Man, the past couple of weeks have been crazy! So much for snow days- we had a snow week! Weather like this makes us all want to snuggle under a blanket and hang out at home with a hot cup of tea or cocoa and House of Cards on Netflix. Those of us who are fortunate to be able to work from home might be able to get some stuff done, but for lots of folks, the past week or so has been what you might call a wash. In our industry, if it's raining, snowing, sleeting, etc., our job sites pretty much come to a standstill. Why is this? Well, it's certainly not because we're lazy! I know it's easy to think that when you're passing by ghost-town-like construction projects all over DFW, but trust me, those guys are doing it for everyone's good. There are all kinds of precautions that are taken when any reputable builder performs construction jobs to ensure the safety of the crew and the stability of the materials in use. This in turns makes that bridge or apartment building much safer for people to use. But what is it about the weather that can cause entire projects to screech to a halt?
Acts of God
You've heard this term before. An "act of God" is what the insurance industry views as a sudden and catastrophic naturally-occurring event that causes damage to your property, but is likely not covered by your insurance policy. As one definition describes it, "the one time an insurance company finds religion." Fires, floods, volcanoes, earthquakes- these are all considered acts of God, which is why you purchase specific insurance plans to cover these specific events. Sadly, the average homeowner or car policy does not cover these events. What does this mean in the construction industry? Well, legally, acts of God are excusable delays in the timeline of most construction projects, and these possible delays are often written into your contract. That's why, when you drive by those ghost-town projects, even if there's a little rain, or it rained yesterday and it's clear today, all work has seemingly come to a standstill.
Mud Pies, Anyone?
Another obvious reason as to why the weather can affect your construction timeline is the mud. You can dig in the mud, but setting piers and posts, and anything else that provides structural stability to a building (or pool), must be done in solid soil. This keeps your structure from sinking or shifting due to wet soil. Additionally, if you're having concrete poured, the chemical composition of the materials requires that the ideal environmental conditions be dry and warm (above 50 degrees Fahrenheit). This ensures that the concrete cures properly and won't shift or crack fundamentally.
Without a Crew, There is NO CONSTRUCTION
In addition to the engineering concerns that are taken into account, reputable construction companies need to have a strong, healthy, and safe workforce. As most construction work is done outside in the elements, the weather can be a huge to concern for productivity. We tell you all the time that we only hire the best stonemasons in town. We also keep the best stonemasons in town because we care about our workers. Working with your hands in cold or wet weather can be extremely dangerous. For one, our guys are using tools that are sharp, heavy, and require a good grip to use. If it is cold or rainy, or both, our crewmen cannot grip their tools properly and could easily injure themselves or others. Secondly...well, let me ask you this- do you think that it would be a good idea to use your blow dryer in the shower? Yeah, probably not. The concept is the same in construction. Our guys are out there using dangerous power tools and those tools are getting their power from somewhere. Using anything electric in wet conditions is a recipe for disaster, and since we're not too keen on electrocuting our workforce, we'd rather err on the side of caution. This rings true, too, for our subcontractors as well. We will not have our electrician running wires and connecting transformers in the rain. Sorry, we're just not going to do it, and for the same reasons as why we won't let our crew work with power tools in the rain- water and electricity just DO NOT mix. Most reputable builders feel the same way, and if yours doesn't, you might want to question the quality of work where safety is not taken into account.
Uh...My Car Won't Start...
Anyone who has lived in or dealt with extremely cold weather has undoubtedly uttered this phrase at some point. As technology advances, one thing remains the same- we are all at the mercy of Mother Nature. Combustion engines need fluids to keep the engine from seizing, and letting your car warm up for a minute or two can improve your oil's viscosity. As most construction vehicles are built with combustion engines and not run by a series of hamster wheels, the theory works the same for these large vehicles. Cold weather, especially freezing temperatures, can affect how the machinery performs. Therefore, continuing work when the weather is a bit warmer is really better for everyone all around.
Can We Get Back to Work, Already???
Trust me, no one hates weather delays more than your builder. When we aren't working, we aren't making any money. No one is paying us to sit at home and watch the snow fall. Unfortunately, this is one of those "costs of doing business", and we just have to patiently wait it out and hit the ground running once the sun comes out. Which we totally will...once the weather clears up a bit.
Stay safe and warm out there, friends.