How an NYC Condo Kept a Roof Replacement Project from Becoming a Nightmare

Tom Soter in Bricks & Bucks

New York City

426 West Broadway House Condominium, New York, N.Y. Photo courtesy of the Lovett Group.
426 West Broadway House Condominium

Money to do repairs. Since 426 is a condominium, it doesn't have the same access to money as a cooperative does. Unable to refinance a (non-existent) underlying mortgage, the board went to its unit-owners, and, as required by the bylaws, got a sixty-six and two-thirds majority for taking out a half-a-million-dollar line of credit, to be paid back through a four-year assessment on the unit-owners.

The original warranty. When the condo had its last roof installation about a decade ago, it was only able to obtain a limited contractor's warranty because the board – which didn't have the money to do a full replacement at once – had the new roof installed in two parts. "When you do it that way you cannot get a warranty from the manufacturer," says Kornfeld.

The weather. The contractor, Pratt Construction, had to put off work when delays caused the job to go into the winter months. "We got caught in the middle of the winter," Kornfeld says. "And they had to stop."

Roof decks. Many of the top-floor unit-owners wanted to put their decks back on the roof. This was delayed when the engineer who had drawn up the specifications for the work balked, arguing that the decks would damage the roof. After many heated discussions, the board fired him and sought out second and third opinions, which ultimately backed the idea that the decks, if properly installed, were okay.

The membrane. Kornfeld was worried that top-floor unit-owners, who were frustrated by lack of access, might go up anyway and damage the new roof. "We can't police it all the time," she says.

The manufacturer's warranty. Kornfeld had multiple battles with Kemper, the manufacturer of the roof, over its promised warranty. Initially, it granted the warranty, and then, after the roof was finished, tried to claim the co-op had voided it.

But Kornfeld would have none of it. "This is what you've got to be careful about because it can quickly turn into a nightmare. What they tried to do is say they [had] never approved the manner in which the railings were attached to the parapet wall, but they had signed off on it. I had to challenge them: I had to spend money for the engineer to go looking into his records [of his dealings with Kemper]; I had to go back to the contractor who had communication with them. But I expected that. It's the first thing the manufacturers will always say to you [in situations like this]: 'Oh, your warranty is voided.' Then they hope that you'll disappear into the night."

After her investigations showed they had been previously approved, Kornfeld received a phone call reversing the decision to void the warranty. The manager asked for the statement in writing, however. As Kornfeld notes: "If I hadn't pushed for that, when we put our first claim in, they would have voided it. I know the way they think."

The base bid for the project, which began in the late fall of 2012 and ended in August 13, 2013, was $353,000, and the final cost was $432,000.



Ellen Kornfeld, Vice President at the Lovett Group

Pratt Construction, contractor

Kemper, roof manufacturer


Photo courtesy of the Lovett Group.

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