Work can’t stop for cold weather. Here's how to keep business going during the deep freeze.
Construction is a year-round business, even in four-season areas of the country. Despite cold winters, business must go on — preferably but not necessarily indoors — to keep crews busy and money rolling in.
For companies large and small, staying busy when the temperature falls is a matter of planning well in advance.
Schedule inside work around winter
Try to plan projects so outside portions of the work like site preparation, concrete pours, exterior framing and masonry work are complete before the first snowfall or freeze hits. That timing will depend on the area, so it's important to do your local weather research when creating the schedule. Look up several years’ worth of past weather in the jobsite area to get an idea of what to expect. Remember that most contracts don’t cover additional costs incurred or time lost due to weather unless there’s an unusually severe weather event.
Prepare for outside work
On huge projects, outside work in winter may be unavoidable — and that’s fine, as long as you’re prepared. Make sure to secure well in advance items like portable heaters, warming tents, cold-weather concrete additives, ground thaw blankets and ground heaters.
Diversify your projects
For industrious contractors, there is always an opportunity to branch out into different markets, and winter is no exception.
For commercial general contractors, perhaps winter is the time to bring on a project manager who specializes in residential construction to do kitchen remodels, new flooring and bathroom overhauls that don't depend on the weather. According to October’s Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity report from the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, spending on residential improvement and repair is projected to accelerate at least through the third quarter of 2018.
Excavation and landscape contractors can score additional business by transforming their work vehicles into snow plow equipment. If residential snow removal isn’t worth the effort, get on board as an approved contractor with the city or county agency responsible for cleaning up after snow events.
Offer a winter discount for interior renovations
This strategy works whether the customer is commercial or residential, and it doesn't have to wait until winter sets in. Start marketing to existing and new customers during the summer and fall so you have work lined up early. Just make sure you’ll still turn enough profit to justify doing the work.
Head for a better climate
Business night be slow in Maine and Montana, but winter means comfortable working conditions in places like Florida, Texas, Arizona and California. A subcontractor who’s worked with a large GC before might find work for the same GC in warmer climes, for example.
Kim Slowey is a writer who has been active in the construction industry for 25 years and is licensed as a certified general contractor in Florida. She received her BA in Mass Communications/Journalism from the University of South Florida and has experience in both commercial and residential construction.