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Renovating a Manhattan Apartment? 6 Things to Know Before you Begin

I’ve lived in many places in the world and there’s no place like New York City. It’s unique in every way, from its food, to fashion and of course, it’s renovation trends. Some may say Manhattan may be the most difficult place to remodel. I say it’s just different. Once you know what to expect when renovating in this historic city, there’s nothing to be afraid of. 

New York City Financial District cityscape at dusk.

To get you better prepared for what might be your first renovation in New York City, here are 6 things you should know before starting the process.

1. Know Your Owners’ Association

Many New York City apartment buildings are regulated by owners’ associations—that’s not news. What might be, however is how rigorous these associations can be. Some may have rules for renovations occurring in the building, from the time you’ll be allowed to work, to where you can or cannot install fixtures and appliances. Understand the rules your owners’ association has before starting the renovation process – it will save time on approvals. A technical advisor is usually hired by the board, e.g. an architect or engineer, whose job is to approve all renovation plans in the building. In my past experience, I have noticed that co-op boards tend to have more rules than condos.

2. Renovation Policy

I highly recommend before purchasing any apartment unit, to ask for their renovation policy upfront, especially if the unit’s kitchen and/or bathrooms need updating. If you already own your apartment, you should review your alteration agreement before starting your renovation.

3. Required Work Permits

Most renovation work will require some sort of permit, but not all. A limited-scope plan, such as a basic bathroom renovation, will require permits to change the plumbing and/or handle electric wires. For a more extensive renovation, you may need to hire an architect to submit stamped plans to be approved by the Department of Buildings, also known as the DOB. Note the DOB approval process can take from a few weeks up to a few months – depending on how complex the renovation is.

4. Remember Your Neighbors During Your Renovation

It’s important to consider your neighbors before you start your renovation. And not just your neighbors on each side of your apartment, because your remodel could also affect those units that are adjacent to yours. The neighborly thing to do is to kindly let each neighbor know about your upcoming remodel. It’s a nice gesture, and most importantly you will have the opportunity to address any concerns your neighbors may have upfront.

5. Older Buildings in New York City

You can’t know for sure what’s behind any wall in any home, until you start the demolition process. There’s always a risk of finding problem areas, and the risk dramatically increases with pre-war buildings; frayed electrical wires, rotted plumbing, or even sagging wood joists. Many of these older buildings do not comply with the latest New York City codes. I highly recommend asking your Building Super or any neighbors you may know that have renovated previously for any additional information.

6. Know your Investment

Good contractors will have a detailed discussion with you regarding the type of renovation you envision and how long you plan to live in your home, as this is the best way to determine your ideal investment. From an investment property in which the owner intends to sell in a few years, to a personal renovation catered to a long-term living situation, your contractor will serve as your guide to ensure your investment best suits you. If you are renovating and plan to stay in your apartment long-term, perhaps you can customize more finishes that suit your style. If you are planning to sell your apartment in a couple years, customization could hurt you, as those details tend to cost more, and/or might not appeal to others when the time comes to sell.

apartment remodel nyc
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I encourage you to stop by our showroom today and see our cabinet lines; UltraCraft, Showplace Cabinetry and Bauformat. All come with a variety of different profiles, wood type and color options. In the event that you need additional assistance or resources, my team at NYKB Kitchen & Bath would be happy to answer these questions for you. Just give us a call at (212) 242-3500 or fill out our contact form.

 

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