Replacing Condominium Windows

September 10, 2013

This is a touchy subject for most condo owners and board members.  So let’s say this up front in bold letters, REFER TO YOUR GOVERNING DOCUMENTS REGARDING OBLIGATIONS OF THE CONDOMINIUM FOR SPECIAL ASSESSMENTS, COMMON ELEMENTS, AND MAINTENANCE OBLIGATIONS.  Now on to the show.

Discussing window replacement for condominiums will require two or three separate posts.  For this post we will discuss the generalities of window replacement and move on from there.

Part II

Part III

Part IV

As buildings age and technology improves, replacing windows throughout a condominium becomes a necessity,not only in regard to energy efficiency but also in regards to water and air leaks and hurricane protection.  Windows in condominiums built in the 1960’s and 1970’s were generally aluminum framed, single pane construction.  These were terribly inefficient designs that created air leaks, condensation on the panes and eventually water leaks from wind driven rain. Leaky windows along the ocean may cause water damage, mold and mildew problems.   In south Florida, the question of window replacement became a moot point after hurricane Andrew swept the area causing significant damage.  Almost all windows facing the ocean were damaged beyond repair necessitating replacement with up-to-date windows, in 1992.  The other side effect was a revamping of the entire building code for Miami Dade County.  The rewriting of the building codes for Miami Dade County led to nearly every coastal county in the state rewriting their existing building codes. These new building codes caused a ripple effect through contractor, subcontractor and supply circles, including window suppliers.

Prior to 1992, it was discovered that windows were attached with only two or three screws around the edges.  After Andrew, it was found that this poor installation process caused windows to become detached from buildings.  One of the first upgrades for window standards was the number of attachment points for windows and sliders.  Before 1992, few people thought that window replacement in condominiums was a reasonable undertaking.   When hurricane Andrew removed their windows for them, the topic of windows became a central theme for condominiums.  But choosing a window that would last for 20-25 years proved to be problematic and paying for them through special assessments proved to be costly.

In Florida, since 1992, two things have occurred: a building boom of high rise condominiums and a rash of hurricanes that have touched nearly every part of coastal Florida. Incorporating window replacement into these seminal events has created a whirlwind of controversy ranging from the local, condo board level all the way to the state level.  In our next installment, we’ll talk more about how we’ve gotten to this point and how condominium boards are adjusting with the times.

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Invasive Plant Species in your Retention Ponds

August 29, 2013

One of the reasons that associations have to engage the services of lake maintenance companies for stormwater retention areas is to help control the noxious weeds that are a threat to all of Florida Waterways.  The Top 10 noxious weed invaders according to the St. John’s River Water Management District are:

  1. Hydrilla
  2. Water hyacinth
  3. Water lettuce
  4. Chinese tallow
  5. Japanese and Old World climbing ferns
  6. Cogon grass
  7. Brazilian pepper
  8. Tropical soda apple
  9. Torpedo grass
  10. Air potato

Just like the non native pythons that are a problem in the Everglades, noxious weeds can cause an environmental change in your stormwater system. There are very few companies that offer manual extraction of these invasive species so it’s best to manage them in the beginning. If you notice a clump of weeds gathering at the waters edge, notify the manager or the lake maintenance company.

Also, is you live along the lake and your property has a “stormwater retention easement” indicated on your property survey, make sure you do not fence or block access to the retention area. There are a limited number of these easements around a retention area.  If it becomes necessary to obtain access to the retention area, you could be forced to remove the fence to allow access.

If you have brought your boat home from a creek, river or lake that has these noxious plants, they could have hitched a ride.  When you wash your boat and flush the engine, these weeds flow out onto your driveway or yard.  You, in turn, hose the driveway off into the street where it ends up in the stormwater system the next time it rains. Its a never ending cycle but you can do your part by not flushing your wash material into the street.

Photos courtesy of University of Florida IFS Extension Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants

hydrilla soda apple torpedo grass water lettuce

hyacith


More tips when remodeling your condo

August 22, 2013

We talked recently about some things to consider when remodeling your condominium.  The list didn’t end there so here are some more things to consider when remodeling your condo.

