Brownstone Renovations: What You Need to Know

Few things are more iconic in the world of Brooklyn real estate than the brownstone. These 19th Century architectural gems are a symbol of the city. And while owning one can be difficult enough for most New Yorkers, renovating them is another matter entirely.


As beautiful as the exterior is, the interior often fails to live up to 21st Century expectations. Faithfully restoring a brownstone may be difficult, but it’s well worth the effort. Before you embark on your own brownstone renovation, here’s everything you need to know.


Hire an all-star team.

The first step to a successful brownstone renovation is hiring an all-star team. A brownstone renovation requires a fairly large team, including an architect, contractor, structural engineer and a project manager. Making bad decisions here can prove incredibly costly further down the project’s timeline. Take your time and gather bids from a number of different architects, project managers and contractors.


Check relevant experience.

The bidding process offers you a chance to research all of your potential contractors and architects. As you’ll be well aware, brownstone renovation is hardly a walk in the park. Ask each bidder for specific examples of when and where they have carried out brownstone renovation. If possible, get in contact with the owners and ask to view the property. Not only will you be able to see the quality of their work, you can also ask the owners what it was like to work with the contractors—how was communication between parties? Was work completed on time and on budget? Would the owners recommend them?


Anticipate the red tape.

Even though it’s the iconic status of these buildings that makes them so attractive to buyers, many renovators are still surprised at the amount of red tape that they have to cut through. The Department of Buildings (DOB) will need to provide permits for virtually all exterior and interior work. This will cost a nominal fee, charged as a percentage of the construction fees. If your brownstone is in a landmarked district, you’ll also need to go through the Landmarks Preservation Commission. The biggest expense, here, however, will be the cost of an expediter. This is the person hired by your architect to submit permits to the DOB and liaise with them  as needed throughout the entire project lifecycle.


You may find asbestos.

An asbestos test is a requirement for filing renovation permits in the city. If it comes back positive, which isn’t at all uncommon, the cost of your project can soar. Removal prices vary by contractor, but $30 per square foot is considered a ballpark figure. The process can also take weeks and often requires you to vacate the property while work is carried out.


Consider Dixon Projects.

Our partner company, Dixon Projects, is a design build firm with a difference. With over five years of experience in New York and dozens of brownstone renovations under their belt, you can trust them to deliver a fully-managed, stress-free service when it comes to your own brownstone renovation.


Get A Free Dixon Projects Consultation


Tags: real estate, home renovation