Facing a Frosty Jobsite: How C&H Glass conquers snow and cold

The team of glaziers from C&H Glass knew their storefront installation work would be delayed upon arriving at a Bismarck, North Dakota, jobsite following back-to-back winter storms that dumped several feet of snow on the region. Snow had blown into the unprotected openings of the building creating drifts of 3 to 4 feet inside the structure, obstructing the crew’s workspace.  

“I don’t usually include that we will do snow removal in our bid. But, when there are 3-foot drifts inside, we have to shovel out before we can work,” says Russ Heier, owner of C&H Glass, a commercial and residential glass company based in Bismarck.


Russ Heier, owner of C&H Glass. 
Snow piles in the C&H parking lot. According to Heier, the company's usual seven parking spots are down to just three or four due to the snow. 

North Dakota is experiencing a snowier than usual winter, presenting construction challenges. While the first major snow didn’t occur until December, by the first week of January, four winter storms had blanketed the area with feet upon feet of snow. Sub-zero temperatures combined with strong winds, created near unmanageable snow drifts and dangerous conditions.

“We have been getting 30 inches at a time,” Heier says. “This is a little abnormal for the region. We do get storms with this much snow, but it is usually in the spring, and it melts away.”

The heavy snowfalls and cold temperatures have made for difficult conditions in building construction, the most notable of which has been project access, Heier describes.

“We have to be able to access the jobsite and the openings,” Heier says. “Many jobsites are on the outskirts of town, and it takes three to four days for snow removal on the roads just to get there. Once we are there, we have to gain access to the openings.” That has led to hours of shoveling work for Heier’s crew before they can begin installation.

The cold, wet conditions also affect the openings themselves, both in new construction or existing buildings. “The majority of what we do right now is door problems,” Heier says. “Automatic doors stop working in the cold. There’s ice in the tracks. Swing doors stop working.”

Frost heaving has also created problems. “The way this snow came—wet at first, then cold—caused heaving cement. The cement comes up and makes the opening too tight,” Heier says. “We have been cutting doors down for fit.”

The snows created problems from above as well, due to the excess weight on the rooftops. “We had one job where it wasn’t the cement coming up, but the roof was coming down due to weight,” Heier says. “Removing snow off roofs has become big business.”

In addition to snow, the bitter cold presents its own set of challenges. The most important consideration is worker safety. “We know [our glaziers] will have to take frequent breaks. We keep the vans running all day for warmth,” Heier says.

The installation process itself also changes in the cold as sealants, in particular, are affected by the cold. “We are limited because of temperature. We take care of the majority of the installation. We set the glass, and put in stubs—3-to-4-inch long pieces that keep the glass centered. This will shut out the majority of the weather, and we come back when it is warmer to finish,” Heier says.

 Katy Devlin is editor in chief of Glass Magazine. Contact her at kdevlin@glass.org. 

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