Renovators Beware Know the Rules Before You Begin

Renovation. It is a process that is approached with both excitement and trepidation. The excitement has everything to do with the results that are anticipated, while the trepidation, for many, is based on the stories told by others. I begin by telling my clients that it will cost more than they think and take longer than they think. So, we start off by planning the budget and schedule accordingly. Beyond that, I put my experience to work and hope that luck is with us, because luck is a factor.

Selecting a designer with years of experience, particularly in apartment renovations in New York City, is of special importance because that individual will best be able to anticipate many of the potential difficulties. Experience in suburban locations is almost irrelevant because there are too many city-specific issues to be dealt with which will directly affect both schedule and budget: The requirements imposed by the myriad city regulations, the co-op board, the building manager and super as well as those which govern work in a multi-family residential environment.

Anticipate Problems

From the beginning, you want to be sure to take into account the input and approval that will be necessary from the local building department, the building manager and the co-op board. Each of these groups or individuals has the authority to require changes to your plans and the approval process, especially that of the city, can be a lengthy one. It is wise, therefore, to do thorough research as to what is generally permitted and get them involved before you've spent a lot of money engineering the renovation.

The building super can often be a valuable resource in identifying potential problems. If that individual has been with the building for some time, he has probably seen any number of renovations occur and has plenty of anecdotal information about what will work and what won't do, as well as about what the problem areas in the building are.

What kinds of problems can these be? From personal experience I can say there are many, and that they cannot all possibly be anticipated because they can barely be imagined. One incident I remember should be noted, not only for its unusual nature, but because it emphasizes the need for everyone on the jobthe contractor as well as all substo have adequate insurance, something most co-op boards insist upon, and for good reason.

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