Pre-War Apartment Renovation: The Picturesque Pros and Real-Life Cons

Pre-war apartment renovations in NYC are challenging as they are gorgeous. Here's how to ensure your pre-war home renovation goes smoothly.

July 24, 2018


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Pre-War Apartment Renovation: The Picturesque Pros and Real-Life Cons

Pre-war apartment renovations can often lead to unexpected surprises, and navigating them proactively is essential to a smooth remodel.

NYC pre-war apartment renovations can be rewarding, but can raise some home renovation challenges. Based on our experience, we try to let our clients know this ahead of time so there aren’t any costly surprises down the road,” says Gallery Kitchen & Bath CEO Avi.

Here, he’s referring to the costs of working with unfavorable site conditions, such as outdated plumbing, antiquated electrical circuitry, plaster walls, and many other conditions typically found in pre war apartments. But, the statement represents something larger about the way Gallery operates: transparency. As a full-service design-build firm, our job is to keep clients privy to every potential issue that may arise, ideally before the job starts, in order to set proper expectations and eliminate any unforeseen hang-ups.

The sentiment also says something about the challenges of renovating a pre-war apartment. “Pre-war architecture,” says Avi, “typically can add cost and some time to the project.” Is the work worth the cost? Often, yes.

Characterized in part by stone and brick exteriors, high ceilings, plaster flourishes, and wood floors, New York City’s pre-war homes are always en vogue. Though built between 1900 and 1940 (although some predate 1900), these historic homes are stocked with elements that appeal to every generation: expansive layouts, lots of natural light, the occasional fireplace. A fresh set of remodeling services can launch an already desirable apartment into next-level luxury. Here are a few things your pre-war remodel might require, and how they might affect your home remodeling experience.

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

A peel

In any NYC home renovation, deeper renovations mean greater time and budget commitments. This goes double for pre-war apartments, since there may simply be more debris to come out. “We can uncover multiple layers of tile, asbestos, lead paint, and corroded plumbing, which would need to be completely overhauled,” says Avi.

There are all sorts of reasons why those layers might be in there. Sometimes, decades of previous owners were simply trying to save their own time or money, by building atop what was already there. When remodeling walls, we often uncover layers upon layers of old wallpaper that previous owners simply hid. Removing these pesky layers and other unwelcome remnants of the past can swell demolition timelines.

A detox

Asbestos, lead paint, and corroded plumbing make a home unsafe. So do mold and other results of advanced age. Properly removing these home health hazards are often worth the renovation alone. “If there is any asbestos or lead paint,” Avi says, “it needs to be handled by a specialized remediation company (Gallery manages this process), which is licensed to handle these hazardous materials properly and responsibly.” If you suspect you’ve got anything hazmat suit-worthy in your walls, removal is a must regardless of whether you’re embarking on a home design adventure.

A rise

And then there is the outdated plumbing. He doesn’t mince words: “It’s nearly a given for buildings to request branch plumbing to be upgraded, but plumbing work in prewar apartments is usually a lot more extensive in comparison to post war homes. This can significantly impact the cost of the project.” Knowing these challenges may arise during renovation is essential to establishing proper expectations for an upcoming pre-war apartment remodel timeline and budget. Read more on the Hidden Costs Of Renovating A Pre-War Apartment In NYC.

Kitchen from pre-war co-op renovation in Manhattan. View full renovation before and after.


Curious about renovating your pre-war apartment? View some pre-war apartment renovations we've done for clients via our Before + After portfolio. Or, contact us to leverage our full-service, design-build approach that will handle every aspect of the pre-war renovation process from start to finish.

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.




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