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Ask the Engineer

Rand answers commonly asked questions about building repair, maintenance, and upgrades in Habitat Magazine.

Exterior Repairs and Maintenance

leak damage

The Ongoing Battle Against Leaks

A regular maintenance program is the best way to guard against water penetration.

deteriorated cladding on parapet

Cutting Corners and Band-Aid Fixes

So-called cheap and easy repairs—such as covering problem areas with tar or cladding, or capping a deteriorated roof—will only lead to further leakage and more expensive repairs down the line.

window replacement

Replacing Old Windows

Thermally insulated double-paned replacement windows provide energy efficiency and noise reduction.


Preparing Your Building for Winter

Keeping your building watertight and its mechanical systems properly maintained will help prevent a host of cold weather–related problems.


Replacing a Cornice

LPC-approved replacement materials can be used to replicate the style and details of an original cornice at lower cost and with less maintenance.

Balcony Repairs

Cracked and stained concrete, loose railings, and "icicles" hanging underneath balconies are signs of widespread deterioration that should not be ignored.


fire escape steps

Retaining Walls.

Without regular maintenance, retaining walls can deteriorate from repeated seasonal changes, compromising the stability of the wall.

fire escape steps

Refurbishing a Fire Escape

A well-maintained fire escape should last as long as the building, but a dilapidated one is an accident waiting to happen. 

Making Your Repair Projects Green

Using recycled replacement products, choosing materials low in toxicity, and recycling construction debris will help keep your repair work environmentally friendly.

baseboard moldPreventing Mold

Inadequately insulated piping, poor ventilation, and exterior leaks provide moist environments where mold spores thrive.

facade cleaningFacade Cleaning

Different types of masonry call for different types of cleaning agents and applications, but even the right method can cause damage if used incorrectly.


Sidewalk Sheds

There are more than 6,000 sidewalk sheds throughout the city, maybe even one in front of--or next to--your building. Here's what you should know about costs, permits, safety, and more.

special inspectionsSpecial Inspections

The Buildings Department has tightened requirements for Special Inspections, which apply to most repair and upgrade projects. Here's what you need to know for your building.

Investigative ProbesInvestigative Probes

By uncovering hidden conditions in a building, investigative probes help minimize surprises during construction and reduce the costs of change orders.


Local Laws 10/80 and 11/98

LL 11/98 Inspection

Playing it "Safe" with Facade Inspections

Answers to commonly asked questions about New York City's
Local Laws 10/80 and 11/98.

window air conditioners

Installing Window Air Conditioners

The New York City Department of Buildings is scrutinizing Local Law 11/98 facade inspection reports more closely than ever and rejecting those citing unsafe window air conditioners.




built-up roof

Replacing a Roof: Hot or Cold System?

The choice depends on the underlying roof deck as well as the building's height. Proper installation and regular maintenance are also key.

roof warranties

Roof Warranties

A No Dollar Limit agreement is cost-effective protection for a new roof, but be aware of limitations and exclusions.

recreational roof deck

Installing a Recreational Roof System

Raised wood decks and pavers are two popular choices, but first underlying roof problems should be repaired and a structural evaluation conducted to determine the loads.


Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing Systems


Heating Plant Upgrades

Installing the proper boiler type and deciding which type of fuel to burn—oil, gas, or both in an interruptible system — are two key considerations.

copper tubing

Re-piping a Domestic Water System

Buildings with old, corroded steel plumbing system will eventually have to undergo an extensive replacement with new copper tubing.


Electrical Upgrades

Even after a main building upgrade, residents may still need to address the electrical setup in their apartments.

