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subfloor relacement

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subfloor relacement

Postby babayaga » Thu Mar 28, 2024 12:04 pm

I live in a SRO Hotel. My carpet and my wall paper are 23 years old. In 2016 my landlord was ordered, via an Hp action, to fix these. Now, 9 years later, he wants to do this. There are 2 conflicting opinions about subfloor replacement. # 1 manager is adamant about replacing the subfloor, #2 who reports to #1 says not needed. There are growing in area squeaks which can be symptoms of subfloor problems. I have requested an evaluation for subfloor problems by a flooring specialist. The managers are obstinate. The work would require relocation. I want to know if that subfloor replacement is needed. I could be in relocation and they then decide to replace. I want to know since it seems like construction, if the landlord needs a permit to do such work. I went to the DOB website but could not find the right category. 'Flooring' does not need a permit, but this is different.
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Re: subfloor relacement

Postby TenantNet » Thu Mar 28, 2024 1:02 pm

"wants to do this"
What is "this?" (be careful how you use pronouns).

If you mean a subfloor, that's structural, not the floor you walk on. How it's constructed depends on how old the building is and other factors. There should be an architect or engineer who makes the call. Squeaks happen as buildings get old and settles. Pretty much all buildings do this when they get old.

Relocation is a different issue. If it's a real SRO, then you would be rent stab, and you have rights, and leverage here.

NEVER EVER NEVER NEVER NEVER agree to locate without a signed agreement negotiated by a lawyer who represents you. I would not do it without a professional opinion, and you should have the right to have your own professional (although you would have to pay for that.)

Relocation is a big deal and involves where you go, what you will pay, the right to return and maybe they might want you to pay for the cost of the sub-floor. Any agreement has to be enforceable in court.

I know of one situation where the floor (and joists) were replaced and they did it in a way that the tenant did not need to move out.

And yes, the owner would require building permits (flooring and sub-floor are different). Is this happening to other tenants?
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Re: subfloor relacement

Postby Sky » Thu Mar 28, 2024 5:12 pm

Your post is extremely unclear: what exactly is the problem and what exactly is the manager obstinate about? First you mention carpet and wall paper and an HPD order from 2016 to remedy that. Then you mention 'growing squeaks'. Has HPD issued a violation for 'squeaks"? Are you complaining of squeaks? Is the tenant below complaining? Is someone else complaining? Who made the carpet complaint to HPD in 2016, was it you (were you around in 2016 and thus informed of the what the actual issues were at that time?). Do you want the subfloor replaced?

It doesn't necessarily follow that squeaks - although a nuisance - are a symptom of substantial subfloor 'problems' (were this the case they'd need to replace 95% of the subfloors in NYC resulting in a citywide emergency). Wood flooring back in the day was typically nailed in place: over time the wood fibers around the nail will weaken allowing the wood to move a little back and forth when pressure is applied (i.e. walked on) and the movement can produce the typical 'squeak'. Eliminating a squeak doesn't necessarily require subfloor replacement unless the subfloor is seriously damaged or substantially structurally compromised, in which case it's not a 'squeak' issue but a dangerous structural issue (for ex. is there plumbing nearby that may have chronically leaked for decades seriously damaging the subfloor?) or does a localized area of floor depress a significant amount when weight is applied? It's important to make these distinctions.

I'm not sure if 'squeaks' are an HPD enforceable issue. I'm not a flooring specialist but squeaks can be remedied in ways that do not require demolishing and replacing the subfloor. For ex. sometimes screws of a particular design are driven (typically from below but possibly also from above although the latter will likely be visible) through the joists into the subfloor (envision a suburban house's unfinished utility basement room w/bare ceiling joists; squeaks can be addressed by work from below due to easy access); such a solution would require removing the ceiling from the unit below to access the joists and underside of subfloor, repair, then replace the ceiling. Conceivably it could be done with both you and the downstairs tenant remaining in occupancy by removing/repairing/replacing one small section of ceiling at a time using plastic sheeting walls for containment of dust and debris, finish one section and move on to the next until the job is complete (is someone occupying the unit below?). Viability depends on the ceiling materials (wire lathe and plaster will be messier and generate more dust than drywall for ex.) and these days there are drywall sanding tools with built in vacuums that can finish sand a ceiling with very little dust contamination.