CONSTRUCTION DUMPSTERS

The location of the construction dumpster should be an important factor.  Keeping it closer to your building (for multi-building complexes) helps out your contractor.  But the Board of Directors will have the final say so just keep that in the back of your head.  You will not be able to have your construction dumpster located in front of your building in premium parking spots.  Coordinate with your contractor where to place the dumpster, don’t just leave it to the driver.

The timing of your remodel should be considered also.  If you have planned to remodel your unit over a major holiday weekend, such as 4th of July, plan on having your dumpster removed for a week. The dumpsters, depending on how large or how they were dropped, can take up five parking spots.  For most ocean front condominiums, that’s five needed spaces.

ELEVATORS

While elevators are very convenient method  for transporting materials and equipment, condo elevators are not freight elevators.  Instruct your contractor to abide by all weight limitations for the elevator car.  Overloading elevator cars will damage the elevator system and if its found that your contractor overloaded a car or caused damage, you could be responsible.  Of note, everyone is watching and nothing much will be missed.

Some advanced planning in terms of the overall impact your remodeling will have on your neighbors and the association as a whole will make the whole thing run much smoother.


Remodeling your condominium-Things to consider

August 19, 2013

Remodeling in your high rise condominium demands a certain amount of forethought. Hiring a contractor to lay new tile, switch out appliances and make drywall repairs might seem like a simple task.  However, there are things to consider when performing construction or maintenance work within your unit.

Check in with the management company

Check in with your condominium management to see if there are guidelines to interior unit construction.  For the most part, what you do within your unit is your concern.  However, there could be guidelines the association would like you to follow in regards to tile floors/underlayment and hours of construction.

Your Contractor

One of the most important things to remember when undertaking a remodel of your unit is your unit is just one of several in your building or complex.  Not only do you have to tolerate a construction crew interrupting your daily life, your neighbors and fellow unit owners have to tolerate it to a degree as well. Workers that are loud, obnoxious and scream orders across the parking lot are an unpleasant nuisance to deal with, for both you and your neighbors.  Make sure your contractor understands that poor behavior by his/her workers will not be tolerated.

The work to be done

One of the more unpleasant tasks associated with unit remodeling is the removal of a tile floor.  The most efficient way to do this is with a pneumatic (air) chisel.  Otherwise, the process could take days with a conventional hammer and chisel.  While it speeds up the process considerably, it is extremely loud and will reverberate through the entire building and complex.  When your contractor tells you he plans to remove the tile floor, tell your contractor that he can’t start the process until 10 am.  Your remodeling guidelines from the association manager might say that work can commence between the hours of 8 am and 5 pm but take into consideration the family underneath you that just spent $3000 renting an oceanfront condominium for a week.  An ounce of consideration can go a long way.

These are just a few tips to consider when embarking on your condo remodel project.  There’s more to come so stay tuned.


Eliminate a fire risk-Clean your dryer vent!

August 12, 2013

One of the causes that contribute to household fires is an obstructed dryer vent.  Even in high rise condominiums, this can be a possible ignition source and cause significant damage.

dryer ventOver time, lint waste from your dryer will accumulate in the duct (the long flexible aluminum tubing that carries warm air to the outside) and eventually become obstructed.  Signs that your dryer vent or duct is obstructed would be clothes taking longer than usual to dry or towels that take a long time to dry or both.  That warm moist air continues to accumulate more lint and before you know it your vent is completely obstructed.

For homeowners, this is a relatively inexpensive fix that you can do yourself.  Unplug your dryer (safety first), slide the dryer forward so that you can access the exhaust tubing.  Disconnect your tubing from the outside vent and if possible, from the backside of the dryer.  Reach through the tubing to extract all of the accumulated lint.  Watch for bugs and other pests.

For townhome and condominium owners, this might not be such an easy process.  However, you can do your part.  First, be aware of how long your clothes and towels take to dry.  If it takes longer than usual, ask the association manager who is responsible for cleaning the vents from your interior walls to the exterior vent.  This could be an association expense or you could be personally responsible.  If it’s the association’s responsibility, the maintenance person should be able to run a vent cleaner through the duct work and push the lint through the vent on the outside of the building. Or he or she can extract it back trough the tubing.  If cleaning the duct is your responsibility and you know that your arm will not reach the exterior dryer vent, consider purchasing a dryer vent cleaner such as this one (available at any home improvement store).  The cordless drill is not included but if you’re a do it yourselfer type, you may have one already. Connect the lint cleaner to the end of a cordless drill, run it through the duct work and you’re finished.

