Renovating In NYC Today: How to Navigate Delays, Increased Costs, and Other COVID-Related Concerns
The pandemic seems to have eased up but it's not over yet. Find out how COVID is still affecting renovations and what you can do to set yourself up for success.
Last spring, the world changed. Today, the outlook for our future feels much better than it did when we first begin hearing the word ‘coronavirus’ in hushed whispers. Still, the economic fallout of a worldwide pandemic has reverberating effects that will surely take some time to level off.
These effects have been felt in some form or another throughout all the major industries. In the home renovation industry, we’re still grappling with material shortages and shipping delays, rising labor costs, and other changes to processes necessitated by the pandemic. But now, over a year into this mess, we’ve gained some valuable experience in handling and managing these factors – and we want to share them with you.
If you choose to undertake an apartment renovation in the next few months, here’s what you can and should do.
A note on fixtures and materials: Certain materials, like plumbing fixtures and tiles, are now slightly more expensive to procure, but shipping delays are actually having a much bigger impact. A fixture that would have taken six weeks to procure now may take anywhere from 12 to 15. These delays are occurring with virtually every type of finish or fixture. With raw materials, however, it is more about costs rather than delays, so that is showing signs of improvement.
1. Start planning as soon as possible.
Here’s one thing you can’t do enough: PLAN! The single most important piece of advice we can offer is this: the planning process should begin as early as possible, specifically around material selection and all the little details. At Gallery, our rule of thumb – pandemic or not – is never to begin a renovation project until all the design details and finishes have been selected, purchased, all lead times confirmed, and that those lead times are in line with the project calendar and our estimated start dates.
Here’s a story to illustrate. We know that our estimated start date is around early August. We also know that the bathroom will be ready for tile around the middle of September. But the marble chevron tiles our client has their heart set on won’t be available until November. At this point, it’s time to have a dynamic discussion. Are there ways to rearrange the logistics of the project? Do we have to go back to the drawing board and figure out other alternatives, such as a similar tile without such a long lead time? If tile can’t go in, that impacts all the other trades and creates even more delays. It may seem small, but even the tiniest unplanned delay can completely derail a project.
One of the beauties of working with a design-build firm like Gallery is that when situations like this arise, clients can benefit from our access to so many vendors. Our project managers are dedicated to handling all the potential issues that can occur around building out all the project specifics, from material selection and procurement to building out realistic timelines and aligning lead times. If those marble chevron tiles need to be replaced, a project manager can help provide similar options. Consumers, especially the most DIY-minded among us, can always do much of this work themselves, but for those who would like to offload a great deal of the headache, a design-build firm is a great way to make sure all your renovation bases are covered under one roof.
2. Plan your delays – or be prepared to deal with the consequences.
Whether you're working with us, another firm, or taking the DIY route, we can’t stress enough the importance of designing the entire space, selecting all the materials, and confirming all lead times prior to actually breaking (metaphorical) ground on the project.
It’s common to want to begin a project as soon as possible, and especially understandable to want to minimize the carrying costs that come with living in one home and renovating another. But our long experience in this space, coupled with the current increase in delays, makes it clear that waiting to start a project until it’s fully designed ultimately results in far less headaches down the road. By planning a project fully ahead of time, keeping in mind that no detail is too small to plan in advance, you can accurately plan potential delays and set your timeline up for success. An unplanned delay that occurs in the middle of a project, on the other hand, can quickly throw the entire timeline into chaos.
Planning for delays isn’t just for the sake of the project itself, either. Apartment and home renovations are big-ticket items that have direct impacts on the daily lives of our clients. It’s crucial to anticipate as many of the ways that the project will affect or disrupt everyday life as much for the clients’ own logistic life needs as much as it is for the customer service perspective from the firm.
3. Don’t forget about COVID processes that haven’t reverted.
Earlier this summer, COVID restrictions were lifted thanks to 70% of adults receiving the first dose of the vaccine. But at least for the time being, many buildings are still sticking to the COVID restrictions that were imposed last year. That includes limits on total renovations that can take place at once, amount of people allowed to work inside simultaneously, and restrictions on types of equipment. Make sure to enquire about wait times in buildings; that level of planning is still very much in play at this stage.
4. Be more diligent than ever when selecting a firm.
Last but not least, demand breeds opportunism. In our industry, that means some firms have chosen to take advantage of the boom in business without properly communicating many of the COVID-related complications we’ve outlined above. Any firm worth their salt will be able to prove they can adequately service the project in a designated amount of time that can at least be roughly outlined. Make sure to ask about lead times, delays, and other elements of the logistics that we’ve shared. Cagey or over-confident responses are both red flags; you want to work with contractors, design-build firms, and architects that will be thorough but realistic.
Thinking about renovating your New York apartment, loft, brownstone, or condo this year? Following these four tips will help you chart a successful course through a renovation landscape that’s still feeling the economic and material effects of a global pandemic. Take advantage of our valuable experience for how to manage projects under these conditions and contact us now for a free consultation.