Let’s face it, replacing Kitec plumbing in your condo building is a messy, disruptive and long process. Not to mention expensive — and at the expense of the individual unit owner, at that. No Property Manager or Board member truly wants to deal with it, but it’s one of those necessary evils that goes along with condo living. And with the deadline for filing a Kitec claim in order to be eligible for recovery under the Kitec Settlement happening in just 11 months, residents may be a lot more receptive to replacing Kitec plumbing in their units.
How can you make this big undertaking a smoother process for everyone involved? CDC can show you how and we will demystify the process for you. To date, we have replaced Kitec plumbing in more than 4,500 condo units and have learned a lot of about what works well and, most importantly, what DOESN’T work well.
Here are five lessons we’ve learned along the way. Keep in mind, no process is foolproof. You will still have some hiccups, but minimizing them as much as possible will keep everyone on track and as productive as possible.
1) Plan, plan and plan some more
Even the smallest detail (particularly the ones that appear unimportant) is important when dealing with a Kitec plumbing replacement. Pay extra attention to how the schedule will be run and how the unit will be completed. For example, it’s important to remember the number of days to completion, what the inspection process is, or what types of fixtures are included.
Consider having enough security on the premises. During the job, different floors are being worked on at the same time. This helps the Kitec replacement project run more efficiently. The crew works in several units at once and is in and out throughout the day. A lone security guard is on hand walking the floors, but he/she simply cannot be in two places at once. Because suites will be open, an extra guard can make a big difference in giving residents additional peace of mind.
2) Communication is key
We can’t stress the importance of this enough. Think of that game “Telephone” you may have played as a kid. Four people can hear the same piece of information, and interpret it four different ways. Communicate as clearly as you can and verify information as you go along.
One way we did this was to let residents know what to expect well ahead of time. For example, posting a communication on the door of each suite 10 to 15 days ahead of time, clearly outlining our daily process. At least a month’s notice is required to change the schedule. Walk them through the responsibility of the contractor, and inform them of their responsibilities as residents. However, if there are pressing questions, you can keep referring residents back to the information provided.
Here is another great example we learned and it concerns tiles. Tiles need to be cut out to access pipes in the shower, and some may get chipped in the process. This could require replacing some tiles completely, and finding the exact same tile isn’t always an easy task. Be clear with residents on what the protocol is for replacing, painting, and matching their decor so there won’t be surprises. Most residents will be flexible and will understand, and some goodwill gestures can go a long way. Show them you are concerned with how their suite will look afterward.
3) DON’T make any assumptions about a property manager’s involvement in the replacement process
You know that saying about the dangers of assuming things. We don’t have to repeat it here. Property managers have a lot on their plates and throwing a Kitec plumbing replacement in there can be overwhelming. Due to the nature of the work involved, there will simply always be a high volume of concerns and residents will automatically assume their building’s property manager will deal with it all — unless you tell them otherwise from the get-go.
Does your building have an assistant manager? A manager’s assistant will be much more familiar with the nature of residents’ concerns since he/she deals with it on a daily basis. We strongly recommend that you appoint a dedicated person with a dedicated email in place only for the duration of the project. This person will be able to judiciously manage expectations and steer people in the appropriate direction as needed. This individual can work with the site manager or trades supervisor to quickly resolve anything that comes up.
4) Stick to the schedule and manage expectations
It’s good to set expectations high, but things can get tricky when dealing with the individual expectations of residents. For example, even if it’s in the written brief, some residents will expect that drop cloths are removed daily, instead of upon completion of the job. Others will believe that a cleaning crew will do a deep and professional cleaning, but this is not realistic for any company to offer. Kitec plumbing replacements are messy, as we mentioned earlier, and that’s unavoidable due to the level of work involved, but residents can expect a basic clean from CDC team members. Ultimately, residents want to make sure their units are as they originally left them.
Some residents may be very voiceful about their concerns during their Kitec plumbing replacement. Responding to every concern is good customer service, but it comes at the cost of dramatically inconveniencing others when the schedule is interrupted. One way to address this is to provide residents with a form that they can use to track concerns, which can then be addressed on the last day, during inspections. At the beginning, encourage residents to hold their questions and any non-urgent concerns until the end of the job. Deficiencies can be fixed in a timely manner at a more convenient time.
5) Keep pricing simplified
By keeping your costing options inclusive and basic, you will achieve the best results. Make it clear from the first meeting that you must know what is included and what is not, and ask about the cost of:
- Creating a bulkhead (and how they will know a bulkhead is necessary)
- Replacement of old plumbing hardware such as valves, hoses for the washer, toilet hoses, access panels
- Tile replacement
- Anything else the engineer brings to your attention
Ultimately, any whole-building renovation or construction work is a huge undertaking. The logistics of replacing all the Kitec plumbing in a high-rise or low-rise complex will uniquely test everyone’s patience and ability to withstand stress because you will likely not undertake anything similar in your building’s history. What is key to remember is that we are all coming together for a common goal, and once completed, there is no substitute for the feeling of having been proactive in protecting the place where so many call home.
See our website at http://cdckitec.com/ for more videos, a comprehensive downloadable guide, a helpful glossary and further information on the replacement plumbing product.
By Lisa Marie Brennan