I'm pretty sure (but not 100% certain) completely replacing the subfloor is going to need a DOB permit (Btw, anytime a ceiling is removed it presents an increased fire risk because the ceiling functions to retard the spread of fire between units, so method of work safety may need to pass a DOB review). Depending on the layout of the unit it's possible - but not standard procedure - to replace the subfloor with the tenant occupying the unit if work can be done while tenant occupies another room that has access to a secondary exit (for ex. window with fire escape), but may be impossible depending on the layout. How many rooms in the apt? How many rooms are in need of subfloor work?

If you don't want any subfloor work one idea is to tell the LL to simply replace/repair the wallpaper and carpet to comply with HPD. Limit the scope of work to that and schedule a date, method, and the contractor(s) who will perform the work in writing and also expressly state that no replacing/repairing the subfloor is to be be performed without your express written consent and sufficient notice. Once the old carpet is removed you may be in a better position to inspect the floor/subfloor for defects from above. Take photos. If upon inspection the top flooring just needs repair perhaps the carpet installation can be postponed until a flooring contractor can make the necessary repairs.

An expeditious way to inspect the subfloor is via the ceiling below: they make illuminated video cameras on long flexible stems as thin as a pencil that can be fed through a small drilled hole in the ceiling at various locations to view the subfloor, then afterwards it's easy to just patch/paint the small drilled holes vs. invasively ripping out yards of flooring to access the subfloor.

All this as a way of stating that there's more than one way to skin a cat. But what exactly is being skinned here?
Last edited by Sky on Thu Mar 28, 2024 6:41 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: subfloor relacement

Postby TenantNet » Thu Mar 28, 2024 6:00 pm

Thanks Sky,
FYI, the OP opened up another thread on this issue viewtopic.php?f=5&t=15188&p=62845#p62845
with some more information. I asked him to stay in this thread.
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Re: subfloor relacement

Postby Sky » Thu Mar 28, 2024 6:39 pm

Another diagnostic is to jump up and down on the floor: does it vibrate? Are windows rattling? Walk around and notice any loose and springy boards.
A sagging floor is a result of problem with the joists.
If any off these conditions exist, then you'll need to perform a careful inspection.

*If you have a problem of a gap between wall and floor (esp. if limited to a closet as suggested in you other post) one easy and effective solution may be reinstalling the baseboard (if there is indeed baseboard trim) to close the gap if such exists, or if there's no baseboard than baseboard can be installed which will close the gap (and one can caulk the 1/8" or so gap between baseboard and floor for ex. for added security). This is an inexpensive simple solution and even mores if it's confined to a closet.



PS: if dealing with old buildings there's a useful reference book I picked up a couple years ago entitled, 'The Old-House Journal Compendium' edited by Clem Labine and Carolyn Flaherty (published in 1980). Hardcover copies in excellent condition can be easily had for under $5. The inspiration for the book was the author's restoration of an 1883 Brownstone in Park Slope Brooklyn that had been used as a shabby rooming house. The author worked in publishing and initially produced a monthly newsletter over the years and the book is a later collection of the journal's articles going over various building systems, diagnosing problems, and detailing their repair and even historical period correct restoration. There are newer methods and materials now available for some repairs, but the building systems themselves remain the same and many methods of repair are standardized and have been in use for decades. It's a good resource book to have if you want to understand what's defective, how to fix it, and/or how a LL or repairman might be bamboozling you.
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Re: subfloor relacement

Postby TenantNet » Thu Mar 28, 2024 7:15 pm

Sky, gaps between floors and walls (here I think that means subfloors) could be an indication of walls bowing, and if they provide structural support, that could mean serious problems. There are ways to attack that (but one MUST get an architect or engineer) by adding pressure on the walls from the outside. (sort of like the flying buttresses of old cathedrals) or in some tenements you see steel rods running the width of a building and holding the walls in. That can prevent complete separation of joists from the posts; if that were to happen you might have complete failure of the building. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anchor_plate

I've heard that may old NYC tenements have joists that are just sitting there, essentially unconnected, and if we're hit with a serious earthquake, buildings will just tumble.

