NYC Condo Renovation Tips to Keep Your Project Running Smoothly

Renovating a co-op or condo in New York City is more complex than most imagine. Use these tips to ensure your remodel covers all angles up front and stays on track.

May 22, 2024


mins to read

NYC Condo Renovation Tips to Keep Your Project Running Smoothly

If you’re about to embark on a substantial condo renovation in NYC, read our essential condo renovation checklists for both you and your renovation partner.

Table of Contents

In NYC, condo renovations are particularly appealing. They don’t come with the same restrictions as most co-ops, and they aren’t burdened with the same maintenance responsibilities as private homes. However, that’s not to say owning or renovating a condo is a stress-free opportunity. Many condos require significant renovations and layout changes to fit their owners’ needs.

For example, older Manhattan condos often have galley kitchens that lack storage, so condo kitchen renovations are par for the course. New owners want to open up small kitchens into the dining or living room to create more light and space. They need to add or renovate kitchen closets to maximize storage and the kitchen’s functionality.

Even newer condos can have large-scale renovations in store before they meet needed specifications and preferences. Perhaps yours has great functionality but lacks the style you prefer. Or perhaps your family is growing and you need more storage and another bedroom.

As a property option, a condo is usually a great fit for the average New Yorker. Fortunately, you don’t have to give up personality and style to benefit from its advantages. It just takes a few creative condo renovation tips and reliable knowledge about what to expect throughout the process from the experts.

Dining room from 4,000 square foot pre-war co-op renovation at 1035 5th Ave. View full renovation before and after.

[#Your]Your NYC Condo Renovation Checklist[#Your]

When renovating your New York City condo, the key to a streamlined project is proper planning. Here’s a quick guide of what actions you can take to put your renovation into motion, before reaching out to the appropriate renovation partner for your needs. 

Confirm Baseline Renovation Needs For Condo

Determine the specific goals and requirements for your condo renovation, considering both functional and aesthetic aspects. Consider everything up front, from must-haves to nice-to-haves, then work with your renovations partner to scope out the work. 

Ensure Proposal Is Comprehensive As Possible To Avoid Change Orders

No, seriously, consider everything up front. If you’ve ever heard a renovation horror story from friends or family members, mid-project change orders were probably the culprit. Sometimes, these are unavoidable (IE: You might decide to upgrade from porcelain tile to a marble slab in the bathroom), but in most scenarios, your project shouldn’t be planned around a change-order model.

Unfortunately, many contractors still follow this model. Attractive initial proposals are offset when contractors say, “Oh, we didn’t realize the alteration agreement required a waterproof membrane in the bathroom and kitchen — that will cost extra.” Make sure the proposal your contractor gives you is very specific and includes all the work you’re requesting plus any additional requirements that the alteration agreement imposes.

At Gallery, we avoid change orders at all costs. Our proactive planning and due diligence enables us to provide a comprehensive project budget and timeline that takes into account all nuances within your desired scope to prevent any unforeseen changes down the line.

Understand Building Regulations

Familiarize yourself with local building codes, zoning laws, and condo board regulations that may impact your renovation plans. If there are certain stipulations that could hinder your renovation plans, discuss them with your renovation partner as soon as possible. There’s a chance they may be able to speak with the board and find a workaround solution. 

Read Every Line In Your Alteration Agreement

Your board’s alteration agreement helps ensure your condo renovation doesn’t go on indefinitely or cause extensive damage to the building. The agreement will contain important details such as contractor requirements, accepted types of projects, additional work needed, and so forth.

If part of the agreement is vague or confusing, don’t hesitate to ask the board for clarification. The slightest misunderstanding could leave you vulnerable to costly penalties and could even put your whole project in jeopardy. (Pro tip: A NYC design-build firm experienced in condo renovations can help you navigate this process.)

Join The Condo Board, Or At Least Get Familiar

Even if you’re perfectly clear on the alteration agreement, get familiar with the members of your condo’s board. If possible, sit on the board yourself. Having good relationships with the board members will prove advantageous in many ways, especially if part of your renovation ideas fall into a gray area of the alteration agreement.

