Replacing Kitec plumbing in an entire building is no easy task. It takes careful planning, organization and teamwork to make the process run smoothly. During a big job like this, we aren’t just working with hardware and piping — we’re working with people. We’re working with you. When you factor in the needs of residents, Board and management staff, finding ways to make the job run efficiently is crucial.
Here are six important lessons we learned during our recent experiences with Kitec plumbing replacement:
- DO plan down to the smallest detail
We can’t stress enough the importance of being well prepared and communicating your message clearly to everyone involved in the project. Pay extra attention to how the schedule will be run and how the unit will be completed. Even the smallest detail shouldn’t be overlooked, even if it appears unimportant. 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.
- DON’T think it’s all about plumbing
Don’t underestimate the importance of quality finishing as part of Kitec replacement. This is definitely the area where residents will be most vocal, so be prepared. After all, they didn’t ask for their walls to be cut into, and while managers, trades and Board are primarily concerned with what is going on behind the walls, residents will have moved on and must live with the results — what they see around them every day.
A key example involves concerns about 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.
- DO keep all parties in the loop
Let residents know what to expect well ahead of time. We did this by 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. There will still be hiccups, as we found, even with proper communication. However, if there are pressing questions, you can keep referring residents back to the information provided.
- DON’T assume managing Kitec replacement will be part of a manager’s regular duties
One large-scale project we know of did not have a dedicated person to work in liaison with all the parties. They felt that the property manager and engineer’s assistant would be able to handle concerns by residents. Consequently, the engineer’s office was taken aback by the number of calls by residents with issues, mainly because they were not usually part of this process. There will simply always be a high volume of concerns due to the nature of this project, and 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 the building manager appoints 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.
- DO Stick to the schedule and manage expectations
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.
Some may draw attention to concerns during the process. Responding to every concern is good customer service, but it comes at the cost of dramatically inconveniencing others when the schedule is interrupted. As we know, the devil is in the details and small issues have a habit of taking over and accumulating.
One way we have learned 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. From the get-go, 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 separate time.
- Do Keep Pricing Simplified and Inclusive
Henry Ford had the right idea, with the best feature of his Model T vehicle being not convenience, nor price, but simplicity. 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
Are you ready for a Kitec Replacement?
The bottom line is that any whole-building renovation or construction work is a monumental challenge. 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 www.cdckitec.ca for more videos, legal research, a comprehensive downloadable guide, and information on the replacement plumbing product.
By: Lisa Brennan