Cold Weather Masonry Construction – What are the limits?

It is currently getting into the fall season and we are hurrying to wrap up our outdoor jobs that will be affected by cold weather.  It’s not that we mind working outdoors in the cold; it’s that some materials do not perform well if applied in adverse weather conditions and temperatures. Paint and cement are perfect examples. A mild winter goes a long way to keep the construction moving, but there really is no telling what we will get.

Most contractors just go with their gut to determine the limits, but real quality control has established limits that should be followed. We use the Building Code and the International Masonry Institute’s (IMI) standards as a guide.  In this case, we suggest following the IMI Technical Brief Section 2.5.6.

You can download this guide for future reference.

Cold Weather Masonry Construction IMI 2-5-6

Masonry work outside of the regular limits can be done but adds costs due to special provisions.

Is it OK for paint to freeze in the winter?

The answer is NO!

If you go and ask a bunch of pro painters and pro paint vendors this question, you will get a wide variety of answers.

The real/true answer is “no.”  Don’t store your paint outside in the winter, in a shed, or anywhere where it is an untempered environment. When paint freezes, it messes up the molecular composition of the paint.

See the picture of a can of paint in our workshop that we bought in November of 2013. I thought I got all the sensitive materials out, but this can was missed and left in a lock box. It is a good quality paint (not cheap either), and it is not old, so it is definitely the cold temps that ruined it!


Winterizing hose spigots before winter

This past spring, we changed a lot of hose bibbs that froze and broke over the past winter. This upcoming spring, we would like to see that fewer of our customers start the new season with hose bibbs that froze and broke over the winter.



To prevent hose bibbs from breaking, if they are not the frost-free type, they must be winterized properly.

GLBC, as a general rule, only installs the frost-free type, but seeing as there are many non-frost free ones out there, we know most people instead install the non-free type hose spigots.  We consider this a best practice.DSCF4804

But sometimes, if not treated properly, the frost free hose bibbs will break as well.  To properly winterize, the hose outside must be removed and the valve must be closed completely. That’s it! It’s that simple.

For the plain (old style) hose spigots, there hopefully is a valve inside the house above the spigot that isolates the water supply line to the spigot.  That valve must be closed completely and then the valve outside must be opened to allow all the water in the line to drain out by gravity.

We often see newly flipped houses where the builders did not follow code and installed the old style sill faucets. Why do the supply houses still sell the old-style spigots if they are no longer allowed by Code? The old-style spigots are still sold because it is still permissible to use the old style for boiler drains and equipment drains inside the house.  Unfortunately, many plumbers do not recognize the difference and since they are cheaper, they use the old style.

Also, the Code requires the following for hose spigots:

“P2902.4.3 Hose connection. Sillcocks, hose bibbs, wall hydrants and other openings with a hose connection shall be protected by an atmospheric-type or pressure-type vacuum breaker or a permanently attached hose connection vacuum breaker.”

This is part of what we install, but the vacuum breaker is not included in the old style spigots.