Permits: What do I need and how do I do this?


At INTRABUILD, we have over a decade of experience executingfull-apartment renovations across NYC. We work with a large group ofarchitects, designers and management companies and have amassed extensiveexperience managing projects of every scope.

Whether this is your very first apartment renovation or youhave done this a time or two, there are some important things to know andprepare as you embark on this journey.



The two most crucial things you can do are 1. Set goals for the project and 2. Set your budget – and make sure these items are aligned and realistic. If you only want to spend $25,000 and want to gut renovate your entire 1,500 sf apartment, that's not realistic. You would be better served to prioritize a complete bathroom renovation or knocking down a wall to create a more open floor plan.  

It is also important to understand two very important things depending on which end of the market you are on: if you are looking to sell your apartment, a solid renovation will yield a higher sales price for your property. If you are looking to purchase an apartment, you may come out ahead financially if you purchase a fixer-upper that needs a full restoration.

Once you establish what your goals and budget are for your renovation, you're ready to kick off the renovation process.





We couldn't agree more with This Old House – there are times when hiring an architect to translate your vision into design plans is a great way to ensure your project will start off on the right foot – and doing the research will help you make the right decision on who to hire for your project. It's even more important when you are renovating in NYC to hire an architectural firm that is familiar with the ins and outs of designing for a pre-war footprint. Similar to the steps outlined in our comprehensive article on hiring a contractor (link back to long-form article), it's important to get recommendations, check references and have as much information about what you want out of your apartment renovation for your meeting as possible.


We have agreat list of architects we work with on a regular basis here (link to list of architects INTRABUILD works with on aregular basis). These firms come highly recommended by our Founder and CEO, Nick Chatzigeorgakis.



If you purchased a co-op  unit, you should review your buildings “house rules” or call your building's management company and ask for a copy of a generic Alteration Agreement. These documents outline what renovations don't need prior board approval and which ones do. The agreement should also outline what will be needed in order to gain board approval for your renovation project. It's not as easy as submitting an application, though. The Co-op board's primary responsibility in reviewing your plans is to ensure the building will be protected from any liabilities and to detail the terms in the Alteration Agreement so everyone is on the same page before the project moves forward.

Things to know:

  • Your building may have their own architect review and approve your plans, and you should be prepared to pay for this service as part of the approval process.
  • Your building may have the management company check in on the project from time to time to ensure you are adhering to the terms of the Alteration Agreement.
  • In older buildings, Alteration Agreements sometimes require the kitchen and bath units to stay within the original footprint, so check in on the house rules if this is part of your renovation plan.
  • Giving your neighbors and building staff a heads up about your project (and perhaps even bringing them cookies!) goes a longway, especially when the work gets noisy or if your building doesn't have a service elevator.
  • If a contractor and architect have done projects in your building before, it can be very helpful to ensure a smooth process.



The first thing you should do is check out the NYC Department of Buildings site which has a helpful infographic that walks you through the process. There are some smaller projects that may not require a permit, but in most cases when you are doing a full renovation, you will need to be on the safe side and file your plans with the DOB. There are different types of permits depending on what you are planning with your renovation project and your architect will apply for the correct permit.

From the NYC Department of Buildings site, the types of permits they distribute are as follows:

The primary permit applications are: New Building (NB) and Alterations Type-1, 2 and 3:

  • NB: Construction of new structure.
  • ALT1: Major alterations that will change use, egress or occupancy.
  • ALT2: Multiple types of work, not affecting use, egress or occupancy.
  • ALT3: One type of minor work, not affecting use, egress or occupancy.

The Process:

·     Your architect will file the plans and applications with the DOB and serve as the Architect of Record.

·     Once you have approval, you will hire your contractor. Typically your contractor apply for a work permit and obtain all necessary paperwork.

·     Once the work is complete, an inspector from the DOB will sign off on the job and close out the permits.






Your contractor will have both general liability and workers comp insurance. However, many co-op boards will require you to increase your homeowner's insurance or add liability coverage in addition to your contractor's policies. This is will be detailed in your alteration agreement.  It's a good idea to have a conversation about your plans with your insurance agent so they can guide you through what you might need to add to your existing policies in order to have enough coverage.

Things to know:

  • If you are moving out of your apartment during the renovation, make sure your policy doesn't have a “no vacancy” clause –meaning, if you aren't occupying the unit within a certain time frame, your policy can be voided.
  • Your premiums might go up, especially if you have added value to your apartment with the renovations. This is a good thing to bring up with your agent prior to kicking off the project.
  • Your existing policy may not cover all of the building materials, including surfaces, tiles, appliances, cabinetry, plumbing fixtures – again, this is a good thing to ask your insurance agent about so they can help you assess what you might need to purchase to be completely covered and secure.


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