There are lots of townhouses in NYC. If you are looking to renovate a townhouse, build an addition, or develop a new townhouse on an empty lot there will be many issues to consider. Below we will discuss some of the services you may require from a Townhouse Architect in New York.
NYC Townhouse Architects
Townhouse Architectural Services
- Townhouse Renovations
- Townhouse Additions
- New Townhouse Design (New Construction)
New York Townhouse renovations are common and range in complexity. Here are a few things to consider for your townhouse renovation.
- Restoration Rehabilitation or New
- Structure / Supporting Walls
- New HVAC Systems
- Renovation Surprises
Townhouse Restoration / Rehabilitation
When renovating your townhouse one of the first things to do is assess the original character and condition of the existing architecture. You may have details that you want to restore and keep. Some people will want to get rid of everything. Sometimes finding a good balance between new and old is the best way to go.
Townhouse Renovation Budget
You will need to figure out a budget for your townhouse renovation.
How Much Does it Cost To Renovate a Townhouse?
The budget for renovating a townhouse in NYC will vary depending on the scope of work. You will need to get bids from contractors before starting your renovation, but you can discuss the budget at the early planning phases. As an architect we like to throw out budgets in a cost per square foot range. This is a good starting point.
Structure / Supporting Walls
The perimeter masonry walls of a New York Townhouse are usually built in 3 wythe of brick. 3 wythes of brick are walls that are 3 bricks wide. These are your bearing walls. I am always meeting people who assume there are no other structural walls in a townhouse and this is wrong. Usually the wall parallel to the stairs that runs from front to the back of the house is a supporting wall. Removing this wall usually requires structural work but it is doable. These are not necessarily bearing walls but relieving walls or supporting walls. If there are columns running down the length of the cellar that is a good sign that these walls may be supporting the floors above. Only an architect or engineer should be determining if a wall is structural.
You can see another post I wrote to learn more about Townhouse Structure.
Renovating a Landmark Townhouse
Can you renovate a landmark townhouse? Yes you can renovate your landmark townhouse. You will need to get landmarks approvals but this may not be such a big deal if you are only doing an interior renovation. The Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) will mostly be interested in what you are doing on the exterior especially if it is visible from the street.
Townhouse renovation Surprises
Always be prepared for surprises when you renovate your townhouse. Below is a picture of an original 100 year old stained glass window with wood frame we found in a townhouse we were renovating. This was cover with plaster walls on the inside and covered with stucco on the outside. Unfortunately we also found fire damaged wood joists in the townhouse that required structural repair. So be prepared for good or bad surprises when you renovate.
If you own a New York Townhouse and are interested in building an addition here are a few things you need to take into consideration.
- Zoning Development Rights (Air Rights)
- Building Structure
- Landmark Townhouse Additions
Townhouse Additions Development Rights (Air Rights)
Before you can build an addition to any building or townhouse in NYC you need to know your Development Rights. The development rights, often refereed to as air rights, are the extent to which you are allowed to develop a property. For example zoning will dictate the maximum floor area allowed to be built and the maximum building height, setbacks, etc… If you are in a contextual zoning district there will be even more restrictions.
The first step is to get a property survey and a zoning analysis / zoning report.. The Land Survey is done by a land surveyor and the Property Zoning Report is done by an architect like me. The zoning report will let you know if you can build and how much you can add.
Brooklyn Townhouse Architect
Below is a diagram of a townhouse in Brooklyn we are building a major addition on.
Townhouse Additions Building Structure
The existing conditions of your building structure will be a major impact on the feasibility of your addition and the final cost of construction. If you are building a vertical addition there are two basic ways to do it.
The first and less expensive way to do a vertical addition to a townhouse is to build new masonry walls on top of the old masonry walls. The requires the existing walls and foundations to be able to support the new walls. The second and more expensive manner is to add steel framing and make the vertical addition independent of the lower bearing walls. This is more expensive but is done when the existing structure cannot support the additional load of the building.
New York Townhouse Architect
Bellow are designs for a townhouse addition we worked on.
New York Townhouse Architect townhouse additions
Landmark Townhouse Additions
Can you build an addition to a landmarked townhouse? Yes you can build additions to landmarked townhouses. These tend to be more complicated to get approved and you will have more restrictions on the design than you might like, but it is certainly possible to do so.
Building a New Townhouse in NYC
If you are looking to build a new townhouse in NYC you should start with understanding the zoning of your property to know what you can build.
Thank You for reading our Blog Post on New York Townhouses
Please feel free to post questions or comments below. If you are interested in discussing a specific project please Contact Us directly to speak with an architect. Follow this link to learn more about our New York Architecture Firm. I hope this article was helpful and we wish you good luck with your upcoming project.
This post was written by Jorge Fontan AIA a Registered Architect and owner of New York City architecture firm Fontan Architecture. Jorge Fontan has earned 3 degrees in the study of architecture including two degrees from the City University of New York and a Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. Jorge has a background in construction and has been practicing architecture for 15 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.