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A Doorman Speaks: What we know about your renovation

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Drinking a glass of water one day, it suddenly dawns on a resident, “My kitchen is sooo outdated.” Many of the original tiles, flooring and fixtures are in place, including that mustard-colored 1970's refrigerator that gave the kitchen a retro feel back when the apartment was purchased. Not only does it leak from the bottom now, but it’s also one hell of an energy guzzler.

And so begins the impulse of wanting to re-do that kitchen, or the bathroom, or maybe the entire apartment if the resident has the financial means. What does this have to do with doormen? Trust me, it does, as you'll see.

The next step after deciding on a renovation is finding the right contractor. Residents should really start by asking for recommendations from us. Many buildings have the names and numbers of companies that have worked there in the past. We keep them because of their reliability, craftsmanship and cleanliness when working (we don’t have to clean up after them 24/7).

Yes, these contractors show their appreciation for the fact that we keep them in mind when referring a job. But we wouldn’t refer them unless they were good. I mean, think about it. Residents usually consider several contractors for a job. They aren’t obligated to use the one recommended by the staff. If they do choose someone we suggested, we also have to live with the results. Say that the contractor does a bad job and the resident is unhappy, in a way we share the blame – as the resident is likely to remind us every day.  

Before work gets started, there are some formalities a resident has to go through with the management. It requires them to name the contracting company, the work being done and insurance certificates just in case of any damages caused by the construction.

Usually, a foreman or the company owner will show up at the building a week before work starts. This is when a super lays down the ground rules as to what entrance the workers will be using, the hours they can work and on what days. Maybe the super gives a hint to that foreman as to how many guys are on the building staff, if you know what I mean. Unfortunately, there are some cases where the super might get something thrown his way there and then: Super 1, Staff 0.

Not trying to knock the other man’s hustle, but the reality is that supers benefit money-wise regardless. As for the staff, well, just think about what we put up with during a renovation. Demolition is probably the messiest part of the job. There’s sheet-rock dust in the air, and bags upon bags of debris being taken out from the apartment.

It is during this process that building staff, doormen included, practically beg contractors to cover hallway floors with some kind of rosin paper. We also ask them to have a wet towel or rag near the entrance to the apartment and maybe one inside, so they can wipe their shoes going in and out. This helps stop footprints from making their way down into the basement, maybe even the lobby.

This mess usually lasts a couple of days; the noise continues. It is an ear-shattering mixture of banging, nailing, drilling, hammering, you name it. And yes, we doormen can hear it from the lobby – along with the field of complaints from residents who keep yelling, “WHEN IS IT GOING TO END?!”

(I hate to think of all those unlucky doormen dealing with major construction going on in their building at the same time that the Second Avenue subway construction moves ahead. It’s enough to make a guy call in sick just to have a day of silence.)

Doormen have to deal with something else when it comes to renovations. Imagine workers coming down in the late afternoon, freshly dressed, wet hair, with a hint of Davidoff’s Cool Water in the air as they walk passed the lobby desk. This is a sure sign that these guys are comfortably taking showers in our resident’s home at day's end. Mind you, their work has nothing to do with the bathroom. Even if it does, they’re not supposed to be trying out your new bathtub and shower.

A worker stopping by my desk one day felt the need to tell me that the resident he was working for was a "real" red-head. How he knew something that personal made me think about what else he was doing in the apartment, and about the cost of that sleek, new kitchen being greater than the resident would ever suspect. That’s when I realized that we doormen believe we know many things about the people living in our buildings. Contractors actually get to live in that person’s space for a time.


Follow Openthedoor-man on Twitter: @openthatdoorman

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