Pre-war buildings in NYC are always a top choice for many buyers. They present a slice of history and an aesthetic grandeur that you won’t find in newer buildings. However, they also come with some risks, namely the presence of materials once widely used in construction that are now classified as a health hazard. A primary concern of any NYC homeowner planning a renovation is whether they might end up exposing themselves and their families to these materials. The two most common of which are asbestos and lead paint.


Asbestos is a mineral fiber that because of its strength and heat resistance has been used in a lot of construction materials and insulation. It’s very common in NYC buildings constructed before the 70’s after which it was discontinued when research found that it is highly toxic when inhaled. Long-term exposure can lead to a person developing mesothelioma, asbestosis or other asbestos-related diseases.

It’s found mostly around plumbing and beneath the flooring. Anyone looking to carry out renovations in a pre-70’s building will naturally be concerned about encountering it. Not just because of the health issues but also potential costs of dealing with it.

What to do about it?

If you suspect the building has asbestos you should have it thoroughly tested by a licensed asbestos removal firm before you start on any renovations. In most cases, it can be dealt with through containment. Unless it becomes airborne, it is not a risk. Merely putting new flooring over it is usually enough to keep it contained.

However, if the renovations call for knocking down walls or anything that will disturb the asbestos, abatement is the only option. The costs involved depend on the scope of the project and how much asbestos is found. Removal costs can run from $5,000 to $10,000.

Lead Paint

The lead was very common in the paint which made it more vibrant in color and longer-lasting. However, it was later found to be very harmful to children and was banned from use in residential buildings in NYC in 1960. Later on, the City’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Act of 2004 was passed, making it mandatory for landlords to identify and remediate lead-based paint found in apartments with children under six years old.

It can be found wherever paint is found. Occasionally it can also be found in water, but fortunately, NYC’s tap water is of very high quality. The primary danger is of a child ingesting it as it tends to have a sweet taste. When ingested it can cause learning and behavioral problem and delay mental development.

What to do about it?

Most home depot stores sell over-the-counter kits that allow you to test for lead in your paint and water. However, it is better if you can hire a lead testing and abatement firm. If you find any lead paint but it is in good condition, not flaking or you don’t have any young children you could decide just to leave it be. If though you are concerned about it hire an EPA-certified abatement firm to take care of it. For properties with multiple occupants such as co-ops and condos, it is the responsibility of the owners to handle any removal and repainting. It must be done entirely by the EPA’s guidelines for dealing with renovations. Depending on the scale of the project you may need to vacate the home until it is thoroughly cleaned and repainted.


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