If a home renovation is on your winter to-do list, there’s more to consider than just fixtures and fittings.
Bad weather can cause damage, prolong the building process, and potentially put an unexpected dent in your wallet.
However, if you’re aware of what can go wrong, a basic plan can help to avoid the pitfalls of renovating during the winter months.
Roof removal risks
Covering an exposed roof with tarpaulin is standard building practice, but in winter water damage can still occur.
“This can happen and has happened on occasion,” says Peter Harnischmacher, general manager at Capital Building Contractors in Melbourne. “When we demolish a roof, a tarp will keep out 95 per cent of the water. But it’s impossible to keep out all the weather.”
Poor installation of the tarp, gusty winds, and damaged tarps can cause leaks and flooding. And the most common result? Water damage to the ceiling below.
This often-unavoidable issue can add unwanted costs and extended timeframes, but it isn’t a complete disaster. “When it’s been replaced, replastered and painted, you would never know the difference,” says Harnischmacher.
Damp delays drying
Once the home is no longer exposed to the elements, the plasterer and tiler can begin.
However, plaster and screeds do take longer to dry in winter due to the damp air so it’s important to allow enough time to avoid delaying trades. “It can take an extra day to dry, “says Harnischmacher. “But we don’t rush a job. If it’s not dry, we go to another job.”
Although, in some circumstances, the drying process can be sped up. “We use heat lamps if we’re under pressure for the screed to dry,” says Ali Ramazari, owner of Pro Tiling and Waterproofing. “Heat guns are an even faster option.”
Remember to schedule extra days into a winter renovation for the drying process if you don’t have access to heat lamps and heat guns. It will reduce the stress of rescheduling trades and it’s more cost-effective if you’re on a tight budget.
Pouring concrete in the rain is often advised against due to the damage the water does to the finish of the concrete. “If it’s just a drizzle, a concreter will probably still pour. If it’s raining heavily, it would be something we would not do,” says Harnischmacher.
Although this is the general practice for some, concreters can and will pour concrete in the rain if they have tight deadlines or if it’s holding a job up.
“It only damages the top of the concrete,“ says Ahmed Hammoud, owner of Concreter Melbourne. “Once it stops raining we remove the water and create the required finish.”
The end result is the same, however this way the project is not delayed and no time is wasted.
In the winter months, most good hardware stores and suppliers wrap their materials in plastic to ensure they’re not exposed to the weather.
“Plasterboard and floorboards, those kinds of products will get damaged in the rain,” says Harnischmacher. These materials can warp and expand if exposed to the weather making them unusable.
Ensure the delivery of materials are coordinated with the supplier and trades so there is someone on site to store them out of the weather on arrival. A bit of planning when it comes to deliveries can go a long way to keep a winter renovation on track.
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Digging is the one task that is never completed in the rain. If an excavator is involved, it can get trapped in the mud, the site can become impossible to keep clean, and holes dug for footings can fill with water.
“It creates more problems than it solves. We would sometimes delay a job if it is raining,” says Harnischmacher. “Once the rain is gone we will wait a couple of days for the soil to dry.“
The speed in which the soil dries depends on the soil type. Sandy soil will dry quickly, whereas clay can take much longer.
It’s important to ensure that the soil is dry before a footings inspection is ordered. “The building surveyor would not pass footings with water in them,” says Harnischmacher.
The conditions in winter differ dramatically across the country. And although renovating in winter does impact on a build, it’s no reason to stall construction but make sure you watch the forecast and act quickly if things change.