Converting From Oil to Gas

Installing a gas-based system requires upfront capital costs, but depending on the price of home heating fuels, it can save buildings money in the long run.

rook tanks

Complying With Local Law 87/09

The law takes effect in 2013 and requires an energy audit, retro-commissioning, and filing an Energy Efficiency Report for NYC buildings 50,000 square feet or larger.

rook tanks

Fixing Brown Water and Low Pressure

Reinstalling the roof tank and replacing corroded galvanized piping will help correct plumbing problems for an afflicted building.

gas meters

Re-piping a Leaky Gas System

Facing a system shutdown, the first steps are isolating leaks by pressure testing and determining where new piping will run.


Installing a Cogeneration System

By producing electricity and heat simultaneously, a cogeneration program can reduce peak electrical demand in the summer, heating costs in the winter, and hot water costs year round.

Repairing a Sewer Line

If a pipe has only minor cracks or pitting, a cured-in-place pipe method can be used for repair. More extensive damage will require excavating the pipe and replacing sections of it or possibly the entire line.

elevator machinery

Elevator Upgrades

Abrupt or stalling movements, doors that stick, and uneven floors at stops are signs that a building's elevator is due for an overhaul.



adjacent construction

Structural Evaluations

Demolition and excavation at a construction site can damage adjacent properties. A structural survey conducted before construction begins can alert building owners to potential problems and help them take proper safeguards.

sidewalk vault

Replacing a Sidewalk Vault

Vault spaces are prone to leaks and deterioration, which can cause structural damage over time. Replacing the vault is expensive, although it's usually only a once-in-a-lifetime project.



Architectural Design

interior renovations

Interior Renovations

Before making major alterations to their apartments, residents should get their board's approval to make sure the changes don't adversely affect any building-wide systems.

handicap ramp

Installing an ADA-Compliant Ramp

To comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, a ramp must meet requirements concerning the incline, handrails, and doors.



Surveys and Inspections

physical condition survey

Surveying Your Building's Condition

A physical condition survey provides a blueprint for planning major capital improvements and determining how to best allocate short- and long-term expenditures.

pre-purchase survey

Doing Due Diligence Before Buying

A pre-purchase survey can uncover hidden defects that could mean higher maintenance and repair costs later on.

testing for asbestos

Testing for Asbestos

An asbestos survey is part and parcel of most repair jobs.


Construction Administration and Project Management

project communication

Project Communication

Establishing upfront a realistic scope of work, repair budget, and timeline paves the way to a smoother running project.

exterior repair contracts

Exterior Repair Contracts

Owners should insist on a signed formal agreement that specifies key terms and conditions, such as guarantees, payment schedule, liquidated damages, and insurance.

bid sheet

High Bid, Low Bid, Best Bid?

For competitive bidding on capital improvement projects, get itemized repair components, check independent references, and never, ever let contractors know the anticipated budget.

contrator quality

Contractor Quality

Getting references is required but not sufficient. Owners need to ask prospective contractors the right questions before hiring one for the job.

When an Engineer Is on the Board

The person can provide valuable technical input, but it's important for the board to establish strict areas of responsibility for who is running the project.

Getting the Construction Documents Right

Plans and specifications for a revived project need to be updated if the scope of work has changed or redone if the design engineer is no longer on the job.

Time For a Change (Order)?

Change orders are a fact of life with any repair or upgrade project. But which ones are legitimate, and how much should be allotted for them?

Engineer vs. Architect: What's the Difference?

The most important consideration when hiring a licensed professional is the person's practical experience with the type of project at hand.



Filing and Permits


Permit Requirements; Using an Engineer or Architect

Which type of projects need permits? Plus, when to hire an engineer or architect.

Certificate of Occupancy

Amending a Certificate of Occupancy

Whenever a building changes its use, egress, or occupancy, it must file for an amended C of O. Performing a zoning analysis and clearing open violations will expedite the application process.


Managing the Landmarks Process

Changes to landmark properties must preserve the architectural integrity of the building's original design and not clash with the look and feel of the surrounding neighborhood.


RAND Engineering & Architecture, DPC | 159 West 25th Street,  New York, NY 10001 | P: 212-675-8844 | F: 212-691-7972 | info@randpc.com