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Low temperatures and high relative humidity (RH) impacts building projects in many ways. It’s important to look ahead at the winter and spring seasons and think about the tasks you need to complete within your programme and the sensitive materials you might be using.

Wet trades, products, and sensitive materials

Temperature affects sensitive materials such as wood, dry plaster work and paint. As they become cold these materials can weaken and contract causing cracks and splits. This process sometimes becomes even more apparent as the site begins to warm up or the heating is commissioned and switched on for the first time. As these materials warm up, they relax and expand adding to the stress they have already experienced. Any cracks and splits can become worse and more noticeable.

Cold and freezing temperatures can impede the application and drying of paint, plaster, and other wet materials. If your project is using screed you may find your specific product cannot be poured in low temperatures.

Plumbing and Underfloor Heating Pipework

When frozen water can expand by as much as 9%. This expansion puts the pipework and plumbing joints under huge pressure. Frozen, expanding pipes will crack, split and burst causing leaks which once thawed, will then result in water damage which can be catastrophic.

Relative Humidity

When most people think of humidity they think of hot and humid climates, but the colder seasons also deliver very high humidity which impacts progress on site in the same way.

As well as warmer temperatures most wet trade materials such as screed and plaster also need a minimum RH level to be able to cure or dry. Winter typically delivers RH levels in excess of 85% which can have significant impact on drying and curing times. Most screed products require an atmospheric RH of 65% or less which is exceptionally dry – dryer than some of the hottest UK summers on record!

Protect your site, safeguard against adverse weather and keep progress moving

The best way to protect your project from cold and humid conditions and ensure your wet trades can progress without delay is to consider background heat and environmental controls.

Consider the benefits of installing temporary environmental controls. This should include temporary boilers to run existing radiators or underfloor heating. High capacity dehumidifiers to control the humidity and industrial air moving fans to create excellent air flow and push damp air towards those dehumidifiers.

You may have a heating system which can be commissioned early to provide a low-level background heat. In this case you may only require the dehumidifiers and air moving fans.

Keep your building warm, control humidity and keep excellent air-flow to safeguard against the damage caused by adverse weather and keep your programme moving.