Winter Outside – Start Planning Inside Renovations

In the renovation business, weather can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Freezing cold, rain, wind, snow, and even summer heat can make some jobs difficult, and other jobs impractical, if not impossible.

This time of year, contractors put on warmer clothes or set up tents and heaters. Some move to working indoors and some simply pack it in until spring. Living and working in Alberta usually means getting the job done in spite of the cold because we still have to eat and pay the mortgage.

Of course, there are limits as to “how cold is too cold” to perform certain jobs. For example, painting becomes risky below 10°C, as it not only needs time to dry but also to cure.

Roofing is very difficult once the temperature gets to -10°C. The shingles get brittle, the equipment acts up, and a light wind feels like an arctic front on a roof. Roofing is dangerous any time of year, but throw in some snow or ice and it can be a quick trip to the ground followed by a trip to the emergency room. Vinyl siding gets very brittle to work with, and concrete requires additional techniques when pouring it, in order for it to cure properly in the cold.

As we move through fall and winter approaches, sunny warm days are a blessing and contractors must take advantage of them. Indoor work needs to be delayed so the last of the outdoor work can get finished. During this transition, we have to start new inside jobs when we get a cold snap, and sometimes leave them to finish the outside jobs when the sun comes out again. Luckily for the customer, there are usually enough under-employed tradesmen in the winter to get all of the jobs done.

Contractors who have to work outside all year will put in long hours and work weekends when the weather is good. They also must have enough work lined up to keep them busy when the weather is warm and be prepared to sit at home for a month when the weather is really cold. No 9-5 work-stuff here.

Some contractors will offer discounts on indoor winter projects. Some have to charge more for outdoor winter projects to cover costs such as tenting and heating, or the additional labor hours required to work in the cold. For these reasons, we all try to book our inside jobs for the winter.

Now is the time to plan out the new kitchen or bathroom. The basement won’t finish itself. The paint will dry beautifully inside when it’s 30°C below outside. And remember, flooring, lighting, paint, trim and new interior doors all qualify for the Home Renovation Tax Credit.

Maybe you would like to do some of the work yourself to be a part of your project and save some money. Most contractors don’t mind handing off specific parts of the job to the customer, as long as they can do the task properly and don’t get in the way for the rest of it. Maybe your husband used to be a framer and could do a good job there. Maybe your teenage kids could handle some of the demolition work. Maybe you want to exercise your creativity.

The take-home message is: skilled tradesmen are more available in the winter, so if you have been considering an indoor project for a while, now is the time to book your contractor and start the planning process. Most small renovations, like a bathroom or a bedroom, can take as little as one, two, or three weeks, and if started soon, they could be finished before Christmas.

Larger ones, such as a kitchen remodel, may take a month or two, but could still be done by January or February.

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