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BUILDING OPERATIONS

Keys to a Successful Window Job: Preparation, Preparation, Preparation

David Bogoslaw in Building Operations on February 12, 2018

Chelsea, Manhattan

Vermeer Windows

The co-op board at the Vermeer in Chelsea replaced 3,000 windows (image via Google Maps).

Feb. 12, 2018

Repairing or replacing windows is a massive job for any co-op or condo board. The challenges run the gamut – preparing residents for major disruptions, inspecting apartments, choosing window specifications and vendors, orchestrating the work schedules, getting approvals, if necessary, from the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). And then, of course, there’s the matter of paying for the job. 

Preparation is critical. Before the first window is installed, contractors should inspect every apartment. “The point of those inspections is to find out who’s hoarding, what surprises there might be, who’s got a lot of stuff obstructing the windows,” says John Devall, an account executive at Orsid Realty and the property manager at the Vermeer, the 21-story co-op at 77 Seventh Avenue in Chelsea, which recently replaced more than 3,000 windows in its 354 units. 

Preparations at the Vermeer didn’t stop with the apartment inspections. Before choosing a vendor for the job, the board arranged for a few manufacturers to bring mockup windows to the annual shareholders’ meeting so that people could see and operate them and provide input about the ones they preferred. “I’ve never seen another building do that where they actually have real windows set up in the boardroom so people could come by and see them,” Devall says. 

The last thing a board wants is for the contractor to arrive on the day of installation and find surprises, which invariably lead to escalating costs. To prevent that, the Vermeer board hired a carpenter to come in before the installers arrived, and tasked him with removing shelves and other fixtures that abutted window frames. The carpenter was brought back to restore apartments to their original condition after the window installation was complete. 

Still, there were surprises. During the first installation, dust and debris came pouring into the apartment when the contractor ripped out an old window. “We weren’t prepared for that,” Devall says. “[The board] paid a staff member to prep every apartment prior to the window installation, which meant putting plastic wrap up, covering the furniture, covering wall hangings.” 

To pay for the job, the board refinanced the building’s underlying mortgage, pumping an additional $2 million into the reserve fund, which, combined with the $4 million already on hand, was more than enough to cover the entire cost of the project. “It’s much more palatable to shareholders to hear that they’re not receiving a special assessment,” says Devall. “They’d much rather hear that you’ve refinanced the mortgage, and they have to pay a little more in debt service and their maintenance goes up a little bit.”

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