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Community and Q&A

Winter Break During Construction

SeanRyan | Posted in General Questions on

Hey All — A question I’ve been pondering recently: When would be an acceptable time to “take a break” during the early stages of construction to wait for winter weather to pass? And yes, I know crews build throughout winter all the time in some parts of the country.

Some background — Owner-builder // CZ 6 // Eastern Idaho — Somewhat snowy climate but rarely feet of snow on the ground in the winter.

The reason behind wanting to potentially wait would be strictly financial. The idea was, fund the excavation and foundation with cash while waiting for rates to [hopefully] come down somewhat and get a more favorable bank loan, if possible.

I’ve read before that you can’t let a concrete foundation sit over winter, but I see concrete foundations sitting vacant in the mountains of Utah all the time. Is this the case? I think the easiest and most intuitive pause would be to excavate and pour the foundation and basement slab (including the in-slab plumbing rough and backfilling). This probably also includes setting floor trusses to tie the walls together and provide extra rigidity. Would you feel confident completing these steps and walking away from the job site for 4-5 months and allowing it to be covered with snow?

The next logical place to take a pause would be after drying-in. However, adding framing, roofing and windows to the scope certainly changes the financial situation in year 1. But, if needed, we could probably make this happen.

Interested to hear people’s thoughts on this. 

Any other considerations when over-wintering a job site? 

Appreciate it–

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  1. AC200 | | #1

    It's usually good practice to frame the first floor rim boards, joists and subfloor to keep the pressure from the backfill from causing any issues with the foundation. I've seen builders cover the subfloor with tyvek during the winter.

    I think the bigger issue is not whether a winter break is OK, but having a solid financial plan with healthy contingencies in place. Hoping for interest rates to drop to finance your build is risky and construction costs are still likely to inflate (especially labor) while you wait.

    Having started a build before the huge spike in inflation and interest rates has caused quite a deal of stress and aggravation at redoing projections and budgets. It's very unlikely your situation will be as volatile and I'm fortunate to be able to withstand these headwinds with discomfort, but if I had started the project on a knife's edge with respect to financing, I might have been forced to walk away with substantial sunk losses.

    My best advice for anyone is it always costs more and takes more time than you think and have enough of a financial budget to finish. If not, at least game plan what would happen if costs exceeded your budget and what you would have to do.

    1. SeanRyan | | #2

      Thanks AC200 -- All makes sense and we will certainly have a solid $$ plan in place (with buffer). Just thinking about how and when we want to take that bank loan to get the best deal. That being said, it's likely to not be too different between this year and next, and we should really just start to get real financing numbers on the table. Thanks for your thoughts.

    2. user-723121 | | #3


      You have given good advice, having the ability to pay is just as good as paying, be well capitalized. For taking a break, this is fine unless the break compromises the structure in any way. Frost damage to the foundation or weatherization of the structure due to exposure makes no sense. For self builds a step by step construction with a few breaks in between will help with sanity and endurance. Spend a lot of time planning, think it through before the circular saw whines.


  2. walta100 | | #4

    What is the point of taking the break?

    The guys want and need to work all year long. They would much rather work in the cold than sit at home without a pay check.

    Will the bids be lower in the spring? I don’t think so.

    Will the best subs be available to work on your project in the spring? I don’t think so.

    Will the interest rate be 2% again if you delay for 4 months? I don’t think so but you can always refinance if they are.

    Note do not break ground without the construction loan signed and in place. Getting a construction loan without a general contractor would have been impossible at my bank and took weeks.


  3. Expert Member
    Michael Maines | | #5

    Here in Maine it's common to build through the winter. In fact, when I was building homes and additions, I don't recall ever NOT framing through the winter. It is definitely slower, reducing progress by up to 50%, but it can and is done all the time.

    Leaving a foundation unheated and uncovered is risky. On one project I designed, with a walk-out basement, the builder framed the first floor, did not pour a slab and the corner of the foundation lifted several inches over the winter.

    The key is whether the soil around the foundation remains dry; it's the water in the ground that expands as it freezes. No water, no frost heaving. Or keep the water in the soil above the freezing point.

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