Q. How do I make sure to stay on my neighbors’ good sides when I’m renovating? I’m concerned about the smells, dust and noise annoying them.
A: First, keep an open line of communication with your neighbors (or future neighbors). Before beginning work, make sure your contractor slips a note about his demolition/renovation plans (complete with his and your contact information) under their doors.
NYC contractor Jeff Streich of Prime Renovations also recommends talking to your neighbor about any current sound issues between apartments and seek to address them. This will not necessarily protect them from disturbances during the renovation, but it may help your neighbor suffer through in a better frame of mind if he knows he will never have to hear your toilet flush again because you're soundproofing the bathroom.
Streich also suggests using blue tape to cover up any open spaces in doorways, vents and outlets which helps block dust and odors.
NYC architect Tom Degnan of Degnan Design sometimes uses protective plastic wrap, cheesecloth or rags to cover up openings during the construction/demolition phase. It helps keep dust and odors out of the common areas.
As far as the chemical odor issue--which occurs during priming, painting and floor finishing--it also helps to limit the opening and closing of front doors, Degnan says. Always keep fans and windows running too if possible.
“You can even buy portable HEPA filters which help remove harmful gases and odors,” Degnan said.
Non-toxic, low-VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) paints can also help eliminate fumes, Degnan says.
If you really want to avoid any smell of polyurethane seeping out of your apartment, you can always buy pre-finished wood floors.
To keep noise inside, sometimes wrapping an outside door with a protective layer of plastic or even insulation can help, “but usually it’s just a matter of keeping all the hammering and chopping to certain allocated times during the day,” Degnan says. (Note that many NYC buildings prohibit jackhammering and mechanical chiseling).
Both Streich and Degnan recommend leaving protective mats outside the door, “so if a guy walks out with construction boots, whatever’s on the bottom of them, doesn’t get carried around the building,” Degnan says.
When a neighbor complains, do your best to address the problem--you might even consider sending a gift.
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