How to Protect New Home Construction From Winter Weather

Whether it is during construction and post-construction, here are some ways to make sure the home you are building can withstand wintertime weather

By BRAD PAVLOSKI

Imagine a new client wanting to build a home in a geographic part of the country that reaches negative temperatures and sees several feet of snow during winter. As you can probably surmise, this situation can present unique challenges to professionals in the homebuilding industry. However, with the right strategy, protecting new home construction from the winter weather can result in an efficient and properly winterized abode.

Construction Phase

Let’s start with the foundation. Many clients who are building for the first time don’t realize that the ground temperature needs to be at least 40 degrees to pour concrete. If it’s colder than 40 degrees, you’ll need to warm the ground with a “ground thaw” machine. Depending on the depth of ice, laying the hot hose on the ground, looping it back and forth over the area that needs to be heated and covering it with concrete blankets to keep the heat down, can be done for a few days. You’ll need to explain to the client that costs will increase, typically by an extra $2,000. The alternative is to wait until the spring or early summer. Be upfront and honest with your client about the entire process so that they can decide what’s right for them.

With winter comes snow, sleet and ice, increasing the risk of foundation cracks when the soil freezes then expands. We all know that a damaged foundation can lead to air sealing issues. Therefore, raising the foundation out of the ground 12-18 inches is ideal. This will keep the snow and watershed away from the home foundation.

If your clients want to build a home that’s energy efficient and extremely durable, consider recommending insulated concrete forms (ICF), which are premade forms that fit together like large interlocking blocks. Unlike traditional homes, homes with ICFs can be constructed in the winter at lower temperatures without the need for insulating blankets or a heating source. Other benefits include its noise-canceling properties and resistance to extreme weather. Explain to the client that using this form of construction will increase the cost about six percent more than a stick build.

Heavy snow and ice accumulation can take a toll on roof systems, putting ample amounts of downward force on the structure. One way to ensure roofs can stand up to hefty snow loads is to choose a reinforced roof system. For example, use an engineered truss like parallel cord trusses that can hold the snow loads. These are made from wood and don’t require beams or bearing walls. Since they use full pieces of wood, this ultimately lowers the amount of labor necessary for working with them. Lastly, be aware that the house will need more space in the attic if using parallel cord trusses.

Post Construction

Not only does the physical structure of the house need to be winterized, but so does the landscaping. Be sure to incorporate easy-to-shovel, hard surface areas such as smooth concrete walkways and sidewalks. This also goes for driveways, too. Solid surface asphalt or concrete are the best driveway materials for houses that will receive large amounts of snow. These materials can get the plow blade right to the driveway surface so you don’t rip up loose gravel. Plus, asphalt aids in melting snow and is low cost to install, while concrete provides low maintenance.

Another feature to keep in mind when trying to protect a newly built home from the winter is to add large overhangs. Depending on depth and placement, the overhangs can allow warm light in during the winter, helping to reduce energy costs. They can also protect the guests at the door from any weather elements, save doors and windows, and protect a home’s exterior and foundation from water runoff.

Winterproofed patios, or covered porches, are another way homeowners can enjoy outdoor space during the winter months. One option to provide for this is by building
a detached pergola to a full roof with fans, heaters, and speakers coming off the main residence. Another option could be investing in a roof cover to keep heat in the space and protect against harsher weather conditions. This also gives the homeowners a sense of having that separate room outside and will benefit the space all year long. Lastly, to keep water and snow off the house walls, consider ground-breaking around the entire house with stone, brick, cedar or aluminum.

The true test of craftsmanship is durability, especially in regions where a cold climate makes comfortable buildings more complicated to make. Using the tips mentioned above will help you succeed in protecting a new home from winter weather.

Brad Pavloski is a developer that specializes in making lakefront living more accessible and affordable at Castle Rock Lake in Wisconsin. Since starting his company in 2004, Pavloski has helped hundreds of people find their dream vacation home.

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