How much does it cost to gut renovate a pre-war 4-bed 2-bath apartment on Riverside Drive?

Will and Ada's Project

(names have been changed to protect our customer's privacy)

Will and Ada, an executive and author living in Manhattan, fell in love with a pre-war, 3-bed, 2-bath 1,738 Square feet apartment in Riverside Drive that had not been renovated in several decades. The charm of the apartment was its layout, the amount of light and the classical features which they have decided to retain.


Will and Ada's Problem

Unfortunately, bringing the apartment into the 21st century while customizing it for their large family, including 3 children, posed a series of unpredictable challenges.

  • The property's electrical load is heavily restricted and so Will and Ada and it's recalibration is out of their control (Con-Ed has to increase the load for the building as a whole so they can draw enough charge to power all the modern electrical requirements they have) and so they had to make hard choices (e.g. choosing semi-professional cooking facilities and appliances over a top-of-the line HVAC system)
  • The property had structural issues that required reinforcements of the walls to avoid the walls and floors sagging which would cause damage to the neighboring properties.

Will and Ada were really hoping to achieve a "Le Marais Paris" look and feel and have decided to move back into the city and buy this particular property to achieve their dream of living in an architecturally historical apartment. Overall, Bolster’s platform and professionals are helping make it easy for them to understand their project, how to make it a reality and how best to invest their $750,000.


Bolster's Cost Forecast

Will and Ada read about Bolster online within 2 days of a site visit their professionals had produced a free Cost Forecast for their project. The report showed that the cost to do their project (the right way) would be at a minimum $642,417 ($370 PSF) and at a maximum $868,427 ($500 PSF) and revealed the areas where they could both save and invest their money while getting a great result for their $750,000 budget. It also revealed that just to make the old apartment livable would cost approximately $400,000 ($230 PSF) -- a very common problem with apartments in Riverside Drive.

View Bolster's Cost Forecast


Agustin's Design

Will and Ada hired Bolster Architect Agustin Ayuso who found the space to be an architect's dream: idyllic in many ways with plenty of south facing windows, three exposures and column free! 

As always, the challenge was to overcome a few limitations:

  • There were only two plumbing waste locations usable for bathrooms and both were very close to each other and so limited the potential locations for the wet areas.
  • The living room had a corner fireplace with views to Riverside Park (which Will and Ada really wanted to keep) and so relocating the living room was off the table.

These two factors were the driving factors in the layout design process.

View Agustin's design proposal


Aaron's Bid

On traditional renovation projects, owner's budgets are rarely stress-tested against the scope of work the architect has been asked to design. As such, bids from contractors frequently come in significantly higher than anticipated (up to 90% higher in our experience), resulting in sticker shock for the owners and a painful, and sometimes expensive, re-design process. 

Thanks to Bolster's process and budgeting tools however, an achievable scope of work for an agreed-upon budget was made prior to any design work taking place. This meant Agustin knew exactly what to design (and what not to design) while giving Aaron everything he needed to produce a bid that would come close to Will and Ada's budget.

Aaron's Bid

Aaron's bid came in at $841,461, so just 11% over Will and Ada's budget (an 8 X improvement from the traditional process). This was due to some structural requirements placed upon the project by Will and Ada's building management and high-end finish choices.

Will And Ada's Edits

Bolster's bidding tools made it easy for Will and Ada to review Aaron's bid and make some changes. They chose to remove a small portion of non-essential work and lower the unit prices of some of their tile finishes all in saving them $92,890.This took Will and Ada less than 2 hours (normally this takes days if not weeks with the traditional renovation process).

The Fixed Price

Will and Ada decided to keep some of their high-end finishes and their final fixed price settled at $748,571, 0.2% below their $750,000 budget. 

View Aaron's Final Build Proposal


Will and Ada's Cost Breakdown


Design Fees: $51,259

This cost included Agustin producing four sketches plus revisions and completing the schematic design, a complete survey of the property including a detailed measurement and photography of existing conditions, the development of the design including and managing the process to obtain coop and municipal approval (DOB, LPC, DOT) with up to 3 revisions for management review. Ultimately Agustin produced a complete set of construction documentations and a full Interior design for Aaron to bid from.

