Why Are Weather Delays Such a Big Issue in the Construction Industry?

weather delay issues construction industry

This year has seen some of the most brutal natural disasters in recent history. Hurricanes and beyond have ripped apart all kinds of construction and infrastructure and plenty of areas in the US face rebuilding: Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico. The reconstruction of these regions will be difficult. An added obstacle? Ordinary weather delays. A hurricane will completely destroy whatever was built, but simple rain or snow and other weather conditions can adversely affect a project as well. We break down many of the weather delays all construction firms will encounter and why they so negatively impact the progress of a project.

Weather Hazards

Avoid Too Hot or Too Cold

Weather that is too hot or cold poses threats to construction sites. In both cases, cement hydration may become an issue, but heat’s threats can go beyond that.

Cold Weather

When it’s too cold, a major risk is that mortar and grout may not get enough heat for normal cement hydration. Mortar with more than 6% of water in its total volume may be damaged.

There are a number of reasons cold weather makes cementing difficult. Cold temperatures can slow down or even stop the process of cement hydration; this will reduce the bond’s strength. As a result, any frozen masonry units must be melted and dried before use, but drying in cold weather may mean this is a wasted effort. Sometimes laid brick can be heated, but this is an added expense and added effort.

A way to reduce cold weather’s effects on mortar may be to increase the sand or lime content. Sand will create a stiffer mortar mixture; lime will allow it to lose water easily.

Hot Weather

Weather that is too hot has the opposite effect. It can cause the water to evaporate from mortar, which will also decrease the bond strength of the mortar. The mortar will settle prematurely, and as a result, will not have enough moisture for brick to hold onto.

To reduce heat’s impact, keep masonry units away from direct sunlight; rather, keep them in shaded places. Also, sprinkle water on bricks before laying them to increase moisture.

Beyond mortar, hot weather can obviously be risky for employees themselves.

Other Threats: Storms, Wind, and Dry Weather

As the effect of high and low temperatures have demonstrated, too much or too little moisture can challenge projects. Wind, too, has its obstacles.

Dry Weather

Dry weather can result in dust and large amounts of dust can be dangerous to job sites. It can reduce visibility for workers or others nearby. Dust can also generate dirt, resulting in machinery complications if not maintained regularly enough.

Wet Weather

Wet weather also offers its challenges. You first need to consider that wind, rain, and lightning pose substantial threats to both employees and project during a storm. But even after rainfall, projects can’t continue until structures dry. So in heavily rainy or snowy weather, this could easily take days, if not weeks.

Windy Weather

Excessive wind can be extremely difficult to work in. Employees must know which equipment can handle which wind speed. They also need to consider that wind speed increases with height. The last thing that anyone wants is for the equipment, like cranes, to fail and crash. To stay informed during the job, fix an anemometer, or wind speed indicator to the boom.

Tips for Minimizing Weather’s Impact

There are a number of ways to minimize weather’s impact on the safety of employees and from delaying the project itself.

Know your weather. Watch weather reports carefully and always plan accordingly. While working, also pay attention to your surroundings. Just because rain wasn’t in the forecast, doesn’t mean it won’t happen. If any alarms sound, like tornado alarms, for example, respond accordingly.

Have plans in place. Speaking of tornado sirens, prepare plans for adverse weather conditions and widely communicate them to your employees. Knowing these plans ahead of time will help everyone know how to react.

Create a reporting system. Make it easy for employees to report unsafe conditions to supervisors. This way, supervisors can react accordingly.

Save weather-independent tasks for gloomy days. Any construction tasks not exposed to the elements, like those off-site or ones that are internal to the structure, may be performed despite the weather. Plan these tasks for days with bad weather.

Protect the site from damage. Move any equipment you can indoors. For equipment that can’t be moved, make sure they’re secured and covered.

Prevent sun or heat-related illnesses. Always make sure employees are well hydrated and using sunblock, especially in hot weather.

Keep equipment clean. Both dry and weather can bring about messes – dust and mud. Make sure to keep equipment clean to prevent damage.

Prevent electrical accidents. In the case of wet weather, make sure any electrical cords are not exposed to flooding or other water exposure.

Remove standing water, where possible. Standing water can mean mosquitos, which makes work conditions miserable. Remove any standing water, where possible.

Don’t enter murky waters. If water is brown or advisory issued, avoid entering it at all costs.

Work With the Weather, Not Against It

With so many weather-related hazards, it’s easy to wonder how any work is ever accomplished. If you plan appropriately, shift tasks, and adjust procedures, you can minimize weather’s effects. Weather isn’t controllable, but it is manageable. Think smart and your projects will be completed without a hitch.