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Spotlight on: Whether to Repair or Renovate Your Building's Elevator

New York City

Spotlight on: Elevator Repair or Renovation
Aug. 26, 2014

One method: bringing in a consulting engineer. This person will prepare the specifications that get reviewed by the board and the managing agent, who will ensure it includes everything that the board and management intend to do.

That could mean increasing the control the concierge has over the elevator by putting instrument panels at the front desk, or "locking out" floors after 7 p.m. so only residents living on those floors can gain access, or making sure the elevator is handicap-accessible.

Aesthetics Are Important

Boards also need to remember the aesthetic details: What will the new control panels look like? The buttons? Will the cab be painted or paneled? Are you all done when the elevator is back up and running? Someone has to pay attention to those details, because that is the kind of feedback shareholders will provide.

Don't forget how much time it will all take, including with overlaps:

  • Hiring a consultant, meeting with the board to go over specifications and writing bids can take six weeks.
  • Sending out specs for bids from contractors, four weeks.
  • Bid comparisons and co-op reviews and contractor interviews, six weeks.
  • Deciding on the contractor, two weeks.
  • Co-op boards choosing car interiors, six weeks.
  • Waiting for materials to be prepared, 12 weeks.
  • Actual downtime of each elevator, depending on the height of the building, can be 10 weeks per elevator.
  • Going over the work when it's finished, four weeks. 

The longest lead time is waiting for the work to start: It can take up to three months between the time the contractor is selected and the parts are ready for work to start on the renovations.

Communicate with Residents

Another important aspect of doing an upgrade is giving co-op shareholders or condominium unit-owners enough notice before the work starts so they can plan around the problems that come with an elevator out of service. While it doesn't reduce all complaints, it can mitigate them significantly.

If the board is still wavering on whether or not the elevators really need a full upgrade, consider the financial aspect. When the board is spending money to constantly repair the elevators, but they don't hold up, it's time to start thinking about an upgrade.

Taking care of the issue before it becomes a real problem is the only tack a board can take. If the elevators are causing major problems, a board has to step up to the plate and take on an upgrade. Boards have to be decisive. They have to make the decision — and do it.


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Adapted from "Going Up?" by Ruth Ford (Habitat, September 2003)

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