The Hidden Costs Of Renovating A NYC Pre-War Apartment

Historic appeal of estate-condition pre-war apartments is a major reason NYC real estate is so special, but that charm has a price.

September 2, 2020


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The Hidden Costs Of Renovating A NYC Pre-War Apartment

Historic appeal of estate-condition pre-war apartments in the city is a major reason NYC real estate is so special, but that charm has a price.

Table of contents

Renovating estate-condition pre-war apartments requires both specialty skills and an intimate knowledge of building codes and city factors. In pre-war spaces specifically, client tolerance levels and expectations also make a huge difference from project to project. If exact period specificity is a renovation goal, the added accommodations will impact pre-war apartment renovation costs accordingly.

One benefit to working with a design-build firm with expertise in estate-condition pre-war apartment renovations in NYC, is we can offer budgetary insights to suggest priorities, helping to find the middle ground between client priority and staying within budget. In one estate-condition Manhattan pre-war apartment renovation, our clients took our recommendation to forgo new floors for refinished ones with a cost-efficient yet attractive dark stain, hiding 100+ years of wear and tear at a fraction of the cost.

Kitchen from Manhattan loft renovation in Tribeca. View full renovation before and after.

The little things add up, but they don’t have to catch you off guard. Read the major factors behind the hidden costs of renovating pre-war apartments in New York to be prepared for your own remodel.

[#Walls]BEHIND THE WALLS[#Walls]

Unsurprisingly, pre-war apartment renovations in NYC require a total overhaul of plumbing and electric. Some apartments are updated piecemeal throughout the years so not at all pre-war remodels require the same level of update, but a true pre-war renovation means thoroughly bringing all electrical and plumbing up to modern standards. Asbestos and lead abatement also play a role in many pre-war renovations, thanks to these materials being staples in pre-70s construction, appearing in everything from window caulking to heating pipes. If asbestos is being disturbed during construction, asbestos remediation will be needed. Read more on these Common Surprises When Renovating A NYC Apartment.

[#Skim]Skim Coats & Plaster Walls[#Skim]

Pre-war walls, especially in untouched estate-condition homes, almost always require multiple skim coats (picture residue left behind by old wallpaper or wood paneling). Plaster walls are very common in pre-war spaces, and replacing them with brand new walls is another cost consideration – both to purchase and install new materials, as well as demolish and remove old ones. When working on a 26th floor apartment, we can’t just toss old plaster into a dumpster out the window. The process of removing  demolished walls in buckets, two by two, is a classic example of a hidden pre-war apartment renovation cost.

GALLERY GLOSSARY: a skim coat is a thin layer of joint compound, which is essentially mud, applied to walls in need of repair to smooth them out.
Kitchen from pre-war apartment renovation in Manhattan. View full renovation before and after.

[#Period]Period Specificity[#Period]

As mentioned regarding the Manhattan renovation above, maintaining period-specific details in a pre-war apartment renovation is yet another “hidden” expense. Costs can climb even higher when dealing with estate-condition spaces, as refinishing and restoring homes that haven’t been touched for 80+ years requires a highly refined and specific skill set - one of our particular specialties at Gallery. As for flooring, we can also handle all potential period-centric detail requests like millwork, decorative moldings, and high ceilings, but clients must decide whether the nuance is worth the added time and cost.

[#Boards]Boards & Bureaucracy[#Boards]

Every apartment renovation in New York City requires working with the building’s board, whether a co-op or condo. Boards set the construction requirements that dictate everything from wet-over-dry restrictions when dealing with plumbing to redoing risers and branch lines. Buildings also impose limits on duration of renovations, and impose fines if exceeded. Other bureaucratic pre-war apartment renovation costs (all of which we handle for you when you work with Gallery) include filing permits with the city, as well as the building board and the Landmarks Preservation Commission (if the building is architecturally significant, this is a common feature of pre-war buildings).

Living area from pre-war apartment renovation in Manhattan. View full renovation before and after.

[#Shape]The Shape of Rooms to Come[#Shape]

Any renovation can include rearranging how spaces are laid out or building entirely new rooms, but the need for such changes is often more pronounced in pre-war apartments. Major room configuration in a pre-war space is not always a guaranteed need, but when required, the costs are too high not to plan properly. A design-build firm like Gallery is ideal for pre-war renovations in NYC that require rethinking spaces based on the modern needs of clients.

Pre-War Apartment Renovation Contractors In NYC

Everyone knows apartment renovations in New York City require a specialized skill set. That statement goes double for pre-war apartments, which usually need much more technical work, paperwork, and a keen design eye to ensure the aesthetic never slips out of sync with the pre-war sensibility of the architecture. 

Are you looking to renovate an estate-condition pre-war apartment or brownstone in New York City? Learn more about Gallery, view a portfolio of our renovations in NYC, or contact us to begin consultations on your own pre-war renovation.

Managing Partner/CEO

Avi Zikry

Avi Zikry is the CEO and managing partner of Gallery KBNY, a full service design-build firm specializing in the design and interior renovation of apartments, townhomes, and lofts in NYC. Under his leadership, Gallery KBNY has earned the reputation for delivering exceptional service and beautiful homes to our select group of clients. Avi's strategic positioning extends beyond the brand. He has strategically cultivated a network of industry partners and suppliers, forging strong alliances that allow Gallery KBNY to access cutting-edge technologies and materials. By staying abreast of industry trends and technological advancements, Avi ensures the firm remains at the forefront of innovation, consistently offering clients the latest design solutions and construction methodologies.




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