The book you mentioned is on Abebooks.com. Search for ISBN number 0879510803 (first edition) There might be more recent editions.
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Re: subfloor relacement

Postby babayaga » Fri Apr 19, 2024 11:08 pm

The building I live in was built around 1903.
I was told told that the building has concrete subfloors, then plywood, carpet padding, carpet.
One of the issues is that some rooms have oak wood floors. It is not known which ones.
I asked rhe LL to have a flooring specialist come to do an assessment, rip open that 23 year old carpet to see what's underneath, what the source of the squeaking is. Unfortunately, the LL had a contarctor come in who simply walked over the squeaking area and said that the squeaking is due because there is no padding. After 23 years the padding is eroded so is the carpet. Once plush, it is now hard as a rock.
Here is where relocation comes in: there have been conflicting opinion. One manager wanted a subfloor replacement, but could not tell me why. The current manager who reports to her, says no replacement. He said it would take 2 days to scrape off what is left of the carpet, sand, put down laminate. Then go on to the walls.
Relocation issue. If the repairs take 2 days plus a few more, I would not mind living in a crammed, smallish room. However, a subfloor replace could take much longer. I would want a larger accomodation so I can cook, set up a computer work station. -- There is also the problem of diagnosing just what is going on. I'm concerned that the LL is not willing to call in a certified flooring specialist and that he may want to assign a potential subfloor replacem to an unskilled worker from here (to save ??).
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Re: subfloor relacement

Postby babayaga » Fri Apr 19, 2024 11:28 pm

The problem is that there is no agreement on whether a subfloor replacement is needed. For a manager to advocate that the subfloor needs to replaced, without any kind of assessment by a flooring specialist - I find troubling. The manager who reports to her, says no replacement is needed. So, asked him to bring in a flooring specialist. No fooring specialist came. The guy, fom a contractor outfit, walked over the squeaking part and said padding would take care of it. I will have laminate, no more carpet.
I'm getting conflicting info, no clarity about any potential floor problems.
The LL wants to initiate a Relocation Agreement now. I don't think I have enough info to do that. I want to know what kind of work is involved, who will do it, how long will it take. There has been a pattern of relocating tenants without giving them an end date.
Help is short, the building is packed, with migrant families ...
I fear, if they will decide on a subfloor replacem once I'm out of the room.
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Re: subfloor relacement

Postby TenantNet » Fri Apr 19, 2024 11:55 pm

Whatever the actual construction is, and whatever the proper fix is, in our opinion you should not have to relocate. LLs make up these reasons to get tenants out and then make it near impossible to come back. First, NEVER agree to relocate without a tenant lawyer (a real one) and a signed and enforceable written agreement. If it comes down to it you may wish to consult with an architect or engineer.
I know SKY - who also responded - faced pressure from the LL to relocate, but he held firm and they did all the work (and it more than just squeaking) while he stayed in the apartment. DO NOT agree to relocation based on management pressure.
I know many tenants who moved with weak agreements and they were not allowed to come back. In some cases LLs re-rented the apartment to someone else. Do not fall for that.

BTW, when you say you live in a SRO, is it just a regular SRO (with a bathroom in the hall), or is it supportive housing? Is it run by a commercial LL or a not-for-profit organization? Some NFP groups are just as sleazy as bad commercial landlords. How about telling us some more via Private Mail (use the PM button). Don't post particulars in the public area of the forum.
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