By SEAN GANEY
For many homeowners, a renovation project is one of the most complex and difficult ventures they will undertake. For condominium owners, the complexities of home improvements are greater as they have to navigate challenges and situations that are unique to condo owners. While it can seem daunting —with careful planning, working with an experienced remodeler, and following some important condo renovation etiquette—renovating your condo can be rewarding and transform your home.
When you approach your renovation project, one of the first things you must think about is what rules and restrictions the condo association has placed on the property. Knowing the restrictions from the beginning will enable you to work with your remodeler to design and create your desired new spaces while working within the bounds of the rules of your building. There is often a review board you need to submit your plans to for approval in order to proceed, so be sure to get your initial concepts to them early. This can help you avoid disappointment and spending time and money developing detailed plans that might get rejected.
Once you’ve determined the design of the new space, you will want to consider how to accomplish the work. Condo renovations differ from work in single-family homes in many ways. Be sure to work with professionals who have experience in handling the complexity of condo remodeling projects. This includes set working hours and delivery times, shared utility lines, and limited staging and storage space for construction materials. In a single-family home, work can go late into the evening or all weekend. In a condo, working hours are strictly enforced to protect the rest of the building from long, loud evenings of construction work.
In a condo, you have very limited space to stage your work. Whenever material is delivered to the site, it gets stored in the condo, often within the little space you have left to live in if you are staying in your home throughout the project. Your contractor needs to be very aware of their timeline and plan for materials to arrive on site, as needed. If it is too early, the material will sit in the way and hinder the work; if it arrives too late, that will guarantee a missed deadline and extended timeline.
Careful planning of the utilities is critical in condo renovation, as plumbing supply and drain lines are much more difficult to move and you may need to access the pipes from your neighbors below. The most successful renovations will respect the existing locations of drains and water supply lines. It is very difficult to get approval from the condo board and your neighbor if you are proposing to make changes to the other units in order to fix your own. Being careful to minimize the impact your condo renovation will have on your neighbors is key throughout the entire process. Poor planning and execution of your project can lead to inadvertent and unnecessary inconveniences, and leave you on precarious footing with your neighbors if things don’t go well.
To help keep peace with your neighbors and the condo association, when planning your condo renovation, be especially courteous to the building management, especially the people at the front desk. Their job is to make sure the building runs well and that includes governing the work that is being done. They can be helpful as they know all there is to know about the building and will help your contractor succeed within the restrictions. They also know what others have done before you, what has worked well and what has caused utter chaos. They may also have insight on remodelers who have experience and expertise in condo renovations; finding one who has successfully completed a project in your building is an added bonus. Tap into that store of knowledge and they can be your ally and saving grace.
With so many details and logistics to track and potential pitfalls to avoid, condo renovation can be both complicated and challenging. But if you approach the work with your eyes open and with careful planning, your renovation project can yield results and rewards that you will be able to enjoy for many moments, days and years to come.
Sean Ganey is a Project Leader for BOWA, an award-winning company specializing in the design and construction of luxury renovations and remodeling in the greater Washington, D.C. area. From consultation through construction, BOWA has more than 20 years of expertise managing the entire remodeling process and provides superior results. Reach Ganey at SeanG@bowa.com or 703-734-9050. For more tips on renovation go to www.bowa.com.