Permit for Removing a Wall in NYC

by | Last updated Dec 31, 2023 | Apartment Renovations, NYC DOB, Renovations

Do You Need a Permit To Remove a Wall in NYC?

Removing a wall in New York City will typically require a permit. You must hire an architect to produce plans and paperwork for filing an Alteration with the NYC Department of Buildings. A General Contractor can pull the permit after the architect’s plans are approved. 

This article is based on New York City regulations and general best practices.

I am Jorge Fontan, an architect in New York and owner of the Manhattan-based architecture firm Fontan Architecture. In this post, we will discuss some of the regulations and protocols for removing a wall in NYC.


Removing Interior Walls

You must get a permit if you intend to remove an entire length of wall in NYC. If you are only going to remove a small portion of the wall, there are some exemptions where you may not need a permit. The reality is that this is quite limited, and you should expect that you will be getting permits. Always consult with an architect or structural engineer before any wall removal, even if it is a partial removal.

If you are in a Co-Op or a Condo, you will want to discuss this with your board and management company. Make sure to review your Alteration Agreement for your building. Your building may have additional regulations to consider.

Below is a before and after picture from one of our projects where we removed several walls to open and redesign a kitchen. This renovation was a full gut and a Combination of Two Apartments, so we definitely got permits here.

Removing a Wall Before and After

Removing a Wall Before and After


New York City Rules on Wall Removal:


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
  • It 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

Any proposed removal that does not meet all of the above requirements will require permits.


Who Determines if it is a Load-Bearing Wall?

If you want to remove a load-bearing or fire-rated wall, you need to file for a permit, with no exceptions. The wall removal will require an architect such as myself or an engineer. You will also need an architect or engineer to determine whether the wall is load-bearing or fire rated.

In most cases, non-load-bearing wall removal in NYC requires permits and an architect as well. Nobody else is qualified to make that judgment. Your contractor is not qualified to make that judgment. Your building super is not qualified to make that judgment. Your neighbor is not qualified to make that judgment. Only an architect or engineer is. Therefore you should hire licensed and insured professionals who are qualified. Have an architect or engineer look at your wall before removing 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 OK before starting. Before we got there, the contractor said that he already knew it was not a load-bearing wall, but the client wanted an architect to check it. Well, I got there and took a look around, and it was, in fact, 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. Please do not listen to anyone other than a Licensed Architect or structural engineer when it comes to removing walls. Wall removal is serious business.


Hazardous Materials in Walls You Will Demolish:

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. You may also consider testing for lead.


removing a wall in NYC

removing a wall


Removing Interior Partition Walls in NYC

In this article, we reviewed some of the issues regarding removing interior partition walls. Removing a wall can be dangerous if done incorrectly. You should only work with licensed, qualified professionals. This post does not assume to cover every possible issue or condition but provides a general overview of the topic.


Thank You for Reading Our Post on Removing a Wall in NYC.

I hope this article was helpful to you. If you would like to speak with an architect about a project you are planning, feel free to 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.