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Preparing your home for winter

I’m getting ready to build a new home, and the weather will start to get colder and wetter. My wife and I are concerned about materials left out in the weather. What are some best practices we can put in place with our builder so that our house does not suffer any more than it has to?

— Randy P., Racine, Wis.

It’s really smart for you to think about all of this before you start. It’s even better to include provisions in your contract about material storage and wet construction situations. Many people freak out about their houses getting wet during the construction process, but they need to realize that water and construction go hand in hand, unless you’re building in the Atacama Desert.

The first thing to do is specify materials that are not harmed by water. Traditional oriented strand board (OSB), a material that has supplanted plywood as the primary floor-, wall- and roof-sheathing material, has a bad reputation for swelling when it gets wet. You can now purchase an OSB product for subfloors that is guaranteed not to swell, even if it has standing water on it.

Wall- and roof-sheathing products are available that have plastic coatings that repel water. These are good products so long as they allow water vapor to pass through them with ease.

Don’t worry about traditional wood wall studs, floor joists and roof rafters getting wet. This solid lumber will not be harmed by repeated periods of rain. Many people think that the wood will rot in a short time. This will not happen.

It’s imperative that you have a great builder with fantastic subcontractors. You want the builder to get the house frame up as rapidly as possible and get the house under roof so that rain becomes a non-factor. Have a serious talk with your builder and get firm commitments to ensure that work is happening on any good weather day.

To this end, when building late in the season, when bad weather is more frequent, consider looking at manufactured housing options. It’s possible to have your house delivered to the building site nearly completed. A crane can lift the house sections together, and in a matter of hours, or a few days, the entire house is weatherproof. At the very least, consider prefabricated walls.

Materials delivered to the job site need to be protected from the rain and sun, if possible. Stacks of lumber should not rest directly on the soil. Try to get an air space of 4 inches under the wood. Cover lumber with waterproof tarps, but allow two ends to be open so air can pass through the covered lumber pile.

It is best to store lumber in the shade. This is not easy to do, and it will add to your construction costs if you move the lumber into the structure.

Understand that hunting season can have a detrimental effect on your house project. In some parts of the United States, hunting season is more important to people than just about anything. Construction workers can suddenly disappear into the forest. They’ll sit for hours in the rain waiting for an animal, but they’ll rarely work in the rain for money to pay bills. Hunting manifests strange human behavior!

If your house gets soaked with water as it’s being framed and as the roof goes on, be sure to slow the construction process until the lumber dries well. You can make a huge mistake by allowing the builder to install insulation, vapor barriers and drywall over lumber that is saturated with water.

Tim Carter is a columnist for Tribune Media Services. He can be contacted through his Web site at


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