Are you considering rehabbing your condo unit? Then listen up! As one who knows nothing about rehabbing or construction, I headed out to learn the most common mistakes owners make when remodeling their units.
I decided to visit Igor Jokanovic of Areté Renovators. Igor and his brother, Davor, have worked extensively at Park Tower units and other high-rise condominium buildings in the city. We met at their showroom (Renovators’ Outlet) on Montrose Avenue.
Igor and Davor began twelve years ago by renovating the condo they owned next door, at 5445 N Sheridan. Since then, they’ve specialized in high-rise condos, with an understanding of their unique qualities, and a good feel for pitfalls to avoid when remodeling them.
By far the most common error, Igor noted, is to hire contractors inexperienced in high-rise condo rehabs. While the bids may be low, their work often needs to be redone by another contractor. And that can wind up costing more than if the job had been correctly bid in the first place. It happens all the time, Igor said, sometimes even here at Park Tower.
Another common problem, this one causing delays, is not having the required materials on-site when construction begins. Owners may fail to take into account the four to six weeks required to construct and/or ship kitchen cabinets, floor tiles, and other furnishings.
On the positive side, Igor noted that Park Tower management is very cooperative in scheduling the service elevator as soon as those items are ready for delivery.
As our conversation proceeded, Igor touched on the four areas: demolition, flooring, kitchens and bathrooms.
Most high-rises – and that includes Park Tower – do not allow discarded materials to be thrown into the building’s dumpsters. So trucks need to be hired that can onload debris and haul it away during the hours the contractor has access to the service elevators (9:00 am to 5:00 pm, weekdays only, at Park Tower). As in life, coordination is key!
When it comes to flooring, Igor noted that owners should make a point of investigating the characteristics of various materials and learning their building’s current requirements concerning underlays and sound isolation.
Floating or click-in floors, for instance, are crack-resistant, a good thing in tall buildings that sway a bit and may settle over time. But residents will feel a bit of “give” when walking on them and may be disappointed if not prepared for it.
Open wall kitchens are popular nowadays, with islands for work spaces and dining. The challenge is to relocate electric and AT&T phone wires, a task made harder by the concrete ceilings and sub-floors in buildings like ours. An expert electrician may be needed in order not to interrupt wired phone service to your entire tier!
An owner may install a walk-in shower without realizing the need to use a membrane liner that prevents water from penetrating the walls and floor. Leaks to the unit below could require tearing out the bathroom tiles and re-doing the entire shower.
Another mistake is to install cheap grout that can crack during building movement. That allows water to seep in-between tiles, causing them to pop out. Better to use high-quality grout pre-mixed for the purpose.
Following my conversation with Igor, I met with Marlon Dacres, assistant property manager at Park Tower.
His experience with owners and rehabs is remarkably similar to Igor’s. Again, a common mistake is not using the proper moisture barrier in the shower, either because their contractors did not recommend it, or in an effort to reduce cost.
Marlon also emphasized our requirements (found in Park Tower’s Construction and Remodeling Policies and Procedures) for sound absorption materials under new wood floors.
Regarding demolition and debris, Marlon finds that most contractors know they are responsible for removal. But occasionally, a contractor will dump the entire contents of a kitchen into Park Tower’s only dumpster. A hefty fine ensues, to be sure.
(If necessary, an owner can consult with management for options the association has available to coordinate for construction debris removal.)
Owners are required to get the association’s approval for rehab projects. As point man in the process, Marlon works with owners to advise them, complete the necessary paperwork, ensure the proper insurance documents, and facilitate final approval.
Rehabbing your condo is a major undertaking requiring research, decisions, and a fair amount of money. My advice? Read our policies and procedures; hire experienced, qualified contractors; obtain the proper permits; and purchase quality materials.
Toss in a little good luck along the way, and you’ll find yourself in the condo of your dreams, with few if any regrets along the way. Good luck!