Exterior Envelope Restoration Project
- Concrete repairs to all single and double balconies.
- Application of pedestrian coating system to all balconies.
- Replace railings and privacy panels on balconies.
- Install new doors with pan/sill flashing on balconies as needed.
- Replace soffit on mansard roof.
- Relocate entrance sidewalk.
- Miscellaneous other repairs.
Old railings had to be removed and new railings had to be installed in all above-ground-level units. Work was completed while many owners were at home, yet Statewide received few complaints. Issues such as parking, storage and protection of owners’ personal property had to be considered. A sidewalk at the entrance had to be redesigned and relocated to preserve a large tree.
Maintaining a Personal Oasis
Maintaining and preserving balconies and railings is not only essential to the safety of those who live in a condominium, it can make life more pleasant.
The balcony is where you can go for fresh air without leaving home. It can be “your own personal outdoor oasis,” as Naomi Sarah wrote, “a place to escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life.” The higher you go, the cleaner the air seems and the more majestic the view becomes.
But when balconies need to be repaired and railings need to be replaced, doing so can be a major project, as was the case at 125 Pleasant St., Brookline.
The buildings at 125 and 135 Pleasant St. were built by Harold Brown in 1976 and were converted to 129 condominium units in 1986. The two buildings face a central courtyard and are connected by a common garage. They feature a rooftop pool, a function room and an exercise room.
The balconies at 125 Pleasant St. held up for nearly 50 years, but testing of samples several years ago showed repairs were needed. In addition, water was leaking into some units, which was inevitable once materials began to deteriorate, according to Dale Gienapp, Principal of Gienapp Architects, LLC, Danvers, Mass., because the balconies were at the same level as the inside floors.
Before replacing the 39 balcony railings, which included railings for 14 double balconies, the team tested a redesigned railing on a double balcony for a single unit. The test, which took place in 2021, “provided a true mockup of the whole repair and an opportunity to tweak the design,” Gienapp said.
In 2022, Moisture Protection Consultants, LLC of Weare, N.H., was hired as a consultant, Gienapp was chosen to be the architect and, as the low bidder, Statewide RM was awarded the project and served as project manager.
Always a Challenge
Every condominium restoration project is a challenge, according to Larry Ouellette, Managing Member of Moisture Protection Consultants.
At 125 Pleasant St., Brookline, part of the challenge was lifting the balcony railings up to six stories high, then lowering them in place and securing them. In addition to installing the railings, Statewide repaired all balconies, added a waterproof coating, replaced sliders as needed, and repaired the mansard roof.
Another challenge was satisfying the sometimes-diverging interests of the owners, the Board of Trustees (the Amory House Condominium Trust) and the property manager.
Owners temporarily lost access to their balconies while work was taking place, and they had to live with noise and disruptions during construction. Statewide minimized noise, dirt and disturbances by erecting scaffolding to keep all of the workers outside throughout the project, Gianepp said. He added that some general contractors would have tried to save money by transporting railings through the elevators, which would have been disruptive and noisy for the owners.
While jackhammering balconies and installing new railing is noisy work, Statewide owner Kieran Fitzgibbon took other steps to minimize the impact on residents, according to Ouellette, such as informing them when waterproof coating was going to be applied, so they would keep their balcony doors closed.
More Than Balconies
With scaffolding in place, Property Manager Myra Miller of ELN Management Company, Sudbury, Mass., said it made sense to address other issues in the upper floors, including making repairs to the mansard roof.
“We knew we had to bring the railings up to code, once they were touched,” she said. “And once the staging was up, we wanted to repair the soffit and shingles on the sides of the windows, as well as the Spanish-tile roof. A number of things beside the railings were addressed, including waterproofing, and replacing all sliding glass doors on units where they hadn’t been replaced.”
“It was an in-depth project with lots of restoration,” Ouellette added. “The cantilevered deck needed to be restored. Balconies, car porting, and ancillary envelop components all needed to be restored. Doors needed to be replaced and sidewalks needed to be relocated.”
A new entryway sidewalk presented a challenge, as the roots on a large, mature honey locust tree were causing the existing sidewalk to buckle. To save the tree, they collaborated on a plan to curb a new entryway sidewalk around it. The resulting sidewalk is better than what had been planned, according to Gienapp. They made an asset out of a liability.
Strong Communication Skills
Both Ouellette and Miller believe one reason for the project’s success is Fitzgibbon’s strong communication skills.
“They’re good communicators,” Ouellette added. “They return calls within hours – sometimes minutes. They never let me down.” Because Fitzgibbon is personally involved and communicates closely with all parties, he “has a way of getting ahead of issues before they come up.”
“He’s always good to work with,” Miller said. “His communication is terrific. We met weekly throughout the project, and as soon as I got a complaint we met almost daily.”
Fitzgibbon “was wonderful in dealing with people,” she added. “He bent over backwards for them.”
Statewide workers and subcontractors were likewise helpful and even helped residents who failed to prepare for the restoration work, such as “carrying someone’s plant down six flights of scaffolding,” Miller said.
“We never had complaints that someone didn’t show up or left trash behind,” she said. “There was none of that, ever. They left the place clean and were polite and courteous to people.”
Ouelette added that Fitzgibbon is “a magician when it comes to coordinating subcontractors.” Subcontractors were used for carpentry, roofing, scaffolding, application of the coating, installation of doors and finish work.
The subcontractors “didn’t act like subcontractors,” Gienapp said. “They acted as if they were all part of the same company. Some general contractors pass responsibility off to their subs. Kieran took full responsibility for everything on the project. There was seamless interaction. We never had to worry about someone taking responsibility.”
Gienapp said it’s not just Fitgibbons’ communication skills, but his planning skills that got the job done efficiently.
“He understands the construction sequence and the duration of things,” Gienapp said. “He really thought through who needed to be where and when they needed to be there to keep the process moving.”
With about 10 different processes taking place on each balcony, he coordinated the removal of old railings, chipping away of deteriorating concrete, striping off the old coating, patching and other structural repairs, application of the new coating and installation of new railings.
“He kept it flowing well,” Gienapp said, which resulted in more efficient use of his workers, while also shortening the time during which owners lost use of their balconies.
Fitzgibbon said he was aided by an onsite supervisor, who helped coordinate the project and provide access when needed.
Fitzgibbon also saved time by taking the initiative to “self-punch-list” the work, Gienapp said. As a result, the punch list from the final inspection was negligible.
Condominium restoration projects “can be a nightmare,” Ouellette said, but when he works with Statewide and Fitzgibbon, he gets a good night’s sleep. He credits Statewide with getting the job done right, while also being sensitive to the needs of all parties. As a result, only a small number of owners had issues with the work and Fitzgibbon addressed their concerns quickly and efficiently.
“All of the work was done to my satisfaction, the architect’s satisfaction, the code compliance officer’s satisfaction and the satisfaction of the Brookline Building Department,” he said. “Statewide did a wonderful job.”
Statewide was able to complete the $2 million project ahead of schedule and within the budget.
The Amory House Condominium Trust has contracted for phase two, which is scheduled to take place next spring. The same work will take place at 135 Pleasant St. Phase one was so successful, phase two is being planned with the same team without going out to bid.