NYC Renovation Chronicles

Why NYC renovations cost so bloody much

By Clare Donohue  | September 3, 2009 - 6:25AM
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The Situation:

I get this phone call all the time: "My contractor just came in with a $50K price on my bathroom, but I got my bathroom in the country done for $10K. What gives?"

While tile, fixtures and lights cost the same no matter where you live--courtesy of the Internet--the price of labor varies widely, and here's why: City contractors face an array of challenges their suburban and rural counterparts don't.

Here's the deal:

• Your co-op or condo requires anywhere from $2-5 million in liability insurance. Some buildings additionally require $1 million on the contractor's vehicles, in case he dings a tree out front. The cost of all this insurance is passed directly on to you.

• The super, elevator operator, and janitor can all make life easy or hard for the contractor. Making life easy means hundreds of dollars in tips throughout the course of a renovation.

• A city contractor typically pays enough annually in parking tickets to warrant hiring a dedicated driver.

• The service elevator and winding back entrance costs your contractor money every day: To unload his tools, haul rented trash containers, receive "sidewalk only" deliveries costs him 45-90 minutes each trip.

• Work hours in co-ops are restricted to 7-8 hours per day, and often the service elevator shuts down for lunch. A crew of six stopping 30 minutes early to clean up and change equals a loss of two full workdays each week.

• Lastly, as with other professions, the standards are higher here in Manhattan. Some of the most talented craftspeople in the world work here, and they demand top dollar (in my opinion, deservedly). No one has made a show called "Top Contractor"--yet.

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