NYC apartment renovations include a lot of moving parts plus complex processes. Prep properly with these do's and don'ts.
July 11, 2019
Apartment Renovation In New York City: Do's & Don'ts
Home remodeling projects include a lot of moving parts and complex processes. In New York City, that statement rings especially true because of the high number of vendors and regulatory bodies involved in the process. If you don’t know how to prepare for a remodel, you’re bound to waste time and money on a project that’s more stressful than necessary
Before you get started, you need to understand the different components that make up the entire project. First up, a co-op or condo board must approve almost every NYC apartment renovation, which means you need to provide your management company with all the licensed tradespeople, their insurances, your project scope, a list of appliances, proposed floor plans, and much more. You’ll also likely need permits from the NYC Department of Buildings, and that requires architectural drawings, an expeditor, or — at the bare minimum — licensed plumbers, electricians, and contractors to obtain documents and file for your project.
From there, it’s important to have a design and scope plan covering fixture elevations, cabinet positions, tile patterns, finishing details, measurement specs, electrical and plumbing plans, and more. This plan should also include anything in your NYC condo or co-op alteration agreement. In order to bring that plan to life, you’ll need vendors to supply your materials and tradespeople to handle construction and installation. It’s critical to keep communication open between all these vendors because so much of their work is interdependent. After all, a quarter-inch measurement mistake on one element can mean a cascade of delays for the others that follow.
If you’re an experienced renovator and have managed all these moving parts before, then doing it again might not seem as challenging. However, most busy NYC professionals don’t specialize in home renovations and prefer to let a full-service, turnkey firm like Gallery Kitchen & Bath handle and manage the process for them. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan in advance, though, because the only way to ensure you check every box is to do your research and ask the right questions from the very beginning of the process.
Even with those apartment renovation tips in mind, any project that involves simultaneous moving parts and numerous hands has a risk of breaking without a game plan, supervision, and execution. Allowing each step to occur in a vacuum puts your project on track to blow past your budget and timeline, not to mention your manageable stress levels.
Imagine this: You want to renovate your NYC apartment’s kitchen and bathrooms, and it’s your first time working on any type of renovation. Instead of doing your homework, you assume the first step is to find materials on your own. So you go to a showroom, fall in love with some cabinets, and order them. Only then do you call a contractor to ask about the rest of the project — and only then do you learn you could have ordered the same cabinets through the contractor for a third of the cost.
That’s just one scenario you could encounter without knowing how to prepare for a remodel. In addition to the information we’ve covered already, here are some specific dos and don’ts to keep in mind as you embark on your next project:
Do you need the project to be as economical as possible, even if it means getting your hands dirty and managing a lot of it yourself? If so, then a labor-only contractor might suffice. But keep in mind that will also mean you have to purchase your own finishes, procure your own expeditor, deal with your co-op or condo board, and coordinate all vendors yourself. But if you’d prefer have someone else handle all of that for you, plan to hire an all-inclusive firm as step one.
At this point, you should already know not to start by going into showrooms and picking out finishes before you even know who your contractor will be. Do your research online, speak with numerous firms, and identify the process that makes the most sense for you. A good firm will take time to speak with you and will guide you in the right direction, even if you both determine your partnership isn’t a good fit.
Start with a list and add to it as more information comes up. For example, how much does a NYC renovation permit cost? What will you be responsible for, and what will the contractor handle? Who else do you need to hire? What do you need to purchase? Will your contractor be able to suggest alternate finishes and fixtures based on your budget? Don’t be afraid that asking too many questions will signal that you’re new to the process. You should find a contractor willing to provide you with valuable information rather than offering only self-serving answers.
So many clients admit to us that friends and family have warned them to expect problems like change orders during any renovation — as if it’s normal to get a quote for a specific time frame and cost only to end up with something completely different. This might be an industry norm, but that doesn’t mean it should be accepted. Your proposal should be clear and specific, leaving no room for interpretation. Ensure that you know exactly what is included, from board-imposed work to finishing touches. Don’t let your contractor get away with excluding work upfront to make your price look more attractive.
At the end of the day, we’re all human, and we’re all consumers. Even if you have no experience renovating apartments in NYC, your experience navigating other aspects of life can come in handy. Listen to your gut if it tells you someone isn’t a good fit for your project. If a contractor is skirting your questions or giving vague answers, chances are good that you need to move in another direction.
Starting a New York City renovation of any size is a significant undertaking. In order to make sure the process runs smoothly from start to finish, preparation is essential. With these apartment renovation dos and don'ts, setting proper expectations on an upcoming apartment renovation becomes much more clear.
Ready to renovate? As a full-service design-build firm in New York City, Gallery handles renovations from start to finish for our clients, driving everything from interior design and architectural planning to handling building boards and construction. That's why we're different from other renovation and remodeling firms in NYC. We're experienced in brownstone renovations, co-op and condo renovations, pre-war renovations, and more. If you’re in need of a residential renovation contractor in Manhattan or Brooklyn who can help manage costs, time, and stress, contact us today.