Why the delay? That’s the question we hear the most lately. “I thought we were coming back middle of February.” What is taking so long? Well, there are several answers. The first delay was asbestos. As we mentioned in earlier posts, this building was built in 1979, which was the cusp of asbestos awareness. The use of asbestos to insulate heating pipes was banned in 1977, but asbestos was still contained in products manufactured as late as 1989. The mastic used to glue down the wooden floor tiles in 1980 contained a small percentage of asbestos. So removal of that flooring material requires strict asbestos abatement procedures. These include setting up decontamination stations, strict removal precautions, special disposal procedures, worker protection, and plastic containment partitions. Air quality is monitored before, during and after this process. When this abatement was completed on the twelfth floor, the partitions were taken down, the decontamination stations were dismantled and all the specially marked trash was hauled away separately. Abating the twelfth floor took about a week and a half from start to finish. We were on schedule. Then, in one room in one apartment, while preparing to pour a leveling compound, it was discovered that this room already had a layer of levelling compound that looked exactly like the concrete slab. And guess what was under that leveling compound. Mastic containing asbestos. So because of that one room, we had to reschedule the abatement crew, set up the partitions, rebuild a decontamination station and arrange for another special disposal. Also, during this process, no one other than the abatement crew was allowed to work on the floor. It took another week and a half to clear that room and so we found ourselves nearly two weeks behind schedule.
The next thing that delayed the construction was the fire alarm. We wanted a fire alarm that far surpassed what is required for a typical apartment building of this size. Believe it or not, we had a hard time convincing the Fire Department to allow us to go the extra mile. We finally obtained an FDNY approval of the fire alarm plan but, because we noticed some inadequacies, we needed to revise the drawings and add new means and methods and additional smoke and Carbon Dioxide detectors. This meant waiting for new drawings which needed to be run by engineers which were then discussed and finalized and sent out for pricing. Pricing always induces more discussion and more changes. These changes needed approval. Meanwhile certain aspects of the renovation which hinged on the completion of the wiring for the fire alarm could not be completed, pushing us further behind schedule.
Surprises cause delays also. When sheetrockers open a wall and find a crack in a drain pipe, the plumbers need to come in and replace that pipe. When a new opening is cut in the roof for a vent, and a conduit of electrical wires is found buried in the concrete, electricians need to come in and reroute those cables. If some appliances we ordered are suddenly out of stock, we can’t just find a substitute; we need to find an appropriate substitute and officially resubmit the specifications and wait for approval.
The last thing that delayed construction was Mother Nature herself. When the wind is above a certain level we cannot use the outside hoist, and therefore cannot bring materials up to the floors being renovated. We cannot install windows or use the scaffolding during rain and snow storms, and we’ve had plenty of those. We just missed the window of opportunity before winter when we could safely complete the roof, so that had to be put off until Spring. And those new leveling compounds I mentioned earlier that were poured two weeks late, they need to dry completely. For the purposes of the bamboo floor, the compound needs to be at 3% moisture or less. So while the bathroom tiles went in and the kitchen floors went down, in order for the bamboo to adhere properly and last a good long time, we had to wait, and take measurements, and wait again, and take more measurements, and wait again. You’ve heard the expression “It’s like watching paint dry”? Well watching a floor dry is fifty times worse. But the floor must go in before the door jambs go in and the doors to follow. So delays cause other delays and so on and so forth.
So these are some of the reasons why the first two residential floors have taken two months longer than anticipated. However, we are learning what the hindrances are and we can better anticipate them going forward. We believe the next phase will be completed closer to schedule. We are confident the final product will be worth the wait.
As always, we apologize for any inconvenience and we would like to thank all our residents, clients and guests for your understanding and cooperation in helping to make this project a success.