For an association board, few situations are more challenging than navigating through an unexpected major capital improvement project — especially during tough economic times.
How do you make it work? Take a lesson from the trustees of Hammond Place, a 91-unit townhome community in Woburn, Mass.: Get expert help. Communicate openly and often with homeowners. And bring in Schernecker Property Services to do the job right.
“The trustees were extraordinarily methodical about finding the right contractor,” says long-time association manager Dave Barrett of American Properties Team. “The selection process took months.”
Working with Barrett and engineering firm CCA, the trustees hired SPS at the conclusion of a competitive bidding process that included multiple presentations, two rounds of interviews with the association’s Siding Committee and project team, and a financial audit.
“This was a $3.5 million project,” says Barrett. “The trustees weren’t taking any chances, and neither was the bank that provided the financing. The bank’s audit and trustee’s evaluation found that SPS was the candidate with the best financial resources, stability, and strength.”
For years, Hammond Place had been dealing with siding repairs on a spot replacement basis. “We knew we had a problem,” says trustee Mary Bea Lingane, “but we didn’t know how serious it was until we hired an engineer to find out why new paint was peeling from our cedar clapboards.”
The engineer’s report concluded that the peeling paint was a symptom of a much bigger problem: Failed flashing details at windows and doors, inferior building materials, and poor ventilation had allowed moisture to rot the building envelope from the inside out. In some areas, rot also damaged the oriented strand board sheathing, which had soaked up moisture like a sponge.
The evidence was indisputable, says Lingane. “We’d been sinking money into siding repairs for years. But the damage was association-wide and it was only going to get worse. We needed a comprehensive solution.”
The scope of work was complex and extensive. Project specifications called for SPS to perform a complete building envelope makeover on all 21 buildings. Wooden siding and trim was replaced with vinyl siding and PVC trim. SPS crews replaced more than 1,000 windows and patio doors, and 40 skylights. SPS replaced roofs on 10 buildings. Failed wooden boards on nearly half of the association’s decks were replaced with composite deck boards. Finally, interior finish carpentry and painting was scheduled at each unit owner’s convenience.
“We wanted a contractor with a strong track record. We wanted a contractor with good financials. And we wanted a contractor experienced with projects of this size,” says Lingane. “That’s what we were looking for and SPS had it all.”
Schernecker Property Services has specialized in condominium maintenance, repairs, and capital improvement projects for more than 20 years. Along the way, the Waltham-based firm has earned a reputation for helping clients make the correct long-term maintenance and improvement decisions for their properties.
“SPS’s onsite efficiency and production allows us to provide competitive pricing and outstanding value,” says Chief Operating Officer Brian Brown. “We take pride in doing the job right, and that includes showing our clients when they can reduce costs without compromising quality, and when spending a little more can yield significant long-term savings.”
SPS’s approach to building envelope work can save clients hundreds of thousands of dollars in labor, material, and maintenance costs on a single project, says Brown. “A lot of contractors try to compete on price,” says Brown. “But no one comes close to delivering our level of value.”
SPS’s project management at Hammond Place was excellent, says veteran association manager Dave Barrett. From initial planning to final punch lists, SPS showed why it excels in large-scale work for community associations.
“SPS ran a tight operation,” says Barrett. “They held weekly production meetings for the entire project team to review progress, track change orders, and resolve any problems. They also had daily briefings with an independent Clerk of the Works.”
Trustee Cindy Bartlett was also impressed with SPS’s management skills. “SPS was very organized and accommodating, especially when it came to doing the interior finish work for the windows and doors. And they were great at communicating. We always had advance notice about scheduled work, and we were notified immediately about any delays.”
Also impressive, says Bartlett, was SPS’s commitment to do the job right. One example: SPS’s expert advice about choosing replacement decking material.
“The owners picked a composite deck board for its dark red color without considering longevity,” says SPS Business Manager Jon Shampine. “Not only were we concerned that the deeper color would be more vulnerable to fading and failure from UV-ray damage, the product was made overseas and only shipped once a year. Worse, there was no reliable manufacturer’s warranty.”
On SPS’s recommendation, the association opted for a lighter-colored composite deck board with a solid track record, a good warranty, and ready availability for future deck replacement work.
Cindy Bartlett credits SPS and the entire project team for guiding Hammond Place through the largest capital improvement project in association history. “Now we have a long-lasting, low-maintenance exterior that works for us,” she says, “not against us.”
There is never a convenient time for a project of this size, says Bartlett, but the Board’s caution in choosing the right contractor really paid off. “SPS really came through for us. I don’t know how this project could have gone any smoother.”