A renovation starts with the Design Phase to determine the look of your project.


Every renovation is unique, but there are some commonalities you can count on, according to Bolster, a data-driven, design-build firm that has a decade of experience in New York City and has renovated more than 50,000 square feet of residential properties in NYC. 

If you are planning on renovating your apartment or brownstone in NYC, here is their typical renovation process, from start to finish, so you can better understand what to expect. 

Project team and their responsibilities

Each participant has an important role to play in ensuring the project runs smoothly. 

  • Homeowner: Responsible for articulating the desired project outcome
  • Architect (if needed): Responsible for developing the scope of work, drawings and specifications, and filing permits
  • General contractor: Responsible for hiring sub-contractors and building the project while following local building regulations
  • Third parties and/or consultants: Responsible for providing specialized design input, such as HVAC and engineering


During the Construction Documentation phase, the scope of work will be thoroughly documented, and you will finalize all your selection and finishes.  


The Design Phase

This is when you’ll work with your team to determine the overall look and feel of your project. (Note: This phase assumes you have a designer or architect on board.) 

Initial meeting: During your initial meeting, you will interview and brainstorm with designers and/or architects. Bolster starts by gathering information to better understand your dreams for your project and to define your design and build requirements, giving a clear vision of your home and needs. This includes getting inspired, defining existing conditions, agreeing the scope of work, and setting project goals. 

Granular pricing: Together, Bolster and homeowners review a granular pricing breakdown for the total project cost. With sketches and pricing secured, Bolster produces a personalized project proposal detailing all design-phase activities of the project.

Design contract: Your project officially commences with full architectural design services, including Schematic Design, Design Development, Construction Documentation, and approvals. To deliver renovations risk-free, Bolster conducts a comprehensive inspection of each property’s DNA and condition to limit delays and unpleasant surprises during the build phase.

Schematic Design (SD): The first phase of the architectural design process, Schematic Design provides a general overview of a project's basic features and construction cost estimates, allowing you to determine if your concept fits within the project budget. Schematic Design is also when the layout of the renovated home is determined. During this time, homeowners (with their team) will be exploring design options, discussing feasibility, and weighing pros and cons. 

Schematic Design phase deliverables include: 

  • Floor plans
  • Schematic site plans
  • Crucial building sections
  • Exterior elevations
  • Description of building elements
  • Various visuals by the architect

Design Development (DD): This phase is an interim check between the Schematic Design and Construction Documentation phases. This phase is also when the building’s board (if applicable) and the Department of Buildings have given their comments. Drawings will also be produced, and consultants (if necessary) will be retained.

Design Development deliverables include: 

  • Dimension-rich floor plans
  • Comprehensive building sections
  • Detailed and accurate elevations
  • Initial specifications
  • Probing, which is often conducted during DD, is an essential part of any renovation project during which an architect or engineer evaluates a building’s underlying conditions to identify potential problems

Construction Documentation (CD): During this phase, the scope of work will be thoroughly documented, and you will finalize all your selection and finishes through drawings and schedules. 

Construction Documentation deliverables include: 

  • Final floor plans
  • Schedules
  • ​​​​​​​Electrical, Mechanical, and Specialty Consultant Drawings

Permits (if required): Submitting documents to your city agency

Contractor Procurement Phase: If you’re going the traditional design-bid-build route, this is when you would begin sourcing general contractors, walking through the project with them, distributing project begin sourcing contractors, analyzing bids, choosing a contractor, and signing a contract with them (the architect is not a party to this agreement). If you’re engaging a Design-Build firm like Bolster, your team will work together from the very beginning of the project, leading to a seamless outcome. 


The Construction Phase starts with meeting of the project team.


The Build Phase

This is when construction starts, and things start to get real! 

  • Kick-off meeting with project team, agreeing to project meetings
  • Advance payment to the contractor (typically 30 percent plus materials)
  • Demolition, which includes preparing the project site, dismantling non-structural components, adding structural support (if necessary), and sorting through and disposing of debris. 
  • Build, which is all the construction that needs to be done to bring your renovation to life
  • Paying your time according to your project’s schedule and milestones
  • ​​​​​​​Approving (or rejecting) any change orders, if necessary

The Post-Construction Phase

This is when your dream home is delivered. Bolster’s in-house build crews, supported by its operations team and proprietary technology, deliver each project as promised and limit surprises along the way.

  • Final walk through and inspection with building or city agency
  • Punch list items 
  • Requesting project manual and warranties from contractor
  • ​​​​​​​Making final payments to your team

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

The Bolster Promise video


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