How to Find the Best General Contractors in New York City

We share expert guidelines for anyone in search of a first-rate general contractor for a major renovation in New York City. Before you dive in, here are a few first steps and suggestions:

  • Determine the scope of your renovation project and what you’re trying to accomplish.

  • Keep in mind that moving plumbing and gas lines will require permits and inspections.

  • Only work with licensed general contractors.

Sweeten was founded in 2011 by trained architects with decades of construction experience. We take the intimidation out of renovating by matching homeowners and business owners with licensed, insured, talented general contractors for each project, providing support until project completion. Our service is absolutely free to the renovator.

Sweeten is free and simple to use

1. Post your project

1. Post your project

Tell us about the renovation you’re planning and we’ll match you with the right general contractors for your project.

2. Meet your matches

2. Meet your matches

We’ll send you a shortlist of contractors matched with your project; you can browse past work, read reviews, and get introduced to your favorites.

3. Start renovating

3. Start renovating

After meeting your matches and receiving estimates, hire your favorite and get started. Sweeten will be there to help throughout the process.

Remodeling in New York City

Renovating in New York City can feel daunting, whether it’s a gut renovation of a brownstone in Brooklyn Heights, an apartment combination in a Long Island City high-rise, or a small bathroom renovation in a Chelsea co-op.

Different types of residential buildings in NYC have different sets of rules and regulations; you may need approval from a homeowners’ association, co-op board, and/or the Department of Buildings before beginning any major remodeling project. If your building has an articulation agreement, the renovation “rules” should be clearly stated in there, so be sure to read that carefully early on and have a copy on hand for your site visits with general contractors.


Understanding Your Scope and Budget

The “scope” essentially means your “must-have” list for your project. Projects generally fall into two categories: “rip-and-replace,” meaning you are swapping items out, but keeping the layout basically the same, and “reimagine,” which involves more ambitious remodels (think taking a space down to the studs, or knocking down walls).

Once you’ve nailed down the basic details of your renovation, the next step is to determine a budget range (more about that below) and find a general contractor. It’s best to choose a professional who has done work in your area, has good references (which you should absolutely check), and can provide a portfolio of previous work.

A note about friend referrals: These can be very useful; however, double-check that the general contractor is licensed and insured, can work within your budget, is local and qualified for your specific type of project. If things go wrong, calling your friend won’t help!

Sweeten recommends securing at least three estimates for your renovation to get a sense of pricing and to see which contractor’s communication style you gravitate toward. Remodeling is a big undertaking and this team will be in your home, so it’s essential to select a contractor you really trust.

To find the best general contractor options for your renovation, post your project to Sweeten. You’ll be personally matched with the best general contractors for your project, and a member of Sweeten’s team will regularly check in with you. There is no obligation; Sweeten is a free service and can be a one-stop source for vetted contractor choices.

Connecting homeowners with the best general contractors in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island, Sweeten recently identified some of the most popular “reno-trending” neighborhoods based on thousands of renovations posted on its site. The winners for the most remodeling momentum? Park Slope, the Upper West Side, the Upper East Side, Riverdale, Bronx Park, Forest Hills, and Jackson Heights.

“Best Contractor Locator” Best Contractor Locator
“A free service that matches homeowners with vetted professionals” A free service that matches homeowners with vetted professionals
“Sweeten makes the whole process less daunting–and even fun!” Sweeten makes the whole process less daunting–and even fun!
“A renovation game-changer” A renovation game-changer

Kitchen Remodeling in New York City

  • Typically, you’ll have two options when remodeling your kitchen in NYC:

    • “Rip-and-replace”: Say you’d like to keep your kitchen layout, swapping appliances and cabinets in the same locations.

    • Reimagine: If your kitchen has an odd layout (quite common in New York), and you want to reconfigure the position of your sink or stove or knock down a wall to add an island, you’ll need certain approvals and architectural drawings.

  • The best way to simplify a kitchen remodel is to leave the plumbing and gas lines where they are. Moving major fixtures requires permits and specialized contractor labor that adds costs.

  • A basic kitchen renovation in NYC starts at $20,000, though costs typically range between $25,000-$42,000. For more information on kitchen remodeling costs, check out Sweeten’s pricing guide, here.

Sweeten has built a network of some of the best kitchen remodeling contractors in New York City. From sinks to countertops, kitchen islands to breakfast nooks, many components go into building a cook space. Since kitchen remodeling often adds to a home’s resale value, updating your kitchen can be even more important in NYC’s competitive housing market. Among the most common kitchen remodeling projects: opening up a small kitchen for more of an open floor plan; optimizing storage and space with cabinets, pantries, and smaller-scaled appliances; and customized designs/materials to reflect personal tastes.


Bathroom Remodeling in New York City

  • The square footage of your bathroom won’t change the cost of your renovation much—even a small NYC bathroom renovation starts at around $15,000, with typical budgets ranging from $18,000-$30,000.

  • There are two renovation approaches to revamp a bathroom:

    • “Rip-and-replace”: Simply replacing all fixtures and finishes while keeping them in the same place, including the tub or shower, toilet, vanity sink and tiling.

    • Reimagine: If you prefer to change the layout of your current bathroom, or would like to expand it into an adjoining space, this route requires additional plumbing and permits to realize your dream space.

  • To learn more about how much it will cost to remodel your NYC bathroom, read Sweeten’s bathroom cost guide.

One of the most common renovation projects at Sweeten is enlarging a small Manhattan bathroom; these spaces often need to be redesigned to maximize space and light. Some of the most popular bathroom remodel projects include open showers, refreshing the tile floors, and replacing a bathtub for a shower. Homeowners often want to add storage to their bathrooms or remodel their bathrooms to make them more accessible, installing a walk-in shower, for example. Sweeten’s bathroom remodeling contractors are licensed and insured experts at handling projects for bathrooms of all sizes.


How to Tackle an Apartment Combination

  • Apartment combinations are an increasingly popular option for homeowners looking to find space in NYC instead of moving to the suburbs.

  • While apartment combinations can be more complex and do require certain approvals, the benefit of all the additional space in your NYC apartment can be hard to pass up. Plus if you already live in the building, you won’t have to move far to get more space.

Regarding apartment combinations in New York City, homeowners from Tribeca to Astoria are realizing the value of combining two small NYC apartments to create a larger, more livable space. There are some tricky considerations, like how to smoothly manage the flow of space between two adjacent apartments that weren’t originally built as one. While apartment combos can be big renovation projects, Sweeten can match you with the best general contractors for the job and turn two residences into a cohesive, comfortable family home.


Sweeten was founded in New York City

Read more here about why New York Magazine called Sweeten’s founder, Jean Brownhill, the “Contractor Whisperer.” Sweeten was born in NYC after Jean had a frustrating experience trying to renovate her own townhouse in Brooklyn. We’ve built our services to help first-time renovators and renovation veterans alike.

Ready to get started?
Our renovation expertise includes:
Single-Family Houses
Pre-War Buildings
Landmark Buildings
Living Rooms
Rooftop Decks
Outdoor and Exterior Renovations
Wood Flooring
Apartment Combinations
Gut Renovations
Historic Restoration

Sweeten also handles commercial projects, including restaurants, retail spaces and offices. Find out more here.

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