Kitchen Renovation Rules NYC

by | Last updated Jan 2, 2024 | Apartment Renovations, Kitchen Design, Renovations

If you are relocating appliances or altering any walls when renovating your kitchen in NYC, you will need permits from the Department of Buildings. You will also need approval from your Condo or Co-Op board if you are in a multi-family building.


Permits for a Kitchen Renovation NYC DOB

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

You will need a permit if you knock down a wall to open the kitchen. An architect such as myself will submit plans to the Department of Buildings for approval. Upon approval, the contractor can pull permits.

Potential permit work types:

  • General Construction Permit
  • Plumbing and Gas Permit
  • Electrical Permit
  • Mechanical Permit (Ventilation)

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

The photo below is of an apartment we gut renovated where we opened the kitchen. Opening the kitchen makes a huge difference to the space, making it feel larger and bringing in light. Opening the kitchen is a great idea but does require permits.

Opening a Kitchen in Manhattan before and after

Opening a Kitchen in Manhattan before and after


Condo and Co-Op Board Alteration Agreements

When renovating your kitchen in an apartment building, you must 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 must also follow your building rules. These vary from building to building.

The building management will have its own review process. Usually, in NYC, they will have another architect review our plans before we can submit them to the DOB.


ADA Requirements for Kitchens 

Kitchens in a multi-family building must be ADA-accessible. There are clearance requirements for appliances, clearances at doors or entryways, turning radius, counter requirements, and appliance or fixture classification to consider.

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.

In my experience, ADA accessibility is the number one Kitchen Renovation code people have difficulty understanding.


Kitchen vs. Kitchenette (NYC Code)

New York City Building Codes identify two 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 that a kitchen requires a window, whereas kitchenettes require a window or mechanical ventilation, but not both. The following is based on the current building codes. Older codes may have had different regulations.

Kitchen as per NYC Building Code.

  • If the kitchen is 80 square feet or more, it is a full kitchen, 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).

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


Light And Air for Kitchens

As per current building codes in NYC, Kitchens over 80 square feet are classified as habitable spaces 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 with a clear open surface area of at least 5% of the kitchen floor area.


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 rule may prevent you from adding a bathroom or expanding an existing kitchen or bath. Not all buildings have 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 boards or management regulations.

We have another post that goes into more detail if you want to read about Wet Over Dry.

Open Kitchen Design

Open Kitchen Design


NYC Kitchen Codes

As an architect, I study building codes, but NYC Building Codes are complicated and quite involved. In this article, we reviewed some of the basics concerning Kitchen Renovations. This analysis does not assume to cover every possible issue or condition but provides 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.

I hope this was helpful. If you want to speak with an architect about a potential project, contact us at Fontan Architecture directly.


Contact Fontan Architecture


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 20 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.