Building a Custom Home in Wisconsin Winters: Challenges and Solutions

The winter months in the Southeastern Wisconsin provide many challenges for home owners, particularly with damaging effects of the freeze/thaw cycle. Working outdoors in the cold temperatures is also relatively unappealing to many, but when it comes to contractors and home building experts, inclement and unpredictable weather comes with the territory, particularly in the Midwest. While there are ideal weather conditions for certain phases of a custom home building project, custom home builders are equipped to compensate for even the least ideal conditions, allowing for building a custom home in Wisconsin winters.

Obviously one of the greatest concerns with building during the winter months are the additional costs that are the result of compensating for cold temperatures, incorporating both labor and materials. However, both labor and material costs tend to increase in the springtime, as demand increases after the winter months, so this cost concern is generally neutralized. Homes can be built in virtually any weather, even the bitter cold, as long as the foundation is dug and installed before the ground freezes. Timing is key, as pouring should closely follow excavation, to avoid laying anything on frozen ground.

Easily the most important and simultaneously vulnerable phase of building a new home is pouring the foundation, concrete walls and floors. In cold weather, additives are used to concrete that accelerate the curing process. While some consider the concrete with additives inferior in strength, the difference is fairly insignificant once the concrete is fully cured. There are, however, limits to how low the temperature can go, where pouring concrete is no longer feasible and protective measures such as heaters, blankets and straw are not fail-safe.

Once the foundation and concrete floors are poured and installed, the major obstacles of winter building are overcome. Structural framing and roofing are also important processes to expedite in advance of winter months. Once the structure is weather tight, building materials are protected and indoor labor is mostly unaffected during the most brutal conditions. In some cases, concrete floors can be poured after the house has been framed, as temporary heat can easily be added to the area.

It is true that lumber may be affected by cold weather, exposed to extreme elements during the framing stage. Ideally, all homes should be framed in mild, average humidity weather, ensuring the wood’s consistent moisture content throughout the building process. The lower humidity of winter actually allows the lumber to lose moisture absorbed from rainy periods and high humidity conditions. Normal rainwater has no effect on the wood used to build homes, nor does snow, as long as it is removed before melting. Professional home builders, accustomed to year-round construction in all elements, are well-versed on the proper storage and protection to ensure the integrity of the wood and framing stage.

Wisconsin residents are well-versed in versatility and adaptability to weather elements and conditions. Building a dream home in the bitter winter months is no exception and entirely possible, yet the expertise of an experienced custom home builder is vital to the integrity and success of the project.