GBA Logo horizontal Facebook LinkedIn Email Pinterest Twitter Instagram YouTube Icon Navigation Search Icon Main Search Icon Video Play Icon Plus Icon Minus Icon Picture icon Hamburger Icon Close Icon Sorted

Community and Q&A

Protecting a New Build During Winter Months

steveeee | Posted in General Questions on

i’m building a 1300sqft (per floor) 2 story house, just me and my wife mostly and maybe some contractors for specific thins like dry wall, etc

the city says i have to be done in 2 years and i’m working on permits now, hope to start building in early June.

i know the normal process would be to complete the lower level first (which includes the garage), then do the upper level then roof, but this year i think i only have time for the lower level. the problem with that is, if i only get as far as the 2nd level floor before i stop work for the winter (i plan to return to my house in Thailand for the winter by the way) then how do i protect the structure from the winter?

i’m in the mountains of North Carolina so lots of snow, rain and wind. the obvious thing is lots of tarps i guess but i doubt they will stay put for 3 months, i don’t know maybe they will?

my other thought is i really want to get the garage done so i have a place to keep my car for the winter. the garage is part of the house, there will be the living room above it. my thought is build the garage and the floor above and the roof above that this year, which will be about 1/3rd of the house, then the remainder next year. the only downside of that i can think of is joining the roof shingles next year would be hard, maybe look like it was done in 2 stages.

maybe best not to put shingle son at all this year, just the underlayment and a tarp on top to protect it.

what you all think? sorry for the long post.


GBA Prime

Join the leading community of building science experts

Become a GBA Prime member and get instant access to the latest developments in green building, research, and reports from the field.


  1. creativedestruction | | #1

    You would want the shell dried-in by winter if possible. Foundations, fully framed, sheathed, roof on, WRB, windows and exterior doors in. At that point you have some breathing room. It's uncommon and very risky to try and completely finish portions of the house before reaching that dry-in stage.

    1. steveeee | | #2

      given that there is no way i can finish the exterior of the whole house this year, i think you are saying best to build one section to the point where its water tight right? that's what i'm thinking

      1. Expert Member
        BILL WICHERS | | #3

        The general rule is to go as fast as you can until the structure is protected from the weather. Once you have the exterior up enough to do that, the interior stuff can be scheduled regardless of weather. You're at risk until you have a roof, basically.

        If you have to do stages, get each stage built enough that it can protect itself, and tarp remaining portions. Note that tarps can keep things damp underneath, so they are not without risk themselves.


  2. walta100 | | #4

    The pros do not stop for winter in NC. They will take a day off your job if it is raining, snowing or below freezing they string along a few indoor jobs to keep the pay check coming.

    Get a bid from a framing crew 12 guys would have under ply wood in a week. A layer of tar paper and you can ride out the weather for months.

    Check you instruction carefully many building products are only rated for UV exposure for so many day 180 is a common number.


    1. Expert Member
      NICK KEENAN | | #10

      I agree, this is a job to be subbed out. There are a lot of costs to stopping and starting. The time you spend closing up and opening up is time you're not building. Once you're dried in it's much easier to work at your own pace

      What a crew of twelve does in a week is twelve man-weeks of work -- assuming you're as efficient as they are.

      For inspiration, check out the Crazy Framer on YouTube. The guy frames houses by himself in about 30 days. Watching him frame is like watching Wayne Gretzky skate.

  3. this_page_left_blank | | #5

    If you can't get the exterior shell weather tight in the first year, I don't see how you could finish the whole thing in two years. The exterior shell is less than half of the whole job.

  4. Robert Opaluch | | #6

    Dividing the house into two separate projects is a good idea. Especially if you could get a permit (or change the permit) to only do that part to completion. That would take the pressure off you and let you take the winters away.

    I built 1300 SQFT (total) 2-story with attached 2-car garage mostly solo, and got the foundation, framing and roofing done in about five months before a massive blizzard. Got a certificate of occupancy in 13 months including a two-weeks away. However, I wouldn't have left it for the remainder of a winter without completing the doors & windows to seal it up. Others likely would want the siding completed too. The house was designed with a future addition planned to add up to about 2,000 finished SQFT.

    Would you consider skipping the winter in Thailand or making the trip shorter? I don't see how its feasible to leave the house without completing the foundation/framing/windows&doors/roofing at a minimum. And you better get the certificate of occupancy done within their two year limit. Taking two winters away, but being done within two years seems unrealistic if you don't believe you can complete the exterior shell before you leave next winter.

    Is the house and attached garage a fairly simple/straightforward shell, or a lot of bump outs or details? Are there ways to simplify the job, like the example you gave? For example, you might be able to leave the upstairs bedrooms and bath not completed until the future, just an empty floor upstairs with rough plumbing installed. Then you could be better assured of getting the permit work completed within two years including winters away.

    Agree with Walta that another option is to hire some help. Consider subbing out or getting help on parts of the job that you might not care so much to do yourself.

  5. Expert Member
    Akos | | #7

    There was a build that was stalled near me right after the foundation was poured and the floor was put on for over a year. They just tarped the subfloor. Don't know if any of the subfloor needed to be replaced after that. My guess, expect some damage and be ready to rip out some decking.

    As others have said, building the shell is the easy part.

    You can make your life a lot easier by simplifying the design. Keep the shape simple. Simple shapes are easier to build, easier to detail and are generally more energy efficient.

    Design to clear span without any interior load bearing walls. A bit of extra material cost and engineering but it simplifies your foundation and much quicker to build. Besides making the layout more flexible, this would let you focus on the exterior shell and build the interior walls down the road.

  6. walta100 | | #8

    One of my neighbors decided to fire the GC just after the framing was done and found subs to finish they moved in after 3 years. They still don’t have railing on the stair case and bridge across the main room also the second floor deck and its stairs have no railing to this day. Yes the only code enforced is a septic inspection.

    Another thought he could do it himself after having a crew do the framing after 3.5 years they are just now finishing the last of the siding God only know if they have drywall. He claimed to have injured his back and stopped working for some time.

    Be aware we could have used the money people they deposited to get a permit to level the building after one year.

    Some county governments are not so easy going.

    What is the plan if you get injured or if you run out of money?


  7. AlexPoi | | #9

    Another thing to remember is that most WRB can't be left exposed to UV rays for more than 6 months (3 month for the cheap one) so you'll need to tarp everything until the siding is installed.

    1. this_page_left_blank | | #11

      Typar Metrowrap is rated for 12 months. It's a much sturdier product that is worth the premium, in my opinion.

Log in or create an account to post an answer.


Recent Questions and Replies

  • |
  • |
  • |
  • |