When the temperature drops and snow is in the air, winter construction jobs can be hard to come by. If you're a general contractor who relies on warm weather to keep your business going, winter can be an unwelcome time of year. But it doesn't have to be.
There are things you can do to help keep a steady stream of clients coming your way year-round. Here are a few ideas to help you stay busy when the temperature starts falling.
1. Schedule accordingly
The time to start preparing for winter is in the summer, says Tyler Milyard, Vice President at Western Constructors, a family-owned construction company in Colorado.
"As we're leading up to winter or building a construction schedule, we may be building in accelerated timeframes…to make sure we get the concrete in the ground [before the cold weather hits]," he says.
Then, hopefully, you can continue through the winter with jobs inside of a closed structure, so you don't have to rely on the weather to keep the project moving forward.
"[But] even the best plans don't always work out," Milyard says. "Everything seems to be harder to get done [these days]." Especially in the current environment with supply chain issues sometimes making it difficult to keep projects on track.
2. Focus on the interior
If you find yourself facing a tough winter because your best-laid plans didn't work out, it's good to have a backup plan. Milyard recommends diversifying your services, so if things slow down in new construction, you have other services to offer your clients, such as remodels or repairs — even if they're smaller jobs you wouldn't usually take on.
"There's plenty of work if you need it or want it — is what we've noticed," says Milyard.
3. Learn new skills
Many contractors are swamped when the weather’s warm and the sun is shining, making it challenging to find time to learn new skills that can help them grow their business. If things slow down in the winter, that can be a good time to expand your expertise in different areas so that you can offer your clients additional services.
Here are a few to consider. And you don’t have to wait until the ground thaws to get started.
Note: If you're going to offer specialized services, you may need to obtain additional licenses, certificates, and business insurance. Rules and requirements vary by state and local jurisdiction. Be sure to check them out before offering new services to your clients.
As an electrician, you can help clients stay safe and keep the lights on by learning how to inspect and repair electrical systems, install overhead lighting and replace old wiring.
When a pipe springs a leak, home and business owners need it fixed right away. You can help if you know plumbing skills, such as how to install and repair pipes, fixtures and other systems that transport water, gas and other materials through buildings.
But you don’t have to wait for something to go wrong to lend a helping hand. Help prevent back-ups and other problems by cleaning out drains and pipes before issues arise.
Help clients stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer by learning to install, repair and maintain heating, air conditioning, ventilation and refrigeration systems. As a certified HVAC technician you can keep HVAC systems functioning properly when you know how to test piping, tubing and electrical circuits, change filters and clean ducts.
Keep your clients’ cabinets, furniture, wood flooring, staircases, door frames and other structures made of wood, plastic, fiberglass and drywall in tip-top shape by enhancing your carpentry skills.
4. Build relationships
Even when you’re fully booked, marketing continually can help keep your pipeline of potential new business full, so you have somewhere to turn when your construction schedule slows down during winter. One of the best ways to do that is through referrals.
As you build your business, you'll likely get referrals from previous clients who were happy with your work. If you're just getting started or need to take a more proactive approach, consider joining a local networking group to help you get leads.
5. Get into winter-based work
You already have trucks to tote your supplies and equipment back and forth between job sites when the weather’s warm. Consider getting into snow removal when the winter weather rolls in.
Adding winter-based work to your offerings can help keep your business profitable and your clients happy during the winter months.
6. Take cold weather construction safety precautions
Construction in cold weather is more difficult than working in warm weather. But it may still be possible. However, you’ll need to take extra precautions to stay safe.
Low temperatures bring the risk of frostbite, hypothermia and burns from the cold. If there’s snow or ice on the ground, the risk of slips and falls increases. Wearing proper clothing, including gloves, hats, good socks and boots and dressing in layers, is important for staying warm.
If the ground is frozen, you'll need special equipment to thaw it before you can get to work. And you’ll need electricity and a heat source so the materials you’re working with dry properly.
It's essential to monitor your fuel sources, so you don't burn the building down while trying to heat it, Milyard says. Be sure to follow all guidelines for hoses and extension cords and keep heat sources away from flammable objects.
"I would not say it's ideal by any stretch," says Milyard, who analyzes the risks and benefits of starting a new construction project during the winter with his clients. Depending on the situation, it may be better to wait until spring to start.
But that's a decision you’ll need to make on a project-by-project basis.
How NEXT helps protect general contractors — any season
Many states require contractors to maintain adequate insurance coverage to get and keep their general contractor license. At NEXT, we create specialized contractor insurance packages to meet the unique needs of your business, subject to the policies terms and conditions.
With our online application, you can see policy options, get a quote and purchase coverage — all in less than 10 minutes. After you pay your premium, your certificate of insurance will be available online.
Our licensed, U.S.-based insurance professionals are ready and waiting to help if you have questions.