When Can You Start on Outdoor Home Improvement Projects?

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

With the winter sludge, salt-stained cars, and icy walkways still lingering, many of your outdoor home improvements must wait to avoid higher labor costs and compromised quality.

On the other hand, if you wait until the first day of spring to start planning your project and contacting contractors, you’ve already missed an opportunity to benefit from the first projects of the season. Here’s what you need to know to avoid starting a project too early or too late.

When Does the Outdoor Home Improvement Season Begin?

The simple answer is March, but depending on where you live and the specific project, the timeline can shift a few weeks, months, or more. The beginning and end of March are two different animals, as well. Cold weather can affect both labor and materials, and understanding how each component is affected will help you determine when the actual work can begin.

You might think that finding a contractor whose employees will work in the cold is hard to find, but often it isn’t as much about toughness as it is logistics and safety. Any project that requires lifting is problematic when you have to wear an extra couple layers of clothing. The cost of labor will generally increase between 10-15 percent when contractors have to work in temperatures below 40 degrees, and a staggering 30-35 percent when the temperature is below 20 degrees.

Materials tend to be an all-or-nothing deal as well. For example, in certain cold temperatures, hiring a painter to paint your siding will end badly. Instead of a finish that lasts 8 years, the paint might hold up for only eight months—or eight hours, in some cases. Older paint formulas used to require temperatures that would stay above 50 degrees during application and drying periods. Most paint today can be applied in temperatures as low as 35 degrees, however.

Early Birds—and Cheap Worms

While homeowner demand is a reasonably effective way to gauge when the outdoor home improvement season starts, the homeowners who talk to contractors in February and even back in January have a leg up on their neighbors. Perhaps, some of them were hoping to complete their projects over the winter, but homeowners who were planning ahead are probably already on contractors’ work schedules as they spend the last winter month finalizing building plans for when the air warms and the ground thaws.

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