New York City homeowners Jenny and her husband were thrilled with their two-bedroom prewar on the Upper West Side. They appreciated the functionality of the co-op, which had ample space and a walk-in closet. But there were things they wanted to change.
They had a renovation wish list, which included the addition of a primary bathroom and a washer/dryer, but they had to put their plans aside, having exhausted their budget when they bought the apartment in 2015. They also felt ill-equipped to manage a renovation while juggling caring for their toddler and working at their full-time jobs.
The family lived happily in their home for nearly five years. When the Covid-19 pandemic struck NYC, Jenny and her husband found themselves working from home and looking at their apartment with fresh eyes. They began reaching out to contractors in NYC but were disappointed with what they found.
“We both knew that we didn't want to deal with the usual assortment of contractors and subcontractors,” Jenny says. “We had some people come by our apartment and realized that every element of the work would mean dealing with a different person. Frankly, we didn’t have time or expertise to deal with all of them.”
The couple learned about Bolster and were immediately impressed with the company’s end-to-end, transparent, and risk-free approach. Jenny was also drawn to the fact that Bolster is a woman-owned and operated business, citing it as one of the deciding factors in choosing with them.
“I thought, ‘here are folks who understand my language,’” Jenny says. “They’re comfortable with technology and e-mail, and even provided us with our own custom renovation dashboard.”
The Agile x Bolster model
Because Jenny and her husband were not making any major structural or layout changes, and were decisive on their design philosophy, the renovation was deemed by Bolster to be an Agile project. Bolster offers Agile renovation as a solution for homeowners who don’t need to spend much time on the design phase.
For Agile projects, Bolster offers in-house designers who can bridge a homeowner’s vision from design to build in order to maximize the homeowner’s construction budget. Bolster’s Agile process provides homeowners with renderings, mood boards, and a customized pricing presentation. From there, both parties sign a design-build contract and move into the build phase of the project quickly and efficiently.
“The fact that Bolster manages the design process and interfaces with the Department of Buildings was extremely valuable to us, because we didn’t want to cut any corners,” Jenny says. “We knew it would be a tremendous amount of work that we weren’t equipped for—just knowing we would have to deal with the board gave us cold feet! With Bolster, the right paperwork was completed and the board’s permission was secured.”
Using the Agile process, Bolster was able to quickly move from in-house design details to the build portion of the project. Within six weeks, the homeowners had signed a contract with Bolster and were ready to get started.
“The scope and pricing of the Agile model was iterative and on-point,” Jenny says. “We are going to live in this apartment for at least 10 years. It’s an investment.”
Selecting mid-range materials, finishes, and products that meet your needs and fulfill your aesthetic preferences at a good price point is a great way to budget smart in your renovation and keep costs down—but it will only net you marginal savings. In the end, scope is what drives costs on most projects. Want to see your estimate in action? Bolster's Renovation Calculator uses five key inputs, including quality of finishes and scope, to provide a personalized renovation estimate. Learn more >>
Setting priorities for the project
The homeowners had a vision for their 1,260-square-foot apartment. As a young family it was important to have enough space and organization so they could both work from home comfortably and their toddler could have enough play space.
With no major structural or layout changes to be made, the main work included renovating the closets in both bedrooms; renovating both bathrooms with new fixtures, finishes, fittings, and tile; adding a washer/dryer and new tile in the kitchen; and giving the apartment a fresh coat of paint.
One of the items that would normally be a cost driver were the cabinets, which Jenny and her husband had considered replacing. Bolster reassured them that they were in good condition and didn’t need to be replaced. This type of transparency and honesty from a contractor was refreshing to the homeowners.
“Bolster earned our trust when they told us that our kitchen cabinets were good quality and that we should not consider replacing them, saving us unnecessary costs,” Jenny says.
Armed with this information, the couple was then able to more confidently increase another area of their renovation budget to address the subflooring in their apartment.
What their co-op renovation cost
For this project, Bolster scheduled three months for the design phase and four months for the build phase. The total project budget was $398,000 (or $315 per square foot) which included just over $18,000 for design and $380,000 for the build phase. (Curious how much your renovation might cost? Try Bolster’s major renovation calculator, which gives you a customized estimate in seconds.)
As in most renovations, the main cost drivers included electrical work ($31,000) and plumbing ($35,000). Other cost drivers included flooring ($26,000) and tiling throughout the bathrooms and kitchen ($38,000). Finally, other costs included material costs (including demolition, masonry, millwork, and stone), as well as labor costs, and indirect costs (including overhead, profit, and insurance).
Life doesn’t look quite like it did when this young family moved to their apartment in 2015, but they are looking forward to “the little things” in their renovated home, like cooking and having coffee in their new kitchen.
“Team Bolster kept us informed, made sound recommendations, and guided us throughout the process,” Jenny says.
The Bolster Smart Renovation Zero-Risk Guarantee
How can a design-build firm guarantee a Zero-Risk renovation?
Bolster has pioneered Smart Renovation. We apply quantitative analysis along with our proprietary technology solution to identify and quantify the performance risk on every renovation project. The result is a personalized strategic approach to each renovation that allows us to absorb 100 percent of the homeowner’s risk. Your home will be beautifully designed, and delivered on-time and on-budget. That is our guarantee.
Smart Renovation & Zero-Risk means that Homeowners are now free to dream.
To start your major home renovation project visit bolster.us.
The Bolster Promise video
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