Every year, we get very busy in the Fall. We’ve been developing quality 55+ Communities for a long time now, and every season, when Winter starts knocking on our doorstep, we start building out ahead of ourselves to get ready.
In Utah, it goes without saying, that the seasons can change significantly. There are always challenges to working in each of them, but usually, Winter and Spring are the toughest.
However, even though we know that building will be harder, most homebuyers really hate delays. It’s our goal to reduce such frustrations, but sometimes, even with our decades of experience, Mother Nature can still play havoc with our plans.
Battling the Elements
Everything gets harder when it’s cold
During the warmer months of the year, we tend to get spoiled. But just because winter shows up, it doesn’t mean that we stop building. In most cases, we try to get all our foundations in the ground before December. Usually, we have great working conditions until about the second week of November, depending on the year.
After that, we can’t easily install more foundations until late February or April.
Everything outside also goes slower. Stucco, brick, and stone have to be tented and heated so that they don’t freeze before they harden.
Also, the dirt usually has some moisture in it. When this freezes, it causes the dirt to heave. That means that pouring concrete gets very difficult. You don’t want to pour concrete on frozen ground, or else when it warms up, the ground will settle under your concrete, and suddenly, your sidewalk will be an inch or two lower than it should be.
So how do we still pour concrete in the Winter? Its not easy. We have to either warm up the ground or dig out the frost.
Also, we must use blankets to cover the concrete once it’s poured. This keeps the concrete from freezing and losing its integrity before it’s cured. This however creates an unavoidable staining on the surface of the concrete. Unfortunately, the stain cannot be removed. It’s caused from trapped chemicals that are trying to vent off of the concrete, but have nowhere to go. Often, these stains will fade somewhat over the years, but they are often a necessity of working in the Winter.
Dealing with snow
Snow is also a problem, but not always for the reasons you might expect.
Snow can actually help insulate the ground. If there’s a large blanket of snow covering the ground, then the frost layer of dirt cannot get much below 32 degrees. This means that the frozen dirt will be very thin, and we won’t have as hard of a time prepping for the concrete.
Naturally of course, this causes a ticking clock to start as soon as we remove that covering of Winter fluff, but if we predict super cold temperatures, we almost always hope that it is preceded by about 12” of snow.
The biggest problem with snow, aside from not being able to work on landscaping, is what it does to us in the Spring.
Depending on the location and the soil types we’re dealing with, that snow will eventually melt and saturate the ground. Sandy soils are heavenly, but in Utah, we’re usually dealing with a lot of clay.
Clay does not release the water very quickly, which means that we are often stuck with very muddy conditions for a longer period of time.
If that snowy Winter is also followed up by a rainy Spring like we had this year (2019), well, expect major delays.
When it’s muddy, we can’t do a thing. Our machines get stuck, our concrete can’t be poured, and everything becomes a mess.
What is this year’s forecast
According to the long-range forecasts by the NOAA for 2019/2020, this Winter is expected to start off warmer than usual with average precipitation. They predict that El Nino has a 50/50 percent chance of ending, and sending us into a neutral weather pattern, which basically means, that everything is very uncertain.
Reading the tea leaves, I would suspect that we’ll have a fair amount of snow, but it won’t usually stick around too long. This might take away any insulating blanket we might want over our soils, allowing frost layers to go deep, especially on shaded areas.
Really, it’s impossible to know for certain what will or won’t happen. We can only do our best to mitigate possible delays. Most likely they’ll happen, but to what extent, we can’t say. The best way for a homebuyer to keep up to date, is to call every couple of weeks and check on the progress, especially as the time to close draws near.
Good luck. We’ll do our best this season also, and we wish you a wonderful and safe Winter this year.