Many homeowners in the middle of an apartment renovation when the pandemic struck were left in a tight spot. Most building boards responded by ordering an immediate halt to projects. Creating uncertainty about their project’s future; now, with New York reopening, building boards are beginning to allow renovation projects to restart. This is fortunate but comes with a silver lining for homeowners. If you thought NYC renovations were complicated before the pandemic, then get ready for heightened regulations.
To help you prepare, here’s a look at what’s ahead as you try to restart your renovation project. Be patient and stay informed about your board’s policies as they adapt to this changing situation. There’s still a lot we don’t know about what reopening will mean and what the future holds. As the weeks pass and the results come in, we should conduct business in the new normal.
There will be Reno-Projects that take Priority Over Others.There will be Reno-Projects that take Priority Over Others.
While construction projects will resume, expect to be on a waiting list when you can restart. Remember, until we have a vaccine, this is how life will be for everyone. Social distancing has to be maintained. The number of people allowed to enter a building must be controlled. As such, property managers and building boards will likely only allow a few projects to resume at one time. Priority is likely to be given to those in the middle of their project when ordered to stop. Of these projects, more priority still will be given to those who are currently uninhabitable.
Next in priority will be applications for rental or sale to be closed. Buildings will want to see a business resume as soon as possible. As such, the sooner those projects are completed, the better for everyone. Anyone hoping to start their gut renovation finally will likely need to wait if the project doesn’t need to be completed for an imminent sale, then likely to be delayed further.
New Safety Policies Slow Down RenovationsNew Safety Policies Slow Down Renovations
As should be clear, we’re still in a health crisis. One that requires new safety policies to protect contractors and residents. Building managers and boards are currently deciding how best to meet this challenge. How comprehensive or strict a building is on this will vary. At the least, you can expect a requirement for facemasks to be worn at all times by contractors. Common spaces will need to be regularly cleaned and disinfected throughout the day. Temperature screenings at the door may also need to be taken.
Whichever policy your building chooses, the one certainty is that this will slow down your project. As anyone with renovation experience can tell you, time costs money—the potential costs of this need to be factored into your budget before proceeding. Renovations are infamous for always going over budget. As such, you’ll want to have a sizeable reserve fund in place for this possibility. Increasing that reserve fund is highly recommended as delays, and unexpected difficulties are now practically guaranteed.
Workers Movements Could be Severely LimitedWorkers Movements Could be Severely Limited
The need to protect building staff and keep common spaces sanitized is sure to cause problems for contractors. The biggest issue is the building’s elevator, which has to be disinfected after every use. Some buildings have chosen to address this issue by making it a rule that all contractors need to stay on-site until all work is finished for the day. In practice, this could mean sending each worker up in the elevator one by one. Building staff then disinfect the elevator and service area. The workers remain on-site and don’t go out for lunch. Once work is finished for the day, the elevator brings them down again one by one. Then, working in reverse, the building staff disinfects the elevator and service area again.
Obviously, there will be a need to adapt to such a procedure in a given situation. It is still unclear how workers will respond to such building requirements. In all likelihood, general contractors will be made responsible for ensuring their teams follow all the rules. How they intend to keep their team safe will be left up to them. All of this will need to be worked out between the contractors and building management before a project can resume. Chances are, a little flexibility in the rules will be required as the project develops and needs change.
People Staying at Home will Mean more Disruptions.People Staying at Home will Mean more Disruptions.
Since many New Yorkers continue to work from home, you need to be mindful of this as you restart your project. More people staying at home will make things more complicated if your renovation is unusually noisy. Before the pandemic, work hours of renovation were usually restricted to daytime hours when most people were at work. The new-normal will mean changes have to be made to when work can take place. This is sure to cause some grumbling from your neighbors, who will be unhappy with this.
Try to come to an understanding with them. Neighbors working from home might agree to work at certain hours if you agree to stop work at that time. Ultimately, it will be hard to please everyone. Be ready for the disruptions and headaches; this is sure to cause.
You May Have to Change the Materials You Planned to UseYou May Have to Change the Materials You Planned to Use
One of the biggest things that the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown into chaos is the global supply chain. Factory closures and trading restrictions have created a huge shortfall in materials. Many suppliers have had to notify contractors that their orders will be late or canceled entirely. The luxury item market, in particular, has suffered hard from this, with Calacatta marble from Italy being one such example. But the shortages also extend to items closer to home. Currently, there’s a huge scarcity of bathroom fixtures and fittings that is sure to mean fierce competition once projects can restart.
Keep this in mind as you try to organize a restart of your project. The materials your contractor has access to will be more limited than usual. As such, you should try to lower your expectations. Until the economy can properly restart, there will be a bottleneck as supply tries to keep up with demand.
Contractors will be too Busy to be Everywhere at OnceContractors will be too Busy to be Everywhere at Once
Even if you can get your reno-project on a priority list, there’s still a problem finding a contractor that can start right away. Once projects are allowed to restart, there will be a rush of people calling their contractors to ask how soon they can start. Unfortunately, they can’t be everywhere at once, so you may be put on another waiting list. There also doesn’t tend to be a lot of bench strength in this business. If contractors are forced to call outside help to deal with all these project requests, then the quality of their work may suffer.
Final ThoughtsFinal Thoughts
Even if you don’t know when exactly you can restart, there has to be an understanding of what’s in store. There needs to be a frank discussion between yourself and your contractor about the challenges that lie ahead for a start. Plans might have to be redrawn and a new schedule put in place. You’ll also want to check that your finances are secure enough to withstand further delays.
For anyone that’s still in the planning phase of their project, this is a great time to get your plans on paper. Most renovations take a few weeks or months to plan, so the sooner properly you start, the better. Decide on a budget, choose the materials you’ll use, and get some blueprints drawn up. To help you determine what’s possible, you can arrange a video call with an architect. Once you have an idea of what you want, start taking photos and videos of your home. You can then send these to contractors who can evaluate the project and give you an expected quote.