Hole-Cutting and Heavy Staging in NYC
Considering a new through-the-wall HVAC system for your home? Having a clean, efficient way to maintain comfort is appealing on all fronts, but getting the process started can be daunting, especially in New York City. Deciding on a specific unit, a contractor, and the carpentry are enough to stall the process before it even starts. But perhaps the most intimidating part is having to arrange for a hole to be cut through a wall of your home where a new PTAC or HVAC unit can be inserted. But it’s not as scary as it sounds.
Do all air conditioners need outside ventilation?
We know what you’re thinking: “maybe there’s an A/C system out there that won’t require a direct outlet to your building’s exterior.” The bad news is it’s just doesn’t exist. The good news is that there are options if you don’t want a window unit hanging out of your building or an exhaust hose trailing out your window. Through-the-wall HVAC systems offer a robust and aesthetically pleasing alternative–but they still require outside ventilation.
First, let’s talk about why HVAC units need a direct outlet from your apartment to the world outside. Most importantly, it regulates the flow of outdoor air so your A/C system doesn’t circulate the same stagnant air within your home. At best, this is uncomfortable–it contributes to that stuffy feeling you’ve probably get in a room with poor circulation. At worst, it can be unhealthy because contaminants, harmful particles and dust can never be flushed out. This can be a serious health hazard to young children, the elderly and anyone who suffers from asthma. Through-the-wall HVAC systems need direct access to fresh air to keep you comfortable–and safe–in your own home.
So how does one provide the ventilation required by through-the-wall HVAC units? A type of heavy staging called “through-wall hole cutting.”
What is Heavy Staging?
Heavy staging is nothing more than an industry buzzword referring to construction or renovation that requires some kind of set-up, ie protective sheets and plastic on the ground and scaffolding. If you know what “heavy staging” means when contractors arrive at your door, they’ll know you’ve done your homework.
What is Through-Wall Hole-Cutting?
For lack of a better term, through-wall hole-cutting is the “procedure” your contractor will conduct to create a direct outlet to your home’s exterior. The end result is a rectangular cavity sized specifically for the PTAC or HVAC unit you’ve selected.
The process does require heavy staging, so an installation team will cover the surrounding area with padded blankets and plastic sheets to ensure no surrounding property is damaged. A small platform is then fastened to the exterior of your apartment wall, so a field technician can saw the hole from the outside in. The entire process takes about three hours.
Now that you know the how and the why of cutting a hole through the wall of your home for an HVAC unit, how do you take the next steps? The answer is, “it depends…”
Do you live in a co-op building?
If you live in a co-op, you’ll need to get approval from the co-op board. While cutting a hole through a wall in your apartment might sound like a huge ordeal, the process is surprisingly common. Most co-op boards will approve this kind of project and have a list of trusted contractors who have done work in the building previously.
Does an organization manage your building?
If a management or real estate company runs your building, you may have to go through your superintendent or building manager to get approval. Again, the hole cutting process isn’t as intensive as it sounds and whoever regulates your building is likely familiar with the process. Much like a co-op board, he or she likely has a list of reliable contractors with whom they’ve worked with previously.
Do you live in a historic landmark building?
Getting approved to install a new HVAC system in a landmark building can be a little more complicated. There is some red tape to jump through, just to ensure such buildings maintain their historical integrity. The approval process can require getting an architect involved, who can work with a contractor to make sure there’s all the necessary work will be done properly. Any HVAC service company worth its salt will have experience working in landmark buildings and should have no problem complying with the additional requirements.
Upon approval, your HVAC company of choice will have a clear plan of how to strategically begin construction. Special care is taken to ensure the hole for your new air conditioning unit is in the right spot so no wiring or steal beams will be interfered with. After a few days of minor construction work, a hole will have been cut, your HVAC unit of choice will have been installed and you’ll be comfortable in your home once again.