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Top tips for cold weather working

Alan Collins and Martin Pouncey, technical training and site support managers at Instarmac, outline some advice for working in colder temperatures as we enter the winter period

Well it’s safe to say autumn has well and truly arrived. The nights are drawing in and our Netflix watch list is getting longer and longer. During the colder months of the year, we’re often asked if it’s OK to work in freezing temperatures, so we thought we would answer our most commonly asked questions.

Should we work in cold temperatures?
Theoretically, the answer would be no. However, we know that isn’t practical or possible and work still needs to be carried out in the winter months. Closing your business for a few months of the year isn’t feasible, money needs to be earned and jobs completed. With that in mind, there are things we can do to make working in winter much easier.

When does ‘no’ mean ‘no’?
No means no when the temperature will not be 5°C above the dew point throughout application and curing. This rule is to ensure there’s no moisture present at the subfloor surface which will hinder adhesion. Dew point is linked to atmospheric humidity and temperature.

What can go wrong when working in cold temperatures?
As you know, most adhesives are cement-based and cement cures through hydration. Cold temperatures will affect the moisture content in a cement-based product, and so if we work in cold conditions, you might find that the cement does not set or could even freeze.

It’s also worth noting curing is an exothermic process which needs heat to start the chemical reaction. If the air temperature is too low, there will not be enough heat generated to cure the product, which will prolong the set – not ideal!

That being said, there are things we can do to make working in cold temperatures more manageable.

If you do have to work in cold temperatures, what can help?
Our first tip would be to store all your products inside, ideally in a heated environment. Please do not store products in your van or outside. This will dramatically reduce the temperature of the product, making your job much harder before you even begin.

The same goes for storing tiles. Tiles can be cold at the best of times so storing them outside is a real no-go during the colder months.

Air temperature is also a big one! Where possible, raise the air temperature within the room to give you a more ambient working environment. We recommend using a heater rather than a gas burner to prevent condensation.

In the same way we recommend using cold water for mixing in the summer months, during the winter we advise using water above 20 degrees for mixing. This will minimise the risk of prolonged set and/or the product failing to set at all.

If you are working on a substrate that has underfloor heating within it, you can turn the system on to 15°C to help raise the temperature. Remember, you need to maintain this temperature for 7 days.

These are our top tips for working in the colder months. We would love to hear what your tips are for working in the winter. Join the conversation by following #UltraTileTips.
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