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Weathering the Storm: The Financial Impact of Bad Weather on Tradespeople & How To Mitigate The Risks

Rhino Trade Insurance 02 May 2024

Ah, bad weather. If you live in the UK, it’s part of life, and you could say it’s as British as fish and chips and tikka masala. But for tradespeople, bad weather means something more serious than just calling off your weekend golf game.

The Financial Fallout from Bad Weather for Tradespeople

Bad weather causes the UK’s tradespeople to lose on average £1,325 every year. This sizeable sum has been revealed by researchers over at Ironmongery Direct, and it got us thinking at Rhino HQ. Join us as we delve into the details of this unfortunate statistic and consider if there are any silver linings to this raincloud.

Why is Bad Weather Bad News for Tradespeople?

Ultimately, bad weather means an unsafe work site. Slipping around on wet surfaces, poor visibility and damage to electrical equipment are just three reasons why working through bad weather can spell trouble for tradespeople. And with climate change getting realer by the day, we might be seeing an increase of heatwaves in the next few years.

Poor storage of materials and equipment in bad weather can also cost you money as a tradesperson. Supply chain issues can throw a spanner in the works with delays in the provision of essential materials. Plus, bad weather also has an impact on the quality of the work that can be carried out. For example, you can’t guarantee a good result laying bricks in wet conditions. For these reasons, downing tools is sometimes the only option, no matter how painful it may be.  

Trades Most Vulnerable to Weather-Related Losses 

Weather-related work disruptions are a factor to consider across all trades. But some trades are more severely affected than others. For example, if you repair furniture for a living then you won’t need to worry so much about being rained off as, for example, a roofer who calls the great outdoors their office.

Trades which tend to translate to the most significant tradesmen loss include:

1. Plumbers 

Plumbers are the trade which deal with the biggest losses from bad weather in the UK. Issues affecting plumbers include frozen pipes in winter and mudslides after heavy rain – not ideal conditions for laying outdoor pipes. Plumbers lose an average of £1,723 annually due to weather-related disruption.

2. Electricians

Water and electricity don’t mix. Even indoor work can be affected during bad weather – this is why electricians lose out on an average of £1,570 each year due to having to call off jobs when it rains. 

3. Builders

Much like plumbers, bad weather accounts for plenty of cancelled work if you’re in the building trade. Slippery surfaces, trenches filling with water and frozen ground all play a role in preventing a day’s work. Extended timelines and messed-up schedules due to weather cost UK builders an average of £1,548 each year.

4. Painter and decorators

It’s all very well working indoors, but if you’re painting a house, fence or any other outdoor structure then you’re not going to be able to do it in high wind, snow, rain or sleet. The UK’s painters and decorators see an average loss of £1,335 each year due to inclement weather. 

5. Landscapers

Landscapers are a hardy bunch, but there are certain weather conditions which will call off a job no matter what. Heavy rain and snow are obvious ones, but increasingly we are seeing some scorching summer days reaching 40 degrees Celsius, which make working outdoors all day hazardous. An annual loss of £1,213 is average.

6. Building surveyors

A little bit of rain shouldn’t be an issue, but severe weather can make a surveyor’s job nigh on impossible. Wet weather can lead to boggy conditions on some types of land, and sensitive equipment can be damaged. Surveyors see £1,120 in losses due to weather alone during any given year. 

7. Carpenters

Again, if you’re working inside then you’re in luck. But carpenters working in the building trade often work in partially-completed structures with no protection when the rain or snow comes down. For this reason, called off jobs rear their ugly heads every winter leading to an average loss of £990.

8. Bricklayers

Given that they’re an integral cog in the building machine, it’s a surprise that brickies only see £969 lost every year due to weather-related issues. What with things like efflorescence to consider, it’s a surprise that brickies don’t lose more work in this rain-soaked country, but who are we to argue with statistics?!

9. Plasterers 

Internal plastering is all well and good, but what if you specialise in external brickwork or rendering? Heavy rain, wind or snow will put a dampener on your jobs and add up to an average of £765 each year.

