Kitchen Renovation Rules NYC

by | Last updated Jul 13, 2020 | Apartment Renovations, Multifamily Residential, Renovations

In most cases, a kitchen renovation will require permits in NYC. When renovating a kitchen in NYC, if you are in a multifamily building you must comply with NYC Building Codes and your individual building rules .


  • Permits for a Kitchen Renovation
  • ADA Requirements for Kitchens 
  • Kitchen VS Kitchenette (NYC Code)
  • Kitchenette Soffits
  • Light And Air for Kitchens
  • Alteration Agreements
  • Wet Over Dry


Permits for a Kitchen Renovation

In most cases you will need to get permits to renovate a kitchen in NYC. If the work is minimal, ex. replacing cabinets, you may not need to get permits. Even if the work is done without permits it must be performed by a General Contractor with a Home Improvements License. If the work requires permits it must be done by a GC with an HIC License and an NYC GC License.

Permits for Kitchen Renovations in NYC

You will most likely need permits for a kitchen renovation, which requires an architect to file an Alteration type 2 or Alt 2 application. A kitchen renovation can have up to 3 or 4 individual permits.

  • General Construction Permit
  • Plumbing and Gas Permit
  • Electrical Permit
  • Mechanical Permit

When applying for permits if your building was built before April 1st 1987, you must do Asbestos Testing .


ADA Requirements for Kitchens 

Kitchens in New York City must be handicap accessible if they are in an elevator building or on the ground floor of a walk up building. There are clearance requirements for appliances, clearances at doors or entryways, turning radius, counter requirements, and appliance or fixture classification to take into consideration.

If you have an existing kitchen that is not ADA accessible it will be grandfathered if you are not making any major change and updating it as is.

ADA accessibility is the number one Kitchen Renovation code people have a hard time understanding.


Kitchen vs Kitchenette (NYC Code)

New York City Building Codes identify 2 types of residential kitchens. One is a kitchen and one is a kitchenette. Both would be considered full kitchens by any other standard. The difference is a kitchen is over 80 square feet and requires a window whereas kitchenettes are under 80 square feet and require a window or mechanical ventilation.

Kitchen as per NYC Building Code.

  • If the kitchen is 80 square feet or more, it is a full kitchen and not a kitchenette.
  • Kitchens must have a window.
  • A kitchen qualifies as a habitable space and therefore must comply with light and air requirements (see explanation below).
  • The kitchen Does Not require a smoke soffit.

Kitchenette as per NYC Building Code.

  • If a room for cooking and preparing food is under 80 Square feet, it is a kitchenette according to NYC building codes.
  • Kitchenettes must have a window or mechanical exhaust whereas a full kitchen must have a window.
  • A kitchenette does not qualify as a habitable space and therefore does not have to comply with light and air requirements.
  • Kitchenettes do not require mechanical ventilation if it has a window (although mechanical ventilation is a good idea)
  • The kitchenette requires a smoke soffit (see explanation below).


Kitchenette Soffits

A soffit is a drop down portion of ceiling. In a kitchenette it is mandatory to have a minimum 12″ soffit around the perimeter of the kitchenette.


Light And Air for Kitchens

Kitchens over 80 square feet are classified as habitable space and require light and air requirements. These are requirements for natural light and air. The rules are as follows:

Natural Light requirement for Kitchens:

A Kitchen must have a window where the glass surface area is at least 10% of the kitchen floor area.

Natural Ventilation requirements for Kitchens: 

A Kitchen must have an operable window where the clear open surface area is at least 5% of the kitchen floor area.


Alteration Agreements

When renovating your kitchen in an apartment building, you will need to review your Building’s Alteration Agreement. An Alteration Agreement is a document that outlines your responsibilities and building rules for renovating your apartment whether it be a Co-Op or a Condo. Aside from following the NYC building codes, you will also need to follow your building rules. These change from building to building.


Wet Over Dry

Wet over dry is a rule specific buildings impose that prevents someone from expanding a wet area over a dry area in the apartment below. This means your kitchens and bathrooms may need to stay the same size. Not all buildings impose this rule and different buildings have different interpretations on this issue. There is no building code for this it is just a part of individual building board or management regulations.


NYC Codes

As an architect I study building codes closely. NYC Building Codes are complicated and quite involved. In this article, we reviewed some of the basic Codes with regards to Kitchen Renovations. This analysis does not assume to cover every possible issue or condition, but provide a general overview. This post does not substitute the NYC Building Codes.


Thank you for reading our blog post on Kitchen Renovation Rules in NYC.

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Jorge Fontan
Jorge Fontan

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.