There’s nothing quite like a renovation to breed new life into your home or christen a new one. But they don’t come cheap, and New Yorkers have a record of splashing out far more than their Midwestern counterparts. And why not? A top-to-bottom renovation ensures not only less maintenance but also an increase in the home’s value. Coming up with a rough idea of how much it will cost is the first question to tackle. Once arrived at, the next one will be “How long will it take?”

Bolster, an NYC based design-build firm has come up with a way to remove some of the guesswork. After analyzing two years of data on completed projects they made some interesting finds. For starters, in the first quarter of each year, there is always a jump in interest from homeowners looking to start a renovation in the summer. However, the data also showed that there is a lot of variation in actual start and finish dates. The biggest variable being the design process. Depending on the scope of the project it can take anywhere from one month to over a year before the work even starts.

NYC Renovation Schedules

Property TypeDesign ScheduleBuild ScheduleTotal Schedule
Minimum1 Month5 Months6 Months
Average6 Months7 Months13 Months
Maximum14 Months12 Months26 Months

The design phase

When putting your design team together the quality of the people chosen will, naturally, affect the speed of the project. Many homeowners make the mistake of trusting their expeditor to keep everything on track. However, Bolster’s data found that what has a more significant impact is choosing an experienced architect. Hire someone who has experience with your type of property. And also understands how to work with the government agencies and building management whose approvals will be needed.

Property type

The next thing that impacts on the length of your project is the type of property you live in.

  • Co-ops – expect some tough negotiations and delays if your building is a co-op. The board can be a nuisance with delays, especially if they meet infrequently and there’s no precedent for the type of renovation you’re doing. If the building has an alteration agreement, this can certainly help speed things up.
  • Condos – condos face the same difficulties as co-ops though not as extensively. Condo boards tend to be more relaxed than co-op boards.
  • Landmark Properties – if your building is landmarked you could be in for a big headache. The project will be subject to a public hearing. Which can be a frustratingly open-ended process and depend on the attitude and knowledge of the review officer.
  • Brownstones – by far and away, brownstones present the least delays in the design phase. There’s no board or building architect that you need to get around, but they sometimes do present logistical challenges. For instance, the lack of an elevator makes transporting materials more troublesome.

Renovation Schedules by Property Type

Property TypeDesign ScheduleBuild ScheduleTotal Schedule
Brownstone5 Months8 Months13 Months
Co-op7 Months6 Months13 Months
Condo7 Months6 Months13 Months
Landmark6 Months6 Months12 Months

The scope of the work

Naturally, the scoop and type of the renovation will dramatically affect its timeline. Any changes to the HVAC, plumbing or electrical systems will mean more regulator challenges and delays. To avoid tampering with them if possible.

  • Rooftops – any changes to the rooftop tend to add the longest timeframe to a renovation, 20 months on average. Because they involve a degree of danger and are subject to weather changes which require better planning and construction.
  • Apartment Combinations – this requires specialists to ensure they don’t run into any structural problems. Complaints from neighbors who are concerned about safety and cleanliness can also cause delays.
  • Gut Renovations – strangely enough, gut renovations tend to take less time than rooftop or combination changes. However, they also mean greater scrutiny by the Department of Buildings and building management. Which means delays as revisions are made.

Renovation Schedules by Project Type

Property TypeDesign ScheduleBuild ScheduleTotal Schedule
Rooftops13 Months7 Months20 Months
Combinations8 Months7 Months15 Months
Gut5 Months7 Months12 Months


Like your budget, your timescale is very likely to go overboard when it comes to renovations. Some minor changes only take about six months. More extensive modifications such as a gut renovation can take over a year. While even more, extensive changes can take as much as two years. The more you’re spending, the longer you can expect it to take. Apply the same due diligence with design and planning as you do to your budget and you should arrive at a reasonable estimate.


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