Simple precautions can go a long may in preventing fires.


Maintenance-Association Expenses vs Personal Expenses

July 30, 2013

Along the lines of what we discussed here last week regarding the maintenance person, it’s sometimes necessary to enlighten some owners as to what the association pays for and what you are obligated to pay for in terms of work done to your unit.

In most condominium associations, as a unit owner you are responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the drywall finish coat inward, meaning the association will pay to install and finish the drywall but if your walls have special knock down coatings, you are responsible for that item. For specifics for your condominium, consult your association documents.  But that’s not necessarily what we’re talking about here. What we’re talking about is those nit-picky items-broken toilet valves, door handles that are broken, clogged toilets, etc.  Things that you have to call a repairman for in your own home.

If your condominium has a maintenance person it is possible that he or she can do those little “honey-do” things for you.  The important thing however, is that you pay them for their services.  A portion of your monthly maintenance fees goes for the upkeep and maintenance of the common areas, shared by all owners.  Those maintenance fees do not go for changing out your leaky toilet valve or moving your furniture.

Some maintenance people do not like discussing payment for these “honey-do” items. When this is the case, find out if your maintenance person purchased materials for the project and how long it took to make the repair. If they say “don’t worry about it” pay them anyway.  Twenty dollars goes a long way to developing and maintaining a good working relationship.  Even if they’re key holders for your unit and need to let another vendor in or supervise a project for you, always pay them.  Another point, don’t be offended if he/she can’t get to your project, there could be a good reason.  It could be beyond what they’re comfortable with, they could be super busy with other things. One thing’s for sure, always pay your maintenance guy for projects inside your unit, no matter how large or small.


Board members-Proper Care and Treatment of Vendors

July 23, 2013

The vast majority of homeowner associations and most condominium associations do not have the luxury of having and onsite maintenance person. But finding a quality maintenance person, a “go to” guy for your association needs doesn’t have to be difficult.

Most HOAs and condominiums will have contacts in place for landscape maintenance, pool maintenance and janitorial services.  But what about the other things that tend to fall in that gray area such as exterior fence repairs, playground repairs, lightbulb replacement or pressure washing?  For these items you’ll need a maintenance person or handy man.

If your community is managed by a professional community association management company, your community association manager will probably have contacts for just the right person. Because there are a number of things in HOAs and condos that fall outside of the services of landscape maintenance or pool maintenance, management companies will have three or four different people to take care of your problem.

Maintaining a good, working relationship with a quality vendor will provide your community with a well kept appearance and set you apart from other communities.  Here are some tips on how to develop and preserve a good business relationship with a quality maintenance person.

1. It’s all about the money! Quality maintenance people or companies will charge between $35 and $75 per hour.  They are independent business people with tax and insurance obligations and that’s the cost of doing business.

2. It’s all about the money 2! Nothing will sour a relationship quicker than not paying a vendor in a timely fashion.  Dragging your feet on approving an invoice will also result in a sour relationship as well.  Make sure your vendor knows your community billing protocol prior to performing the work so they can plan accordingly. For instance, if invoices must be submitted by Tuesday for payment on Friday, make sure your vendor knows.  Also, community association managers and Board members, don’t drag your feet in approving invoices. Check the work and approve the invoice.  If a change to the job or addition needs to be made, contact the vendor immediately.

3. Don’t quote every job.  If you require your maintenance person to quote every single job then don’t plan on them hanging around long.  Establish a “do not exceed” price, $300-$500 for work that needs to be done in your community.  If you request quotes for every little item, you may find that the association will end up paying more for it than would be the case if you simply said “just do it”.

4. Don’t add on to a quoted job.  For quoted jobs, don’t add additional items on and expect them to be included in the price.

5. Be as upfront and forthcoming with information as possible.  If you would like your maintenance person to quote a price for painting the condo front doors, tell them how many doors and whether the management company or the owner will be coordinating this.

These are just a few tips on how the proper care and treatment of vendors. If you are in need of professional community association management, contact Property Management Systems, Inc. today for information.