| Manhattan High End Residential Construction|
by Colleen Barry-Sleicher
Manhattan High End Residential Construction Information for brownstone, apartment, condominium and coop owners and Building coop boards planning renovations in New York City's exclusive cooperative and condominium buildings and Brownstones
Brownstones have been a part of New York City since 1800’s. NYC cooperative and coop buildings are designated as either pre or post war buildings referencing WWII. Think of renovations in these buildings as dealing with squared off areas, whether it is a section of one floor or a vertical section of a building having more than one floor in a single residence.
Pre War Buildings
In Pre War buildings walls are made of gypsum block along with metal lath or steel studs. The floors and ceilings tend to be very thick.
Post War Buildings
Gypsum block was used in 1960’s buildings, plaster in 1970’s, and sheetrock up to present. These buildings are made up of plaster, cement and steel. Since theses materials are very dense and less flexible than prewar buildings they tend to transmit sound. Often soundproofing is needed under floors.
Difference in building materials
Many of luxury buildings in NYC were built prior to 1960. There have been many innovations in construction since. Metallurgy has contributed many new products in building and building maintenance. For example copper water pipe and Synthetic rubber. The use of lead or lead containing products is now prohibited. Paint may not be stripped with heat or dry sanding. Chemical strippers can be used because old paint does not go into air. Plaster walls and ceilings will probably require a thin plaster layer (skim coat) to be applied to make surface smooth. This will seal any lead containing paint layers in place. Asbestos was used in plaster, floor tile and many other products in buildings prior to 1979. Now, a certified removal company must perform any asbestos removal.
Property owners will be required to put in time during planning stage. It is important to research and feel comfortable with designer. You must be on same page or you will never get look you want. When selecting a designer, keep in mind a project can grow beyond skill level of designer. Interview several designers. Prior experience and knowledge will determine their suitability for any project. Any delay in selecting or approving layouts, drawings, work items or materials will cause delays that will cause more delays. One missing detail or purchase item may delay huge blocks of work.
Architects and Designers
Interior designers are trained in architectural design as well as soft goods selection. Often a design firm has Architectural designers working for them. Architects are more involved in methods of construction. Aspects of project such as electrical device location and type, air conditioning, plumbing fixtures, walls and ceilings, architectural woodwork are of more interest to architect. The importance of good planning with architect and designer influences project progress. For example, bathroom fixtures may have an impact on how tile work is installed. Doorway dimensions will determine light switch location.
All contractors performing work on a private NYC residence must be licensed by NYC Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) as a Home Improvement Contractor (HIC). Plumbers and Electricians are licensed by NYC Department of Buildings. Architects are licensed by State. Decorators and Interior designers are not required to be licensed.
Prepare a detailed plan of what you want accomplished before interviewing contractors. A complete project specification must be developed for a contractor to prepare a realistic estimate of time, materials and cost for home improvement project. Do not change plan as you speak to different contractors. You will not be getting an “apples to apples” quotation. The contractor with higher price may be including an aspect of project you did not make clear to another contractor. Project specifications that are incomplete are a roadmap for disaster.
When choosing a contractor homeowner should consider general knowledge, existing customer projects, references and reputation. The homeowner might consider using services of a contractor referral agency. The referral agency offers homeowner a pool of contractors who have been screened and matched to a particular project. Selecting a contractor who is inexpensive, inexperienced and in over his head can only lead to disappointment.
There are two variables that determine final cost of each project. “Core Work”, walls, floors, ceilings and everything that is behind these surfaces and “Finish Work”, moldings, trim, final skim plaster coat, marble, tile, and cabinetry. Quality of workmanship and level of finish will vary between different contractors. Core Work, behind scenes, construction cost are often similar from contractor to contractor. The cost of Finish Work will be determined by how much you are willing to spend and skills of contractor performing this work. This finish work will have widest variance in pricing and final appearance of renovation. Finish materials such as stone and woodworking will have quality price differences.