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What Is A Gut Renovation?

Any renovation or remodeling of an apartment or another structure that requires stripping away the walls and flooring to expose the “guts” of the structure is called a gut renovation. A full building or apartment gut renovation sometimes also includes tearing down walls, which leaves you with just the outer structure (shell) and load bearing walls, though they can be opened as well.

A gut renovation usually requires acquiring a permit (Alteration Type 2) from the Department Of Building (DOB). It may include:

  • Stripping down walls
  • Changing the plumbing
  • Replacing/altering electric wiring
  • Changing the visible surfaces within the apartment
  • Altering the load-bearing structure of the apartment
  • Changing the layout of the apartment
  • Replacing/modifying insulation for heating and cooling system

The city defines the full scope of a residential building gut renovation, which is more extensive and may apply to townhouses. 

Gut Renovation vs. Partial or Cosmetic Renovation

Partial renovation is when you only remodel part of your apartment, which may or may not require you to obtain a permit. For example, if you are merging two rooms into one or erecting walls to divide a larger space, it may be considered a partial renovation. Similarly, renovating a bathroom can be viewed as a partial renovation (from the perspective of the whole apartment), but it’s usually called a gut renovation for the bathroom. 

The differences between a complete gut renovation and partial renovation are:

    • Cost: A gut renovation can be significantly costlier, based on the scope of the work. 
    • Challenges: Partial renovations usually come with more predictable challenges, but when you do a complete gut renovation, you may run into unique/hidden problems that may drive up the cost of renovation. 
    • Permissions: Both partial and gut renovations will require board approval, but the consent for gut renovation might be more challenging to obtain due to the scope of work and the disturbance it might cause the neighbors (some of whom may be board members). Stricter co-op boards may even deny gut renovations. 
    • Permit: A partial renovation may or may not require a DOB permit, but a gut renovation most likely will. However, your condo or co-op board may force you to obtain a permit for partial renovations as well.
  • Neighbor Relationships: Both partial and gut renovations may annoy your neighbors, especially if the sound easily passes through walls. A gut renovation can be significantly louder (due to the use of power tools), and it may also last longer than a partial renovation.

A cosmetic renovation deals mostly with the visual aspects of your home and may include repainting, decoration, installing new countertops, etc. It’s significantly less disturbing to the neighbors. Since it doesn’t affect the structural layout of the apartment or things like plumbing and electric wires, it usually doesn’t require any permits. You may have to inform your condo or co-op board, especially if you are hiring someone for the job, but the permission might be easily granted.

Pros and Cons of Gut Renovation

Pros

  • You can rebuild/redesign the apartment to exactly match your vision.
  • A gut renovation can add value to the property (but that depends on the cost of renovation).
  • You can create a more comfortable and classy living environment.
  • A gut renovation can be more affordable than a new apartment.
  • A good layout may result in more efficient use of your space.

Cons

  • The cost can be quite high – Maybe between $250,000 and $500,000 for a 2,500 square foot apartment, though some sources put the cost much higher
  • Getting permits from DOB and permission from your co-op and condo board can be challenging and add to the time needed for a gut renovation.
  • You will not be able to occupy the space during this renovation.
  • It may strain your relationship with your neighbors and the board (especially if you don’t get permission).
  • Gut renovation can easily go over budget if you face unforeseen circumstances.