Construction crews can create a lot of hassles in apartment buildings, from noise and interruptions to damages and worse. And while nobody wants scaffolding blocking out the sunlight or window cleaners staring right into their bedroom, it’s important to know what to do when situations like these inevitably arise.
Here’s the good news: as a born-and-raised New Yorker, I’ve gone through every possible form of this irritation, and I’m happy to say I made it through to the other side. A few years back, for example, there were construction crews out on the street below my window for a month straight. First they repaved the road, then they immediately tore it up again to replace a pipe they’d apparently broken. After finally paving it over once again, they tore it up a third time! Supposedly there was a “scheduled repair.” Weeks and weeks of jackhammers, trucks, drills, closed down sidewalks, and men playing loud music and shouting to each other right outside my bedroom window starting every morning at dawn. But I survived, and now I’m here to tell you how you can survive, too.
Construction hassles fall into a few different categories, so let’s go through them one at a time:
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more of us are staying home now than ever before. So when that dreaded work crew shows up one Tuesday morning, you’re going to have to find a way to live and work around them.
One of the biggest challenges is privacy. If the workers need to enter your apartment, you’re going to have to deal with strangers wandering through your space in the middle of the day. One way to get around this is simply by not being home. Though COVID might’ve closed down your office, you can still get outside to escape the burden. It’s not a great idea to leave a work crew alone in your house, but you can always try asking a neighbor or friend to keep an eye on them for a couple hours. Also, if you have roommates or a partner, you can take shifts and do an occasional changing of the guard. In the meantime, take a walk, sit down in a nearby park or, if it’s safe to do so, take your laptop to a café and get to work.
Dealing With the Noise
If it isn’t possible to get away from the construction, you might still be able to create a quiet, uninterrupted space right at home. Talk to the crew and simply ask them which rooms they’ll be working in. This allows you to avoid them by setting up shop somewhere else in your house. You can even play musical chairs with them as they move around your apartment, always making sure to be a step ahead. Also, if you can afford it, look up some temporary co-working spaces that you can rent by the hour, so at least you can get some work done without the sounds of hammers and saws buzzing in your ears.
Sometimes there’s no way to avoid the noise, though, and you’ll simply have to deal with it or drown it out. Playing some music or white noise is a great method, and noise-canceling headphones can be very helpful, too. If nothing else works, you can even buy some earplugs at the drugstore.
I’ve used this strategy more than once in New York. One time, when I knew a construction crew next door was going to wake me up hours before my alarm, I preemptively went to bed wearing earplugs. I found the comfiest pair I could on Amazon, and that night, I slept like a baby.
What If They Damage Something?
One of the biggest fears you might have is that a work crew will damage your things. What if they break your expensive speakers? What if they drip paint onto your favorite rug? What if they knock over your grandma’s old vase?
The key is to be prepared. Talk to your landlord and figure out what the extent of the repairs or renovations will be, and then work around that. A good rule of thumb is to cover all the things you want to protect. Your local hardware store should have whatever materials you’ll need, such as plastic sheets for draping over your furniture and painter’s tape for sealing off the edges. If you have some old newspapers or magazines lying around, you might want to tape them to the floor, too, because that’s also worth protecting. You don’t want a construction crew damaging the hardwood only to have your landlord blame it on you later down the road. Deposits aren’t cheap!
Speaking of which, it’s also a good idea to take some pictures before and after any construction work takes place. Monitor the workers, too, and make sure they’re being as careful with your apartment as you are. You can even speak to the head of the crew and let them know what to watch out for.
In New York, as inconvenient as work crews can be, I’ve always found the workers themselves to be fairly approachable. They’ll listen to you if you’re polite enough, so don’t be afraid to voice your opinions.
Just Talk to Your Landlord
While it can be helpful to talk to the workers, it’s even more helpful to talk to your landlord. Keeping an open line of communication will prevent any unexpected crews from showing up out of the blue, and when they do show up, your landlord might even be willing to do you some favors if you ask. Landlords are people, too, after all, and they know how inconvenient a construction project can be.
If the work is going to last more than a couple weeks, see if you can get a reduction on that month’s rent. And check your lease, too. There might be an agreement in it regarding repairs and renovations, and you might be able to get reimbursements on any expenses or lost work time.
If you’re especially friendly with your landlord, you may even be able to get some concessions from him or her. Say they’ve scheduled a crew to replace all your windows during the week your parents are visiting. If you explain the situation to the landlord, or get someone from your rental agency on the phone, you might be able to convince them to re-schedule. It’s not a sure thing, but hey, it’s worth a shot!
It’s All Temporary
Nothing lasts forever, especially not construction. Eventually the work will be over, the repairs will be done, and you can return to your life as usual. Even in the thick of the construction, don’t forget that at the end of each day, the workers will always leave. Because at the end of the day, this is your apartment and your home. Nobody can take that away from you.