NYC Renovation Chronicles

NYC Renovation Chronicles: 4 unanticipated costs that can really add up

By Yoel Borgenicht  | January 4, 2012 - 10:39AM

When planning a renovation, there are a lot of expenses to take into consideration, especially in New York City. These include labor, materials and fees to the managing agent, as well as some hidden fees like parking  — all of which contractors, if not apartment owners, tend to be pretty familiar with and (hopefully) have factored into their estimates to you.  

That said, here are a few more costs that may take you by surprise if your contractor fails to prepare you for the possibility in advance:

1. In the kitchen…

If you want to replace your kitchen sink most co-ops and condos in New York City require that you replace the apartment's water and waste lines all the way back to the building’s riser (e.g. main piping).

Expect to pay your licensed plumber in the neighborhood of $3,000 - $5,000. You will also need to pay your contractor to plaster, sand and paint the walls that are damaged by replacing the piping. This can cost another $1,000 - $2,000 depending on the amount of work and materials required.

2. In the bathroom…

If you want to change your shower trim (e.g. hot & cold water handles) you will almost certainly need to replace the shower piping back to the building’s risers as well. That's because most shower trim is specific to the particular piping.

One of our clients originally hired the lowest bidder for her bathroom renovation and the contractor assumed he could simply buy new hot and cold handles and replace the old ones. Once he realized that he would need to pay a plumber thousands of dollars to replace the piping, he went back to the client asking for a change order. The client justifiably refused, and the contractor walked off the job.

3. Fixing your floors…

In some pre-war apartments the floor planks are so old that when your contractor begins to sand them, he may discover that they are too thin and need to be replaced. The original refinishing cost,  which should usually cost between $3 and $4 per square foot, can easily jump to $10 a square foot when you’re replacing the flooring.

4. Replacing electrical wiring…

If you have an older apartment, you may need to replace the wiring and electrical panel when you make renovations if the existing wiring does not meet modern building code requirements.

Old wiring and fuse boxes are not nearly as safe as modern electrical materials. Regardless of the condition of your existing wiring, if you want to install powerful air conditioners, you may need to upgrade the wiring to accommodate the heavy load they require.

Unfortunately, in order to replace the wiring in an apartment, all the walls need to be opened up, the old wire removed and new wiring installed by a licensed electrician. You will then need to patch and paint all the walls. Expect to spend $20,000 and up depending on the size of the apartment. 


Yoel Borgenicht is the president of King Rose Construction, specializing in residential and commercial renovations in the New York City metro area.  


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Why New York City renovations cost so bloody much

The hidden costs of a NYC renovation

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