflys, wasps, bees. Buzzzzzzzzzzz should be the sound of my router. Wasps were actually becoming a safety hazard this fall. Doing a serious rip cut on the table saw and a wasp wants you to have it’s full attention and dance like your in a mosh pit for S.O.D. Doing reno projects on older buildings can reveal some walls with nests in them. On that same veranda, the framing crew I hired had one guy that was afraid of rodents. Never before, or ever after, will I see the sight that happened on one sunny June day. out of nowhere 5 baby weasels started investigating the worksite. Tails straight in the air and scampering around without any concern for the noise or people. The one crew member threw his hammer and was backing up a ladder like the grim reaper was staring at him. Another wanted to use the nailgun to kill them! Weasels live here year-round so that’s not a reason to like building in the winter.
  4. Dust in wind is a classic song, but not that fun to experience. It can be windy anytime of year, and yes winter wind can make it pretty cold, but like number 2 above, you can do something about it. Most construction sites have some ground disturbance that goes along with it, and the dusty wind follows.
  5. Tea and hot chocolate for lunch. I love having a hot drink on cold days. Not so much on hot days.

I think I will follow up on this post with another one on the disadvantages of winter construction.