There are loads of issues that people run into when they're looking to get their floors replaced.  These are also a number of things that are unique to getting it done in New York City.  Feel free to contact us if you have any questions or want to learn more about some common issues we've run into over the years.

Insurance ... lots of it.

99.9% of buildings in Manhattan will require your contractor to carry insurance.  Most buildings will ask for General Liability and Worker's Compensation, but some will also ask for proof of disability insurance.  The thing that will dictate whether a contractor can get into your building to work will really be their General Liability limits.  We've found over the past year or two a number of buildings have started to require $5 million in general liability insurance.  Most trades contractors (painters, carpenters, floor installers, etc) only carry $1 million although some buildings might let them in if you're nice to the managing agent and clarify that the work is only cosmetic.

Wood deliveries: it won't end up where you think it should.

You've found a contractor that you like and they carry enough insurance to get into the building.  It took you a few weeks, but you've also found a wood floor you're happy with.  Hoping to save a few bucks you figure "eh, why should I pay the contractor a mark-up on the wood?  I'll just order it myself".  Excellent idea, just make sure the wood floor distributor will deliver it to your apartment.  Yes, most wood floor deliveries are only made curbside, not to the apartment.  While curbside check-in for a flight can be wonderful, the only thing you'll get out of a curbside wood delivery is a hernia.  Wood is unwieldy and very heavy.  Either have your contractor do the delivery or try to pay the porter from the building to do it.

Your front door: the only thing during a wood floor installation that can't be cut.

It's almost definitely a fire door and no, your building won't want you to cut it.  One of the first things I look for when I walk into an apartment is how how much clearance you have at the front door.  It dictates how thick a floor you can go with and what type of sub-floor setup you'll need to go with.  A common fix if you just don't have much clearance for wood but definitely want to replace the  floor: tile in your Entry Foyer area then put wood everyplace else.

Solid or engineered, that is the question.

This is a topic unto itself, but most new wood floors in apartments in Manhattan tend to be engineered.  This can be partially due to not having enough clearance at your front door.  One of the main reasons is that engineered wood flooring can be glued down to a sound mat or directly to concrete while a solid floor is typically nailed and requires a 3/4" plywood sub-floor to be be installed over the concrete.  A couple of quick points on why that plywood sub-floor can be a hassle (and expensive) to install:

  • All of the material for it needs to come up in the service elevator, which often can't accommodate a full 4x8 sheet of material.  This is a lot of large, unwieldy  material movement within the building that needs to be done without damaging the walls and you may have waste due to have to cut the plywood down to 4x6 or 4x4 sheets.
  • If your building does't allow the plywood to be bolted down to the concrete, you may need to build a floating sub-floor structure.  This will require two layers of plywood and more labor.

Tar: seriously?

If you have a parquet floor over concrete in a building from the 50's to early 80's, there's a good chance you've got black cutback adhesive (or essentially tar) holding the floor down.  REGARDLESS OF WHAT ANY CONTRACTOR TELLS YOU, THEY SHOULDN'T JUST BE GLUEING YOUR FLOOR DIRECTLY DOWN TO IT.  Contractors will tell you it's okay, but I promise you, this is not a good idea ... you'll have to read my next posts to find out how to deal with.  Good cliffhanger, no?


That's all for now.  If you want more, you'll have to come back and check us out again ;-)


AuthorMarc Ringel