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The Cass Gilbert, 130 West 30th Street, #18A (Corcoran) The Cass Gilbert, 130 West 30th Street, #18A (Corcoran)
Whether you are flexing a current apartment to add an additional room, combining two adjacent units, or updating old appliances and/or finishes, there are many reasons to renovate. Unfortunately, while you’re creating an ideal home for yourself, you may also be subjecting your neighbors to excessive noise, mind-boggling vibrations, and unwelcome fumes.
This article explores how to create the apartment of your dreams without creating tensions with neighbors or building staff. Much of this will read as common sense and general good manners, but those things have an unfortunate tendency to get overlooked in the stress of a renovation.

In this article:

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1. Over-communicate

A neighbor who knows construction is about to commence is far less likely to complain than one who wakes up to drilling above, below, or beside them without warning. For this reason, you are strongly advised to share your renovation plans well in advance even if your building's board does not require you to do so. If you’re planning a summer renovation, you may even be able to schedule loud work (e.g., the replacement of a ceiling or floor) while your neighbor is on vacation. Whatever the plan, keep your neighbors in the loop about timing. Just as noise, vibrations, dust, and fumes are always annoying, certainty is always welcome.

Among other details, your initial letter, ideally shared with anyone residing in an apartment above, below, or beside your unit, should include the following information: start date and expected end date of the work; a brief description of the work being carried out; your contact information and contact information for the head of the work crew; and an apology for the inconvenience. But don’t stop there! Engage in consistent and transparent communication throughout the renovation.

2. Document neighboring apartments

While it may sound intrusive, it is becoming increasingly common to document the state of neighbors’ apartments before commencing a major renovation. Carefully documenting the state of neighboring apartments in advance may avoid disputes down the line, particularly concerning structural damage (e.g., alleged wall and ceiling cracks).

Moreover, no matter how careful you or your contractors are, accidents can and do still happen to neighboring apartments. If they do, assure your neighbor that you are aware of the situation and that you will ensure that your contractor makes repairs immediately.

3. Strictly adhere to all city and building codes and rules

A myriad of rules and regulations govern construction work in New York City. Among other codes that must be respected is the New York City Noise Code ("the Noise Code"). The Noise Code, which governs all noise in the city and not simply construction noise, sets standards for noise levels, when work can be carried out, and limits on the use of certain equipment. A summary of the Noise Code is also available on the NYC Environmental Protection site.

In addition to following the Noise Code, it is important to pay attention to your building’s specific rules about the days and times when construction work can be carried out. In most buildings, the window for work is roughly 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays, though some buildings start and stop work earlier, and some buildings allow limited work on Saturdays. When you rent or buy a unit in a coop or condo, you’re signing on to these rules, so ensure your contractors understand and strictly adhere to them, too.
The Cass Gilbert, 130 West 30th Street, #18A (Corcoran)

4. Encourage flexibility

With remote work here to stay, it is now far more likely that one or more of your neighbors will be at home and potentially on conference calls between 9 and 4, the typical hours when construction crews are also at work. If your neighbors occasionally need an hour to hop on an important call without excessive background noise, encourage them to knock on your door and communicate this request to your construction crew. Also, encourage your contractors to be flexible. Ultimately, losing an hour of work will cost much less than a lawsuit from an irate neighbor.

5. Ensure contractors keep common areas clean and free of equipment

No one wants to come home to find a heap of construction debris or equipment in the hallway outside their apartment. Ensure that your contractors keep all debris and equipment out of common areas and encourage them to vacuum any areas that end up covered in construction dust.

6. Gift your neighbors and tip your building staff

When the renovation is over, send a bouquet, a gift basket, or a gift certificate to a local store to your closest neighbors, along with a thank-you card. When living in close quarters with your neighbors, as everyone is in New York City, it always pays to maintain peaceful relations with neighbors.

The same rule of thumb holds for building staff. Contractors constantly coming and going from a building, often with bulky equipment, create additional work for building staff. Be certain to tip your staff throughout or after your renovation, or provide a larger tip to all doormen and porters during the holiday season.

Active listings that have been recently renovated

11 East 87th Street, #8A (Brown Harris Stevens Residential Sales LLC)

54 East 8th Street, #2N (Douglas Elliman Real Estate)

The Carlton East, #17G (Douglas Elliman Real Estate)

125 East 4th Street, #27 (Douglas Elliman Real Estate)

Lenox House, #15D (Compass)

The Regatta, #326 (Serhant LLC)

40 East 80th Street, #21A (Brown Harris Stevens Residential Sales LLC)
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49 East 86th Street, #2B (Corcoran Group)

237 East 17th Street, #520 (Compass)

The Island House, #604 (Corcoran Group)

The Guardsman, #4E (Compass)

305 West 52nd Street, #2E (Corcoran Group)

269 West 72nd Street, #6AB (Compass)

The Armory, #1C (Compass)

144 Park Place, #6 (Compass)

The Santa Monica, #5F (Compass)

675 Sackett Street, #309 (Compass)

2 Fifth Avenue, #8R (Douglas Elliman Real Estate)

Madison Green, #5J (Douglas Elliman Real Estate)

The Cass Gilbert, #18A (Corcoran Group)

Great new listings that may need some TLC

333 West 21st Street, #RE (Corcoran Group)

345 East 69th Street, #11D (Corcoran Group)

44 East 65th Street, #3A (Douglas Elliman Real Estate)

321 West 78th Street, #6F (Brown Harris Stevens Residential Sales LLC)

210 East 63rd Street, #12A (Corcoran Group)

24 Fifth Avenue, #423 (Douglas Elliman Real Estate)

327 West 85th Street, #1D (Corcoran Group)

Park House, #3E (Douglas Elliman Real Estate)
Would you like to tour any of these properties?
Just complete the info below.
  1. Select which properties are of interest to you:

Or call us at (212) 755-5544
Would you like to tour any of these properties?
Contributing Writer Cait Etherington Cait Etherington has over twenty years of experience working as a journalist and communications consultant. Her articles and reviews have been published in newspapers and magazines across the United States and internationally. An experienced financial writer, Cait is committed to exposing the human side of stories about contemporary business, banking and workplace relations. She also enjoys writing about trends, lifestyles and real estate in New York City where she lives with her family in a cozy apartment on the twentieth floor of a Manhattan high rise.