Also, selecting a renovation partner who’s familiar with how condo boards operate will avoid straining your relationship with board members. Everything from rules, red tape, and politics to logistics and site conditions are different for Manhattan and Brooklyn condo renovations than for a typical home remodel. Having a partner who’s well-versed in these differences will pay dividends. At Gallery, we build rapport with building boards and supers up front in the process, in order to alleviate friction throughout the renovation.

Set a Realistic Budget

Establish a comprehensive budget that accounts for all aspects of the renovation, including materials, labor, permits, and unforeseen expenses. If you’re uncertain how much costs will be for your project, read our guide on NYC Renovation Costs Per Square Foot

Choose The Right Partner For Your Renovation

This is where you decide how much work you want on your plate. If you choose an interior designer or architect up front in the process to help strategize the layout and design, there’s a good chance you’ll eventually be hiring and managing an additional contractor to handle the construction. However, if you hire a full-service design-build firm, which includes interior design and architectural services plus construction management, you’ll also be relieved of the pressure of having to do the following formalities your renovation will require.

Kitchen and dining area from our Brooklyn condo renovation at 388 Bridge Street. View the full renovation before and after.

[#Checklist]Your Renovation Partner’s Condo Renovation Checklist [#Checklist]

While all plans above should be taken on by those looking to renovate, the following additional requirements are ultimately best handled by their renovation partner, who has the appropriate expertise to navigate the complexities posed by renovation logistics in New York City. 

Obtain Necessary Permits

Navigate the complex permit process in NYC by identifying the permits required for your renovation and ensuring all paperwork is in order before work begins. Working with your renovation partner as soon as possible in the renovation process is essential to streamlining permit acquisitions. At Gallery, we start obtaining permits within the first week of our partnership in order to provide any leeway possible. 

Communicate With Condo Board

When renovating in NYC, we recommend keeping your condo board informed throughout the planning process to ensure compliance with building regulations and obtain any necessary approvals. A full-service renovation partner should handle all of this dialogue on your behalf, preventing finer points from being lost in communication up front and surprises during your renovation

Develop A Detailed Timeline

Having a timeline that outlines key milestones and deadlines for each phase of the renovation  allows for flexibility and contingencies. Partnering with an end-to-end design-build firm will provide a comprehensive start to finish timeline for your renovation (See: Typical Timelines for NYC Renovations), whereas an architect or traditional design-bid-build contractor may only provide their respective portion of the timeline, requiring you to consider and coordinate additional scheduling components on your own. 

Finalize Design Plans

Work closely with your design-build firm, architect or designer to finalize detailed design plans, including layouts, materials, finishes, and fixtures. Your finalized dream home should come without surprises and all nuances should be accounted for up front in the renovation process, including everything from kitchen configurations based on cooking preference and shower niche placement relative client height to practical electrical panel placement and forward-thinking bedrooms for kids. After all, the smallest details make the biggest difference. 

Coordinate Logistics

If you are not using a full-service design-build firm, there’s a good chance you will need to coordinate logistics such as scheduling deliveries, arranging access for sub-contractors, and coordinating with building management to minimize disruptions and ensure a smooth renovation process. 

Restored fireplace from our Upper West Side co-op renovation at 801 West End Ave. View full renovation before and after.

[#Additional]Additional Considerations When Preparing for Your NYC Condo Renovation Project[#Additional]

Beyond those considerations you and your renovation partner need to address, there are indeed other variables which could impact your renovation. While not all of these are applicable in every NYC condo or co-op renovation, being aware of these issues and opportunities ensures you're accounting for every angle when investing in your dream home.

Board Restrictions

One of the biggest benefits of condos is they don’t have the limitations of co-ops, but that doesn’t mean they’re entirely restriction-free. Condos have boards, and boards have rules they could impose on your renovation project. For example, most condo boards in NYC won’t allow you to create a wet space over a dry space, so you’ll have to carefully plan any kitchen or bathroom layout changes to ensure your renovation meets the appropriate requirements. 