All in, Will, Ada, Agustin and Aaron had 5 in-person meetings.


Design Oversight Fees: $20,174

Agustin will be visiting the project twice weekly for the 6 month duration to help oversee that everything is built with adherence to the agreed upon design. 


Compliance Fees: $16,720

Compliance fees vary depending on the final scope of work. Will and Ada's include the cost of an asbestos investigation, special inspections, a structural engineer, expeditor fees and D.O.B. filling fees and the cost their own building's architect charges to review drawings.


Direct Building Costs: $312,892

These costs refer to actual materials to build the renovation. The scope of work includes the demolition of all floors and ceiling down to the existing rafters, the removal of several walls to accommodate new framing and rooms and the shoring of all ceilings to accommodate additional support on the rafters (also known as "sistering the beams"). There will be a lot of millwork (framing, custom mill and trim work and the restoration of existing millwork) and the installation of soundproofing and subfloors with herringbone flooring throughout. All systems are being completely replaced (so all plumbing, electrical, HVAC and audio visual) and a new kitchen and bathroom with lots of intricate tiling. 

Big ticket items include $23,895 of metals, $17,752 of wood and plastics, $36,807 of doors and windows, $34,871 of wall and ceiling finishes, $42,368 of floor finishes, $66,642 of kitchen, $83,394 of plumbing and piping, $29,140 of electrical, $15,540 of lighting, $10,800 of HVAC and $17,545 of painting.


Fixtures, Finishes & Appliances: $155,096

Will and Ada have opted for good quality finishes and appliances including  3"x12" Herringbone pattern oak plank flooring throughout, Chicago Grand Metropole wall tile Collection and a Siematic kitchen with an 18" Sub Zero column freezer, 36" Wolf gas range and a 36" wall mounted hood.

Project and Site Management: $63,000

Will and Ada's 6-month long project requires a carefully considered mix of part-time project manager for 2 days per week and full-time site manager to ensure their project is delivered successfully. Without adequate and focused site supervision and project management, their project would run the risk of being delayed or failing - not an option with Bolster.


General Labor: $27,000

It is essential that Will and Ada's project has full-time labor on hand to ensure the handling of all curb-side deliveries, bringing in / up and safe protection of all materials, protection of the property itself including the installation of dust barriers and laying of floor protections and the coordination of all waste and garbage removal. This is because their co-op's alteration agreement will hold them legally responsible for any damage done to the property and they may lose their security deposit or incur a property damage lawsuit from a neighbor. Site protections and maintenance also protect their newly finished surfaces and equipment during construction and prevent expensive repairs being needed prior to completion.


Mandatory Insurances: $32,499

All Bolster General Contractors carry a Bolster-approved Workers' Compensation Insurance policy and a $2M General Liability Insurance policy with $1M per occurrence. To cover the cost of having the correct insurance policies in New York City for your project requires your general contractor to add 17% to all labor costs for Workers' Compensation and 3% to all costs for General liability Insurance.


Contractor Overhead and Profit: $124,002

Overhead and Profit are standardized by Bolster and calculated as a percentage of all other costs. Bolster is radically transparent about these costs for the health of the project – homeowner, contractor and architect need to know exactly where and how each dollar is being spent on the renovation, otherwise designing and building to a target budget is impossible.


Bolster Financial Guarantee: $21,435

Will and Ada can opt to have their project financially guaranteed with the Bolster Guarantee. On approximately half of all traditional renovation projects, cost overruns are between 40% and 200%. Also every year, 17.2% of contractors in New York go out of business taking 77,245 projects and $700M of homeowner's money with them. That's why Bolster developed an algorithm to show how these financial exposures are reduced, and potentially eliminated, when renovating with Bolster. Will and Ada's financial exposure to cost overruns and contractor failure on their project are $657,884 with a traditional contractor following the traditional renovation process, $140,677 with Bolster Contractor Aaron Borenstein following the Bolster Renovation Process and $0 when they purchasing Bolster’s Financial Guarantee.

Want to Know the Cost of Your Renovation?

Homeowners rarely get reliable cost information about their home renovation until its too late. With Bolster, our professionals use a proprietary algorithm to give you accurate figures* for your final project cost - before you commit.