Clai Porter
NCP Design/Build
Anchorage, Alaska
Big50 1990

Proper clothing is absolutely crucial for us. We wear lots of layers and insulated “bunny boots” that are good to 50 below. We buy chemical foot-warmers and glove-warmers by the case and provide these on jobsites. We also give everyone a set of ice cleats for working on slippery areas.

We do most of our work under Visqueen tents with forced-air heat. We also use heated concrete and hotgun nails.

We'll work in Anchorage until it's 20 below and in Fairbanks until it's 40 below. Beyond that, the electrical cords just shear or break. It's a different world out here.

Willie Delfs
Able Homebuilders
Sioux City, Iowa
Big50 2005

It is a given, being from Iowa and having four seasons, that we will have bad weather more often than we would like. We have learned over the years to be flexible and to tell customers upfront about anything that may interrupt the proposed schedule for their jobs.

To minimize downtime, we have many jobs going at the same time, with each job at different stages. When the weather forces us away from one, we can work at another. If the weather does not allow us to work at any jobs, we move into our shop to prefabricate materials or paint and stain millwork.

If we cannot perform these duties, we take time to maintain tools and vehicles. We promise employees 40 hours per week. With this in mind, we are able to fill that time even when the weather does not want to cooperate.

Michael Gervais
Prime Construction
Burlington, Vt.
Big50 2003

Most important is the “no heroes” clause in our employment manual: if the wind chill is below zero degrees Fahrenheit, employees are not required to work outside. Being located on a lake, it's the wind chill factor more than the temperature that can be an issue. We provide employees with warm hats, sweatshirts, and jackets.

In addition to having heated trailers, we create enclosures around the work area to keep things dry and relatively warm.

We prepare all jobsites before work commences; for instance, we clear and sand footpaths, and provide proper ladder footing. We use clean, dry footwear inside homes. No tracking in with wet, salty boots.

Excavating frozen earth is not a problem if we can dig by the middle of January. After that, we use frost buckets and bring in unfrozen materials for backfill. We do site cleanup and final grading in late spring.

We watch the weather forecast and schedule accordingly, and we anticipate weather changes (which seem to happen every hour) in order to take necessary precautions.

David Heaney
Rockland Architects & Builders
Newport, Del.
Big50 2005

At our weekly production meetings, we create a weather-related “plan B” for the following week for every project. We always look at which projects would benefit the most on any particular day.

We have someone evaluate the conditions when the weather is bad, and we have a phone chain for notifying staff of closures or delays.

Chris McDonald
The Artisans Group
Olympia, Wash.
Big50 2005

With 50 to 100 inches of rain each year, you would think that we would have all kinds of weather-related plans in place. The truth is, we just work right through the wetness. We have just had one of the longest wet spells in history and experienced no real delays.

We always try to secure the client's garage for covered work areas. We have some portable awning tents that keep our chop saws dry, and we've been known to cover the entire work area with large tarps (100 feet by 100 feet). We delay exterior painting until spring or summer on almost all of our jobs. Still, try as we might, things get wet. Can you say “rusty tools”?

The only explicit weather-related policy we have is to follow our local school district's policy for snow days.