Six Home Renovation Mistakes People Make in the Winter

Renovating a home, no matter the time of year, can be equal parts exciting and overwhelming. However, renovating in the winter may come with its own set of additional issues.

Exterior renovations are especially risky during the colder months since the ground at your construction site can be slippery and wet. Plus, you need to take holiday travel schedules, inclement weather, and freezing temperatures into consideration. All of this can make finishing your remodel on time even more challenging than it already is.

To help you better prepare for wintertime home revamps, we tapped a few experts and asked them to divulge the most common missteps homeowners make. Avoid these mistakes when diving into a wintertime home renovation.

1. Choosing the wrong materials and equipment

It’s important to keep in mind that plastic window sealants might not stick and timber might expand when it’s freezing.

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Not all materials can withstand freezing temperatures and snowy conditions.

“Choosing materials that will stand up well against colder temperatures and adverse weather conditions is essential,” says James Leroy, contractor, owner, and founder of Pro Home Remodeling in Tigard, OR.

For instance, keep in mind that plastic window sealants might not stick and timber might expand when it’s freezing.

“Do some research before starting your project,” says Leroy. “And make sure you have everything you need before getting started—including plenty of spares.”

2. Not paying attention to electrical safety hazards

Working with electricity in the winter can be dangerous if there’s recent heavy snowfall. Circuits and fuses can malfunction when wet, and poorly insulated wires can become damaged from low temperatures.

Downed power lines on your property might also be energized and cause electrocution if touched.

What’s more? Snowstorms often cause power outages that could prevent work from getting completed.

3. Not taking snow and ice into consideration

Ice debris, from roofs and scaffolding, can fall and injure workers when outdoors.

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We all know wintertime weather means having to contend with snow and ice, but many homeowners underestimate just how these factors will affect construction projects.

“Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you can’t do any renovation work,” says Leroy. “But you need to consider that temperatures will be lower than usual and that snow and ice can cause problems.”

Snow and ice around the outside of the home can create slick surfaces that could cause slips and falls. Ice debris, from roofs and scaffolding, can fall and injure workers when outdoors. And icy temperatures can also increase the risk of cold stress-related injuries like hypothermia and frostbite.

Try to plan your work schedule around the weather, but if you must continue on, dress appropriately.

4. Forgetting about holiday schedules

Zach Barnes-Corby, head of construction at Block Renovation in New York City, says that preparation is key.

“This is true for renovations generally speaking, but particularly true during the winter,” Barnes-Corby says.

Holidays and travel schedules can cause disruptions to your scope of work.

“You don’t want things being held up because a shipment of tiles got stuck in the holiday rush, or your contractor is set to travel halfway through your project,” Barnes-Corby says.

Barnes-Corby advises getting ahead of the holidays when planning a home renovation. Many contractors and suppliers close around the holidays, but planning well can help avoid any headaches.

5. Not making indoor space available for subcontractors

During the winter it can be very cold, so tradesmen will need space in the house to set up and run their tools.

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Subcontractors, like painters or tile setters, are essential to any renovation. They’ll need plenty of space to work, and you should be especially thoughtful of their needs, especially during inclement or cold weather.

Most tradesmen set up shop outside or in a garage to do “messier” portions of their work, says Jordan Obermann, co-principal and co-founder of FORGE + BOW Dwellings in Fort Collins, CO. “However, during winter it can be very cold, so they’ll need space within the house to set up and run their tools,” he says.

Keep an open line of communication with your subcontractors, and make sure they have all the space they need to get the job done correctly.

6. Taking on certain projects at the wrong time of year

Indoor home renovations are easier to complete in the wintertime because the climate can be controlled. But for outdoor projects like a home addition or new roof, it’s probably best to hold off until the temperature heats up.

You can’t excavate frozen ground or pour concrete if it’s lower than 40 degrees out, points out Matthew Miller, principal and founder at StudioLAB in New York City.

Working on a roof during poor weather can be difficult, too. Roofs are inherently slippery, but recent rain, snowfall, or ice can make roof construction downright dangerous.

“In a nonregulated winter environment, you don’t want to install items that need to be temperature-controlled,” Miller says. This includes projects like installing doors, windows, and flooring.
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