Groundbreaking is an exciting day when you’re building a new home. All of your dreams and design discussions have culminated in this moment. At last, all those plans are bearing fruit and you have something tangible to celebrate. But what if winter arrives just as construction is about to begin?


For residents in the Ann Arbor area, winter weather can raise a lot of questions about the home construction process. Our clients often ask us about building a house in winter, and what it means for their new home project. Let’s explore those questions.

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Common Questions About Building an Ann Arbor Home During the Winter


When is the best time of year to start building a new house?

Conventional wisdom says that the best time of year to begin building is in the springtime, once the ground has thawed. That’s when you’ll have the longest time to build without worrying about winter issues. Most new home construction projects can finish before the weather turns cold, and you can move into your new home before the ground is buried in snow and ice.


Can you build a house in the winter?

At one time, the rule of thumb was to get the roof on before the first snowfall — otherwise, construction should wait until spring. However, new technologies and changing attitudes in the industry have made it possible to start construction at any time of year, and to continue building even through the winter months.


What about building the foundation after the ground has frozen?

When the ground freezes in winter, the top 12 inches of soil is solid ice mixed with rock and dirt. It can be nearly impossible to dig up, even with an excavator. However, construction crews can use a ground thaw machine to melt the frozen soil so that the foundation can be dug.

While it may take longer for a poured foundation to fully cure in cold weather, it can actually result in an even stronger foundation than one poured in the summer months.


How will winter weather influence our construction schedule?

The good news is that most trades can work in all but the coldest conditions, as long as they can stay dry. From that perspective, continuing your home construction during a cold Ann Arbor winter means you won’t have to pause the home building project until March or April. You may be able to move in months earlier.

However, Michigan winters can reduce a builder’s productivity. Daylight hours are shorter, and bulkier clothing can slow a crew down. Care must be taken to prevent pipe ruptures, ice dams and other water issues.

So, while winter home construction can allow you to enjoy your new home sooner, winter work may require more patience on a day-to-day basis.


Will winter construction affect our budget?

The main cost differences of winter construction are related to new home or addition projects where it’s important to provide temporary heating for drywall mud, painting, concrete, and even work crews. Certain activities, such as digging a septic field, might occasionally introduce a change in subcontractor pricing.

There may also be some incidental expenses around time spent clearing snow for exterior siding or roofing efforts.


What are the advantages to building in the winter?

For some Ann Arbor homeowners, the benefits of building a home during the winter can be very attractive:


  • Because homebuilders are less busy in the winter, subcontractors such as drywall specialists, electricians, and plumbers are easier to schedule.
  • Permits and zoning approval can often be obtained more quickly during the winter, since there are fewer applications to process.
  • Many contractors can work during a snowfall, but not in a spring rainstorm.
  • Muddy ground in the spring can be a trap for heavy trucks and equipment. That isn’t an issue when the ground is frozen.


What are the disadvantages to building in winter?

While there are some attractive advantages to building your home in the winter, there are also some downsides. For example:


  • Cost. Winter construction will require additional equipment and preparations, as well as temporary lighting and heating. Snow removal may add some costs as well.
  • The weather. Fighting the elements can reduce the productivity of a construction crew, especially if you need to dig and set a foundation.
  • Heating. Cold weather construction requires a homebuilder to keep water heated and work spaces warm enough to work in.
  • Productivity. Winter cold and reduced daylight will slow down production. Equipment takes longer to warm up in cold weather, and bulky clothing makes it difficult to work efficiently.


Should You Build During the Winter

What does all of this mean for your own home construction project? If you’re not in a hurry, it’s often better to build during the warmer months, so that you can keep costs lower. But if you’re in a hurry or have the budget for it, Giraffe Design Build can build in the winter. While you may spend more, crews will have more availability and you won’t need to wait until spring to begin (or continue) your home building project.

If you’re looking for a design-build company to take you from concept to completion, Giraffe Design Build creates inspired designs and environments, built with excellent craftsmanship, delivered with integrity and empathy, to delight people and planet. If this sounds like the kind of home-build company that you’re looking for, let’s talk. We’d love to be your partner to bring your dreams to life.

Call us today to start a conversation about designing and building the home of your dreams.