Do I need to get the Department of Buildings involved in my bathroom renovation?

Q. I’m renovating my bathroom, and I don't want to spend more than I have to. How do I know whether I have to file permits with the Department of Buildings--and what to file? I've heard this can add thousands of dollars in extra costs, slow a renovation down, and require an expediter.

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A. First, the good news: If you’re just looking to change out the aesthetic features of the bathroom and keep everything in the same location (including the sink, toilet, and shower/tub), then generally you won’t need a permit or an expediter. That goes for installing new tiles, plumbing fixtures (toilet, vanity, sink, faucet, shower body/controls), and lighting.

But if you plan to change the layout of the bathroom by moving the toilet or sink to a new location, then a permit is a must.

And some condo and co-op boards require that you get permits, even if they wouldn’t ordinarily be required by the city (what can we say, buildings can be a pain sometimes).

Your building will also require you to sign an alteration agreement, which states the normal rules, requirements, and limitations to what can be done on your space. Sometimes the building will require that you put down a security payment that’s held in escrow and returned once the job is completed -- though if the workmen cause any damage to the hallways etc., the building will take it out of your deposit.

Now back to permits. First, find out if you have to have to apply for the permit. Start by calling the DOB or visit them in person to get information on what you need --getting a permit varies on a case-by-case basis.

If you wind up having to apply, the DOB can request architectural blueprints for things like plumbing changes, meaning there would be an added cost. How much that cost is will depend on the specifics of your property and the scope of your project.

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