Snow, ice, bitter cold… these are just a few of the realities of winter construction in Minnesota. With construction projects ongoing across the Twin Cities, you may be wondering how construction can continue through our harsh winters.

Senior Construction Project Manager Kirk Pennings explains, “There are two common misconceptions; Some people think that construction stops during the winter. On the other end of the spectrum, some think that winter has no effect on a construction project at all. The reality is that winter has a significant impact on construction, but it is manageable.”

The good news is that successful construction projects can and do go straight through the winter.

Since we can’t control the weather, it’s important to go into any winter construction project with realistic expectations. Whether you hire Welsh or another general contractor, make sure your project manager takes the time to go over the implications of winter construction in Minnesota.

Winter Construction in Minnesota Considerations

Budget

Building during the winter does come with increased costs. The costs involved with building in the cold weather are typically called “winter conditions”. Cold weather is generally described as below freezing temperatures, but certain materials require temperatures as high as 50 degrees.

winter construction

How are “winter conditions” handled in my construction budget?

“Winter conditions” is a line item in your construction budget that covers anything that has to be done above and beyond standard construction practices to deal with the winter weather. You can probably guess that these costs include temporary heating, but they also include things like plastic sheathing for temporary enclosures/blankets to cover footings, extra labor hours for snow and ice removal to prep the work area, and more. Your general contractor will be able to provide an initial estimate of how much should be allocated for winter conditions, but the final amount may vary depending on the severity of the weather. It is in the owner’s best interest to have these costs set up as a realistic allowance, instead of being buried in another cost area. Your general contractor can give you regular updates on how much has been spent from your allowance.

On large projects that stretch over multiple seasons, an analysis should be done to determine when the best timing for your project. For example, you may be better off starting grading and site work in the fall, and then waiting until spring to start other work that will drive up the costs of winter conditions.

Schedule

Careful planning goes a long way in easing the pains of winter construction. A good general contractor will help you plan for the unique factors that play into a winter construction schedule. There are several things that could affect your schedule (big storms, shorter daylight hours, and sub-zero temperatures, to name a few) and expecting these up front and having a plan to deal with them is essential.

It is important to discuss with your project manager completion deadlines based on your operational needs. There are certain aspects of a construction project that can’t be done in the winter – like a parking lot. If you want to open in March, it may make sense to prioritize the parking lot portion of the project so it is completed the prior fall.

Safety and Snow Removal

Snow, ice, and sub-zero temperatures all require increased attention to job site safety. Extra caution must be taken to avoid slip and fall hazards, as well as hypothermia and frost bite. When winter weather is bad enough, work cannot take place outside. A plan will also need to be in place to determine who is responsible for snow removal and where it can be piled up so it doesn’t interfere with construction.

Before you sign a contract and throughout the pre-construction phase, your general contractor can work with you to assess the pros and cons of working through the winter to determine if it’s right for you. With careful planning, flexibility, and realistic expectations, your project will be successful regardless of the time of year it is built.