Removing a wall in NYC

Permit for removing a wall in NYC

(Last Updated On: December 8, 2017)

This article is based on new York City regulations and general best practices.  This is for residential use. Typically you will need a permit for removing walls this will be filed as an alt 2. There are certain conditions where you can remove portions of a wall without a permit.

 

Do I need a permit for removing a wall?

The easy answer is most likely yes, but sometimes no. If you intend to remove an entire length of wall in NYC you will need to get a permit. If you are only going to partially remove the wall there are some regulations that may allow you to do so without a permit. Always consult with an architect or structural engineer before any wall removal even if it is partial. That includes making an opening for a new door.

If you are in a Co-Op or a Condo you will want to discuss this with your board or management company. Make sure to review your alteration agreement in your building.

 

New York City Rules on wall removal:

 

Permanent Removal of Wall:

You can remove a wall in a residential use without a permit if you meet all of the following criteria:

  • You are not removing the entire wall it is only partial demolition
  • The wall is not load bearing
  • The wall is not fire rated
  • The wall is an interior partition wall
  • Less than 45 square feet of wall surface area is to be removed
  • Less than 50% of the wall is to be removed
  • The wall is in a residential building (this includes one and two family houses)
  • The wall is not in a single room occupancy

The building cannot be in any of the following districts in New York City:

a. Special Hudson Yards District
b. Preservation Area P-2 of the Special Garment Center District
c. Special Clinton District
d. Special West Chelsea District
e. Greenpoint – Williamsburg anti-harassment areas in Community District 1, Borough of Brooklyn

 

Who determines what type of wall it is.

If you want to remove a load bearing or fire rated wall you need to file for a permit. This will require an architect or engineer. You will also need an architect or engineer to determine if the wall in fact is or is not load bearing or fire rated. Nobody else is qualified to make that judgment. You contractor is not qualified to make that judgement. Your building super is not qualified to make that judgement. Only hire licensed and insured professionals. Have an architect or engineer look at your wall before you decide to remove it. Taking down a wall is not to be taken lightly.

A contractor called me once saying he had to demolish a portion of a wall in a house. The client told him to bring an architect to give him the Okay before starting. The contractor told me before we got there that he already knew it was not a load bearing wall, but the client wanted an architect to approve it. Well, I got there and took a look around and it was a load bearing wall. The client even had the original plans for the house and the wall was clearly labeled on the original plans as a load bearing wall. The contractor was ready to demo the wall without realizing it was structural. Do not listen to anyone other than a licensed architect or structural engineer when it comes to removing walls. This is serious business.

 

Hazardous Materials in Walls to be demolished:

Sometimes walls have hazardous materials such as asbestos or lead paint. If you are filing for a permit to remove a wall it is required to perform an asbestos test and have the results filed with the DEP, Department Of Environmental Protection. This requirement is for buildings built before April 1st 1987. See another article we wrote on asbestos testing. There is no law requiring testing for lead paint. If you have small children you may consider testing for lead as well.

 

Author Jorge Fontan AIA

This post was written by Jorge Fontan, a Registered Architect and owner of Fontan Architecture.

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