10. Joiners

Just like with any trade, self-employed joiners don’t get paid if their job is called off due to bad weather. Unless you’ve got some interior jobs lined up that can be brought forward, your average joiner is looking at a loss of around £680 a year due to weather-related disruption.

A Tradesman Speaks…

We asked Mick, a building contractor in Leicester, what impact bad weather can have on his business.

I work in all weathers. I even advertise that fact on my website. When one of my lads moans about a bit of rain, I say to them, “Your skin is waterproof isn’t it?” and out they go. That being said, some jobs are just impossible to do no matter what the weather – even for me. The customer usually understands but it costs me money when a job is delayed. When we had the snow a couple of years ago, we couldn’t work for seven days as the ground was frozen so we downed tools. I still had to pay my subs. That week cost me £2,000. Then our schedule was thrown off for the week after. And depending on the ground conditions, you can get a mud-bath after a bit of heavy rain. I see this all the time. (Cancelling work) is just yet another one of the financial challenges for tradespeople that most people don’t even think about.”

Mick S, building contractor

Strategies for Minimising Financial Loss During Adverse Weather

Weather impact on trades is nothing new. But what’s a tradesperson to do to plan for adverse conditions? We have some suggestions which should help you mimimise the financial impact of needing to down tools due to bad weather.

  • Diversify your services

If you’re in a trade which relies on mild and moderate weather outside, then it might be time to pick up a new skill that can be carried out indoors. This will mean that when the storm clouds are brewing (literally), you have something up your sleeve. For example, if you’re a plasterer specialising in external rendering, brushing up on your interior work will serve you well during the winter months. 

  • Schedule flexibility

Tempting though it may be to block book big jobs throughout the year, you may need to postpone them during the winter freeze, spring rain or summer heat. To avoid significant losses, try to schedule in some smaller jobs around your bigger ones that you can pick up when you get a few hours of clear skies.

Additionally, add a margin and buffer to jobs during times of predictable bad weather (for example, the middle of winter) to mitigate the knock-on effect that weather-related delays will have.

Or, if you have a skill set which is a mixture of indoor and outdoor work, make sure your seasonal scheduling reflects this by booking your indoor jobs during the most challenging months (that’s generally November – February here in the UK).

  • Analyse weather patterns

You may not have a crystal ball, but to predict the weather you don’t need one. With the right tech you can plan around adverse weather conditions and while you won’t be able to prevent weather-related delays, keeping a close eye on the weather forecast and analysing historical weather trends will allow you to predict weather with greater accuracy. If this sounds a little complicated, don’t worry. Simply download a weather forecasting app like Met Office Weather or VisualCrossing and let robots do the work for you. 

Then, when you have a winter job to schedule, you can take a look at what the weather was like that week for the past five years, for example, and work in some bad-weather contingency time based on historical patterns. 

  • Protect your site

Your materials and equipment are worth thousands to your business at any given time. Don’t let the great British weather ravage your job site by following the basic principles of storage. These should be second nature to any seasoned tradesperson, but here’s a little reminder in case you’ve just come back from a holiday in the Med and have been inspired by seeing materials basking in the sunshine.

Invest in the right weather-proof tools and keep them maintained and inspected to check for signs of rust.

Then, always ensure you have a covered storage site for tools and equipment. Cold snaps and rain can damage anything from hand tools to generators. A secure, lockable unit raised slightly off the ground is best. Protect bricks and masonry with polythene (in wet conditions) and hessian cloth (for frost) to ensure the strength of your build isn’t compromised. If a downpour is predicted, you can install temporary downpipes to prevent water pooling around your site and creating a silt-y, muddy mess. 

And If It Really Hits the Fan…

A good insurance policy will protect your job site from totally unavoidable destruction by weather including hurricane, fire or flood. Rhino’s best-selling Contractors All Risks Insurance will protect from the worst forces of nature, so if all is lost due to the most extreme conditions then there is a safety net out there.

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