Renovating in NYC


After the countless open houses, deals and negotiations; you have finally found the perfect home. A home where you can envision how you will make this space your own with the perfect Family Room, state-of-the-art chef’s Kitchen and blissful Master Bath. This is all just a simple plan away; or so you think. The key to your renovation is to stay engaged. Be prepared and have back-up plans but also take a step back and have faith and trust the professionals you’ve hired.

The renovation process in NYC is just that; a process. When contemplating a renovation, the first thing you should do is building management to retrieve an Alteration Agreement. This agreement will inform you of any/all rules pertaining to alterations within the building, such as:

1.) Renovation seasons – some buildings only permit construction when the building is more empty; typically during the summer months (July 1-Sept. 1) on a first-come-first-serve basis. The sooner you hire an architect and submit your plans to the board for approval, the better your chances are of moving ahead with your project this season.

2.)  Black-out periods – be mindful of what holidays prohibit work in your building. Account for these days in your schedule as building’s typically have a deadline for completion with a daily fine for every day you are past the substantial date of completion. 

3.) Wet-over-Dry restrictions – if you have plans of relocating your bathroom or kitchen, many buildings prohibit the relocation of such wet rooms above your downstairs neighbor’s living room or bedroom.

4.) Working permits – most apartment renovations in NYC require a work permit. The exception to this rule are ordinary repairs which include cosmetic upgrades (replacing plumbing fixtures or kitchen cabinets in the same locations). Once you intend on demolishing a wall, building a new wall or simply moving your kitchen sink to a different location, you will need a permit. And, if you need a permit, you’ll now need a licensed architect.


The most common way to go about this is by the traditional word-of-mouth. Follow the recommendations of colleagues, friends and family. Once you have hired your architect, hiring your contractor is next. Of course, any recommendation is invaluable; however, architects typically have a list of contractors they like working with. Most buildings will also have a published list of approved contractors those of which who have done frequent work in the building and are familiar with the alteration rules.


In process of hiring your contractor; you may have several contractors who are in possession of your plans in efforts to competitively price out your project. It is very important to have a complete set of architectural drawings and specifications for every aspect of the project before negotiating a contract. Eliminate the possibility of allowances. Allowances in a contract can leave the client susceptible to unpredictable change orders.  In most cases, the terms of the final agreement will be set out in a standard A.I.A. (American Institute of Architects) and your contractor will bill periodically based on the percentage of the of the job completed. Contractors will also submit a construction schedule and conduct weekly site visits to ensure the project progresses according to the schedule. 


Before starting work, you will need secured approval from the co-op/condo board. Providing plans, insurance certificates, licenses etc. must be submitted to the managing agent. Your plans will then be reviewed by another architect retained by the building to ensure they comply with building rules and building code requirements. 


Once you have approval from the board, your architect can file and application with the Department of Buildings for a work permit. For most interior renovations, your permit can be obtained within 24 hours. 


Upon completion of major work, minor fixes such as paint touch-ups are typically required. Nearing completion, a punch-list meeting will be held to point out any items needed finishing by the contractor. Working under permits also require electrical and plumbing inspections before requesting a Certificate of Occupancy (Letter of Completion) from the Department of Buildings. Once you have that document in hand, there’s just one thing left to do: plan the unveiling party