Cold Weather Masonry

Constructing masonry work in cold weather can be quite tricky, but with proper planning and preparation, it can be done successfully. Better yet, an extension into the cold weather construction season avoids delays and allows masonry resources to be utilized wisely. Several changes to equipment and procedures should be expected as well as implementing a new construction program due to the conditions that winter months bring. Once the ambient temperature falls below forty degrees fahrenheit, cold weather construction will officially commence.

We classify cold weather construction in its own category because as the temperature of mortar materials falls below normal building development and repair are affected. Masonry materials will be affected in the following ways: The initial and final setting of mortar will be delayed significantly due to additional drying time. Water consistency requirements are reduced. The reaction rates of heat-liberation between water and portland cement is also reduced as well as minimized. Certain air-entraining agent amounts will yield more entrained air. Lastly, the rate of strength gain will be reduced significantly.

Freshly made mortar needs to match the temperature of materials it comes in contact with meaning as building materials drop in temperature, due to climate changes, the mortar will need to as well. This is where the utilization of cold masonry units will come in handy. Cold masonry units aid in matching the temperature of mortar. Keep in mind that working with cold mortar will delay setting times, bonding reaction rates, and strength gain rates (as mentioned above). An additional factor to consider is the rate of which water freezes within mortar as it will disrupt the materials expansion and could possibly even resist bonding between the mortar and unit.

Not only does cold weather affect masonry materials, but is also affects mason workmanship and productivity. Cold weather conditions call for additional protection, preparation, and handling. Mason craftsmen are further concerned with personal comfort and safety. Each precautionary activity consumes more time as the temperature continuously drops. Craftsmen should work slowly to not endanger themselves as safety is key in completing a job successfully.

At the end of the day, the purpose of cold weather construction is to minimize and possibly even eliminate the negative effects of a colder climate on materials/work in a cost-effective way. Strategies for accomplishing this goal include protecting materials, enclosing work areas, optimizing the selection of materials to cater to cold weather performance, cooling materials, heating materials, and heating work areas. Any number of combinations utilizing these strategies may be required to complete a cold weather construct. A qualified mason contractor will evaluate, plan, and implement a specified selection of techniques to effectively and safely construct cold weather masonry. It is paramount that weather conditions always be considered during any type of build.