Armchair Builder

Cold Weather Construction Considerations

Cold Weather Considerations When Building

Cold Weather Construction Considerations

Cold weather is just around the corner for much of North America.  So before you break ground on your dream project, you will want to carefully look at the requirements for building a quality home in freezing temperatures.  Here we give you some cold weather construction considerations that can impact your budget and quality.


One of the more frequent questions I get as a builder is, Can you continue to build throughout the winter?  And the short answer is…Anything is possible if you’re willing to pay for it.  Modern technology allows us to perform just about any type of building activity in freezing temperatures.  There are basically two questions you need to ask prior to starting a project in the cold…

  1. What alternative steps need to be taken to avoid damage from freezing temperatures?  In other words, what can we do to ensure quality for each phase of construction given the cold weather?
  2. Do the costs make sense?  Meaning, how bad do we need to get this project done in the cold weather and are we willing to pay the additional expense?

Who’s paying?

If you are building your dream home as an owner builder, you will obviously be responsible for the extra cold weather expenses.  However, if you are going with a full service builder, the responsible party is less clear.  Many production home builders absorb the extra costs for building in the winter in order to keep things going.  In other words, they need to keep the machine running and they are willing to pay the extra money to make that happen.  These companies don’t want to let expensive, finished lots and employees sit idle for the whole winter so they are willing to pay the price to deal with cold weather construction.  This is similar to the resort that discounts rooms in order to fill them in the low travel months.

Not all builders are this generous however.  So if you choose to use a full service builder, ask them who will be paying for the cold weather costs.  If the answer is you, be sure to find out how the costs will affect your overall budget.

Counteracting Cold Weather

Here’s a quick look at some typical methods to counteract the cold…

  • Admixtures – These are alternative components added to concrete and mortar to help prevent freezing prior to setup.  Admixtures for a poured foundation can run in the thousands of dollars depending on the ambient temperatures and the size and type of  foundation used.
  • Insulation – You can compare this to putting a coat on in the winter.  By covering up, it keeps the heat in.  Insulation blankets and straw can be used to keep items warm.  One example would be to place a layer of straw down over newly poured concrete footings to keep heat from the hydration process from escaping.
  • Heat – By adding heat from an outside source, we can counteract the cold.  A simple example would be temporary propane or natural gas heaters.  A more complicated, expensive example are the large, hydronic heating systems used to thaw ground to pour a concrete slab.  These systems have tubes that circulate warm liquid under insulated blankets.

When it Doesn’t Make Sense

Some of these cold weather construction considerations will add thousands of dollars to a new home build.  If you will be responsible for these costs you will want to seriously consider whether building in the cold makes sense.  Are you building a home this winter?  If so, we would love to hear about it.  Stay tuned as our next article will cover pro builder secrets to help save you money when building in the winter.

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