Cold weather tips for builders…
…and roofers and fencers and painters and plumbers and sparkies and chippies.

4 February 2020

Grafting on site in the depths of winter is pretty grim, so what’s the best way to stay warm and working, however baltic it gets?

There’s a January and February (and March) in every year, but somehow the really cold weather always seems to come as a surprise. It feels like those heavy frosts, below-freezing temperatures, snowy mornings and dark days are out to get you – stopping you getting stuff done, stalling your schedule and making your building site a pretty miserable place to be.

So what’s the secret to getting through winter on site? To pushing on through and keeping your business strong? It’s all about thinking ahead and being clever with your days. Get it right and you’ll have less downtime, happier customers and a better start to your year. Here’s how…

 

Weather-proof your workload

Ok, so those big freezes and snowfalls tend to come without much warning, but you know it’s winter, right? Things always take longer when the conditions are bad, and there’s bound to be the odd day that’s a bit of a write-off. 

So, when you’re planning winter building jobs, try to allow for that. Plan in extra time from the start and give yourself enough breathing space to work safely, squeeze in the odd emergency job (there’s always something) and still meet those (more realistic) deadlines. You’ll be glad you did.

Plan your winter workday

On short winter days, plan indoor tasks for those first and last few hours, and snatch the middle of the day for outdoor work. It’ll help you be more productive, get better results, avoid re-dos and keep your team happier too.

Some jobs, like wet trades, just can’t be done when the temperatures get too low. Mortar won’t mix, bricks might need to be re-laid, and concrete and render can crack – or take forever to get strong. You can’t change any of that. So try to plan this work for warmer months, or crank up some workspace heaters and tackle the problem head on.

Whether you buy your own heaters or hire them for the job, they’ll help materials and equipment work properly despite the weather, making them a pretty sound investment. The same goes for extra lighting, which can help you pack more hours into your day – and stay safe and well.

We’ve built a pretty nifty schedule tool in YourTradebase to help you plan jobs better. Take a quick look or hop on a free trial.

Stay warm on site

Cold, dark days bring all sorts of risks on building sites and as trades, we literally can’t afford to take them. Making yourself ill or having an accident can wipe days or weeks out – and that means you won’t get paid, you’ll miss out on work and you’ll struggle to catch up.

So stay warm. Whether you’re working outside or on an unheated site, layer up with this lot…

Base layers / thermals
Waterproof jacket & trousers
Reflective outdoor gear
Warm, lightweight gloves with good grip
Sturdy, non-slip, waterproof boots
Spares – don’t work in soggy stuff!

Remember, those extra layers might make moving around and operating equipment feel different or difficult, so take extra care, go slower if you need to, and stay safe. Some machinery doesn’t like the cold either, so go steady. It’s understandable that you want to crack on and get finished, but be realistic about what you can do and take extra care.

Keep eating and drinking

Ok, we know that’s tough. But keep the tea flowing, eat warm food if you can, and step inside often to eat or drink it. It’s really important to warm up regularly – even if that just means five minutes in the van to remember what your fingers and toes feel like.

While you’re warming up, you can always grab some van time and blast through a few quotes, send out some invoices or get back to a few customers – it’s all about using the time well to save yourself stress and hassle later. And it’s surprising how much admin you can do in ten minutes.

Get your work van winter ready

While we’re on the subject, make sure you kit out your van for cold days too. Breakdowns are much more likely when the temperature drops and if you can’t get to site, you can’t work, earn or keep your customers happy.

Book a service
Breakdown cover
De-icer & scrapers
Anti-freeze
Jump leads & spare tyre
Change of work gear

Sort out your trade insurance

If an accident’s going to happen, it’s going to happen in poor light and icy conditions, so make sure you’ve got good cover – for you, your team, your kit, your customers and their property. Give site security some thought too – darker days mean more risk of theft, so you might want to rig up some CCTV, lock up your site or take your tools home.

Know when to shut down the site 

Some days, the weather’s just going to win, and getting the things you planned to do done… well, it’s just not going to happen. But that doesn’t mean your day needs to be wasted. It might be the perfect time to squeeze in a quick job for another customer – one of those urgent winter repair jobs or something else that’s 100% indoors.

On the other hand, it’s also a great time to get your admin in order – freeing up your evenings and weekends for all those things you’d much rather be doing. Catch up on quotes, invoices and callbacks from home – with all the no-nonsense tools and templates in YourTradebase it’s quick, easy and doable from the kitchen table, or even the sofa.

If you’ve got a bit more time, how about asking some of your favourite customers for testimonials or using our new ‘Extra customer info’ forms to give your customer records a bit of a boost? Right now you might be able to remember that Mrs Smith had a Baxi boiler and it needs servicing in September, but by the time September rolls around… well, you probably won’t. 

Get all that info down – along with anything else that might be helpful, like how customers heard about you. It’ll show you what you’re doing right and wrong when it comes to spreading the word. By the end of the day, you might just have fuller records that help you promote your business, look after your customers better and feel super organised when the snow starts to melt.

Let’s do this

So, don’t wait for that freezing cold morning when the van’s a foot deep in snow. Get prepped now, have a plan for the worst of the weather and use your time to get a load more stuff done.

Keep warm out there!

By Dean Taylor

Back in 2010, Dean's building business was growing. He was doing great work, making people happy and enjoying being his own boss – but he was worn out. Not by the graft, but by the piles of paperwork taking up every evening. So, he got together with his cousin Adam, a web developer, and came up with a simple way to solve the problem – and help a whole load of other tradespeople too. They called it YourTradebase. Try it for yourself with a free 14 day trial. No strings. No credit card needed.

“Couldn't live without this... it’s a must have if you run a small business :)” — Danny Barker

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