It’s no secret that winter construction presents its own unique set of challenges to Ontario builders. To put it simply, when the snow flies, life at job sites becomes a little more complicated and lot slower. The extreme cold is not only tough on workers; tools and heavy equipment operate more slowly and break down more frequently. Lack of daylight hours is another problem…in the warmer months, if a crew needs to get a few extra hours in to finish, the sun is out until 9 pm. In the stark, short days of January, daylight is scarce and job sites usually wrap up by 4:30 pm. Absenteeism also increases, due to both illness and poor driving conditions (or school/bus cancellations!), which further slows down production.
With all of these obstacles to battle, who in their right mind would even bother scheduling winter construction? Well, here at KLC we rarely turn down a challenge and working through the winter months is no exception. We embrace the season and even continue production on our island projects, which offer their own separate ballpark of challenges above and beyond those of a “regular” job site. Many of our clients have cottages on Stoney Lake, and with over 1000 islands scattered throughout its waters, some developed and some not, it made sense for us to get comfortable with island life! We have carved out a niche as a company that excels at working in remote, rugged locations and over the past couple years we have been taking on water only access projects more frequently. We’ve been able to do so by equipping our teams with specialized tools and equipment to complete these island based projects more efficiently.
During the warmer months, our production crews and sub-trades shuttle back and forth from the islands via boats, while larger materials and equipment gets brought over by barge. In the winter, when ice conditions are safe, crews work off the ice and access job sites on snowmobiles and ATV’s. During the fall-to-winter transition, there is the inevitable “ice in” period where our crews halt production and must wait for ice conditions to become safe for travel. While we usually have a good idea of when to expect certain conditions, this is always a guess at best and we are at the mercy of whatever Mother Nature chooses to throw at us. This year, for example, KLC’s boats were on the lakes much later than normal, well into December. However, the mild temperatures seen through December and January combined with the raising & lowering of water levels by the Trent Severn Waterway have hindered ice production and it’s been a dance of red light/green light in accessing our island jobs on a consistent basis.
Winter isn’t all bad though, as working off the ice opens up possibilities that water makes difficult or even impossible. Delivering materials over the ice can be much easier and economical, allowing us to run ATV’s directly on to the area of the island being worked on. Working on areas in the winter that are surrounded by water through the summer allows us to stage safely off the ice. Another perk is that frozen ground can actually protect landscaping that would be damaged during the summer months.
While there are many reasons it is preferable to work in warmer weather conditions, there are also numerous activities that can be done safer, faster and with less labour involved during winter construction. And, as many of our team members have learned over the years, if dressed appropriately working outside on a nice, sunny February day can be quite enjoyable!