Removing a wall in New York City will typically require a permit. You will need to hire an architect and file an Alteration Type 2 building permit application in most cases.
This article is based on new York City regulations and general best practices. This is for residential use.
Removing Interior Walls
Do I need a permit for removing a wall?
The easy answer is most likely yes, but sometimes no if it is only a small portion being removed. If you intend to remove an entire length of wall in NYC you will need to get a permit no exception. If you are only going to partially remove the wall there are some regulations that may allow you to do so without a permit. Always consult with an architect or structural engineer before any wall removal even if it is partial. That includes making an opening for a new door. When removing a wall you will most likely file an Alteration Type 2 with the NYC DOB.
If you are in a Co-Op or a Condo you will want to discuss this with your board or management company. Make sure to review your alteration agreement in your building.
New York City Rules on wall removal:
Permanent Removal of Wall:
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
Who determines what type of wall it is.
If you want to remove a load bearing or fire rated wall you need to file for a permit no exceptions. This will require an architect like me or an engineer. You will also need an architect or engineer to determine if the wall in fact is or is not load bearing or fire rated.
In most cases non loading 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 judgement. Your building super is not qualified to make that judgement. You neighbor is not qualified to make that judgement. Only only an architect or engineer is, therefor hire licensed and insured professionals who are qualified. Have an architect or engineer look at your wall before you decide to remove 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. The contractor told me before we got there 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 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. Do not listen to anyone other than a licensed architect or structural engineer when it comes to removing walls. This 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 consider testing for lead as well.
Removing Interior Partition Walls in NYC
In this article we reviewed some of the issues with regards to removing interior partition walls. This 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 provide a general overview of the topic.
Thank You for reading our post on Removing a Wall in NYC.
I hope this article was helpful for you. If you would like to speak with an architect about a project you are planning feel free to contact us directly.
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.