Here are some tips for tackling an urban loft redo
Any renovation is tough. But working on a loft in Manhattan's bustling Financial District posed some particular obstacles for these homeowners. Here are some tips for tackling an urban redo that architect Sara Lopergolo learned the hard way.
Rent a Storage Space for the Materials
"Get a place nearby and have contractors bring over materials as they need them," Lopergolo says. Paying $400 a month for an 8-by-12-foot storage unit might cost less than the thousands in unexpected delivery charges you can rack up when your building lacks an elevator, has lots of steps, and offers no room to stow such stuff. In Lopergolo's case, work stopped every time the contractor had to haul up deliveries, and companies charged a premium to bring items to the door. She estimates that the extra delivery fees and man-hours on the job added $10,000 to her final cost. One caveat if you do rent storage: You may need to share the job of meeting crew members at the space with a spouse or a really kind friend.
Research Your Block's Street-Repair Schedule
Yes, outside street work, especially on a commercial block, can definitely affect your home remodel. Difficulties with deliveries added another full month to Lopergolo's three month renovation schedule. She and Wood remember receiving and dismissing what Lopergolo calls a "vague" notice about street repairs—which turned out to be a massive project to replace a 100-year-old water main (situated beneath a cobweb of other utility lines) that would be worked day and night over two years.
Purge What—and When—You Can
"My husband calls me The Ant, because I move stuff twice my weight," says 5-foot-3-inch Lopergolo of her constant trips carrying things from the loft to the street. "Living with all of our furniture and belongings in the middle of the renovation, it was like playing a giant chess game shuffling things back and forth. Finally we had to sacrifice some stuff at the curb." An even better strategy is to purge before work begins, especially if you don't have a garage or basement. "You'd be surprised how bad some furniture suddenly looks once new walls and finishes start to go up," Lopergolo says.
Budget for Peace Offerings
If your floor is your neighbors' ceiling, keep them informed of your timetable—and keep an olive branch waiting. You can't control every aspect of the work, so plan to make up for some inconveniences to maintain a good relationship. In Lopergolo and Wood's case, the family downstairs put up with lots of banging and boot-stomping past their door each day. Checking in on them occasionally with a fruit basket kept them sympathetic and patient. "From the start, I budgeted a few extra dollars for gifts," says Lopergolo. "Call it the 'peace fund'—it's well worth it."