Site Conditions

On top of these rules, you’ll have to account for site conditions such as parking, elevator usage, daily working hour restrictions, and more. NYC condo renovation costs are naturally higher than those for renovating private homes because of such conditions, so plan for additional costs if you’re on the fifth floor, you live in a walkup, your building has narrow hallways, or you have other site constraints.

Alteration Type I & II Permits

In NYC, condo renovations typically require either Alteration Type I or Type II permits, depending on the scope of work:

Alteration Type I Permit

This permit is required for major alterations that affect the use, egress, or occupancy of a space. Examples of work requiring a Type I permit include structural changes, changes to plumbing or electrical systems, and alterations affecting fire safety.

Alteration Type II Permit

A Type II permit covers less extensive alterations, such as interior renovations that do not impact egress or occupancy. This may include cosmetic changes, non-structural modifications, and upgrades to finishes and fixtures.

Structural Constraints

Keep in mind any structural constraints that may impact your layout changes. Condos often have structural elements such as load-bearing walls or mechanical chases that must be taken into account when reconfiguring spaces. We highly recommend having your potential renovation partner walk-through your space prior to hiring, as they will be able to identify any potential structural issues ahead of time, allowing you to adjust your vision accordingly if needed. 

Hidden Space Stipulations & Costs

Guess what? Your building might have a concrete ceiling you’re not allowed to penetrate. If you want to remove a wall, add a new one, or install recessed lighting, you might need to sacrifice some ceiling height to do so. You’ll also have to budget for electrical line channeling down existing walls and skim coating to hide the updates.

Make As Much Use Of Natural Light As Possible

Having a concrete ceiling may restrict your lighting options (unless you are willing to lose some height to install recessed lights). But if you’re lucky enough to have access to elusive natural light in your condo, you can plan your remodel specifically to highlight as much light as possible.

If you’re thinking about adding a bedroom to your space, for example, consider using pocket doors, sliding doors, or glass walls with curtains instead of a typical swing door. While these alternatives do cost more and require more work to build, they help keep the light flowing throughout your space — which is more than worth the investment.

Consider The Disruption

Anticipate the potential disruptions and inconveniences associated with a condo renovation in NYC, such as noise restrictions, limited access, and temporary relocation if necessary. 

Get Ahead Of The Process

If your goal is a premium New York City condo renovation with a hands-off approach, the proactive way to address all considerations above is reaching out to a full-service design-build firm who adeptly navigates NYC condo renovation complexities. At Gallery, we manage board restrictions, site conditions, and permit processes seamlessly. Understanding structural constraints and hidden costs, our design team will help you optimize natural light and mitigate disruptions for a smooth renovation experience. By speaking with us before fully diving into the process, we will help provide the most streamlined approach for your dream home and turn your stress into satisfaction. 

Bathroom from Manhattan condo renovation at 170 E 87th. View the full renovation before and after.

[#Renovation]Condo & Co-Op Renovation Experts In New York City[#Renovation]

Realizing the condo you found in the perfect location and price point doesn’t quite meet your personality isn’t necessarily a bad thing — especially if you have a reputable partner like Gallery KBNY on your side. At Gallery, our full-service design-build approach to renovations covers every aspect of your NYC condo or co-op renovation, from architectural services and interior design to permit filings and construction. We manage every aspect of the project, while considering all condo board requirements.

Ready to renovate inspiration for your upcoming condo reno via our latest article, Condo Renovation Ideas 2024, or contact us to speak with one of Gallery's design consultants.

Chief Revenue Officer

Alex Ushyarov

Alex Ushyarov is the Chief Revenue Officer of Gallery KBNY, a full service design-build firm specializing in the design and interior renovation of apartments, townhomes, and lofts in NYC. Recognizing the importance of differentiation in a competitive industry, Alex has developed a clear and compelling brand identity for the company. Through meticulous market analysis and a deep understanding of customer needs, he has honed the firm's unique value proposition, highlighting its ability to deliver innovative, sustainable, and high-quality design-build solutions.




By providing your phone number, you agree to receive text messages from Gallery. Message and data rates may apply. Message frequency varies.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form