Tips & Considerations for your Design & Construction Project

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Below are some important considerations for your Design and Construction project. Click on the individual topics below for more detailed information.
  1. INSPECTIONS
  2. TYPICAL ROOM SIZES & FURNISHINGS
  3. CONDUCT a C.O. SEARCH
  4. VARIANCES
  5. PROPERTY TAX SAVINGS
  6. HARDSHIP FILINGS
  7. CONTRACTIR'S LIABILITY INSURANCE & WORK BONDS
  8. COST CONSIDERATIONS
  9. MOTHER-DAUGHTERS PERMITS& ACCESSORY APARTMENTS PERMITS
  10. GARAGE CONVERSIONS
  11. PUBLIC SEWERS vs. PRIVATE SEPTIC TANKS/CESSPOOLS
  12. TAKE ADVANTAGE of ECONOMIC DOWNTURNS
  13. COMMERCIAL PROJECTS
  14. ECB VIOLATIONS
  15. HOW TO CORRECT ECB VIOLATIONS
  16. ECB VIOLATIONS OPTIONS
  17. ECB VIOLATIONS AND PERMITS
  18. ECB HEARING DATE
  19. ECB HEARING DEFENDING YOURSELF
  20. ECB HEARING CASE DISMISSAL
  21. ECB HEARING CASE STIPULATIONS
  22. JL Drafting Queens Illegal Conversions Dept.
  23. Examples of Illegal Conversions?
  24. What are the fines for Queens IIlegal Conversions?
  25. How can I correct a Queens Illegal Conversion and how long do I have?

  1. INSPECTIONS:
    It is usually required that the Building Department inspect most phases of construction projects. Typically, inspections are needed for the footing/foundation; the floor, ceiling, wall, and roof framing; and insulation. A final inspection after all work is completed is also required.
  2. Although it may involve some additional expense, it is a good idea to have your Engineer or Architect inspect the foundation, insulation, and framing before the Building Department inspection. This will help to ensure that the Building Department inspection runs smoothly without failure which can result in the municipality (Town, Village, or City) requiring the scheduling of a repeat inspection days or weeks later resulting in costly delays of the project.

    There are many items to check during these inspections such as foundation hold downs; hurricane clips; framing ties; window and door headers; wall, floor and roof sheathing; girders; the size and spacing of floor joists; bridging; and blocking. Undersized beams as well as holes and notches cut improperly into girders and floor joists could cause future sagging or other damage after the project is completed resulting in expensive repairs. Your Design Professional is licensed and regulated by the State and hence more likely to spot problems than Building Department inspectors since his or her license is at stake. <Top of Page>


  3. TYPICAL ROOM SIZES & FURNISHINGS
    Years ago the standard size for a child’s bedroom not including any closets was 8’ x  10’ but current designs usually specify 10’ x 12’.   For homes 2800-5000 square feet 13’ x 14’ is typical with 14’ x 16’ being used for houses 5000 square feet and over.  
  4. Typical living room sizes are 13’ x 18’ for a house size up to 2200 square feet, 15’ x 20’ for 2200 - 3200, 18’ x 24’ for 3200 – 4200, and 20’ x  25’ for homes 4200 square feet and larger.

    Many people like the idea of an island counter area in the kitchen. This calls for a minimum room size of 12’ x 13’ 6” with 15’ x 15’ preferred.

    Dining rooms usually start at 12’ x 15’ for houses up to 2800 square feet in size, increasing to 13’ x 17’ for 2800 – 3200, 15’ x 19’ for 3200 – 4200, and 17’ x 21’ for homes larger than 4200 square feet.

    Nowadays master bedroom suites are also made bigger than in past years, with 14’ x 16’ as a typical size for houses up to 2200 square feet, 15’ x 17’ for 2200 – 2800, 18’ x 18’ for 2800 – 3200, and 20’ x 20’ for homes 3200 square feet and larger.

    The minimum size for a two car garage is 19’ x 19’ but up to 24’ x 24’ is preferable.

    Make sure to discuss furniture layout with your Design Professional as it has a major impact on the sizing of rooms.<Top of Page>


  5. CONDUCT a C.O. SEARCH:
    Contact or ask your Design Professional to contact your municipality to find out if any existing construction on your property lacks legally required Certificates of Occupancy and/or Variances. If this is the case it is important to file any required applications with the Town, Village, or City as soon as possible to prevent delays in the issuing of the Building Permit for your new project.
  6. While in the past the lack of required Certificates of Occupancy for existing structures frequently would not come up when seeking a new Building Permit, the authorities have become quite astute with this and it pays to “fess up” and get all your required C.O.’s at the outset to avoid delays and additional expense later. It will also prevent future problems when you eventually want to sell your house. <Top of Page>


  7. VARIANCES:
    Contact or ask your Design Professional to contact your Town, Village, or City to find out the zone of your property. This will determine the maximum permitted size and height of your project and how close it can come to your property line.
  8. If your project is too large or close to the property line you may need to obtain a Variance from your municipality which is special permission from the local Zoning Board of Appeals to not meet zoning requirements (this is known as a Pre-Consideration in the five boroughs of New York City).

    If a Variance or Pre-Consideration is needed, ask your Design Professional to prepare preliminary or “Not for Construction” plans as opposed to final plans to submit to the Zoning Board. These are simpler, faster, and less expensive to draw than final construction plans. It is important to submit your application quickly since a Public Hearing is required which is only scheduled once or twice monthly. Also, if your initial application is denied the preliminary plans must be revised which is much simpler and more cost effective than revising final construction drawings. <Top of Page>


  9. PROPERTY TAX SAVINGS:
    Many municipalities (Towns, Villages, and Cities) have Tax Abatement Programs which can defer a portion of the tax on home improvements for up to 10 years if you are renovating less than 50% of the existing premises.
  10. Be sure to ask your Design Professional about this. <Top of Page>


  11. HARDSHIP FILINGS:
    You may be able to decrease the time required for the municipality to process your Building Permit or Certificate of Occupancy to maintain existing construction if you have a qualifying medical condition or are selling your house. This will generally require a doctor’s note or documentation of the home sale closing date.
  12. Again, your Design Professional should be able to help with this. <Top of Page>


  13. CONTRACTIR'S LIABILITY INSURANCE & WORK BONDS:
    Make sure to get written proof that your contractor has a current liability insurance policy. This is very important to protect you from lawsuits if someone is injured during your construction project. Beware of contractors who claim that their insurance has expired as this is often a sign that they have had a problem or never had insurance coverage to begin with. Also, make sure that the contractor’s insurance names you as well as the Town, Village, or City as beneficiary.
  14. Consider obtaining a work bond, especially for large projects. This will provide financial compensation if your contractor fails to complete the project or does substandard work.   <Top of Page>


  15. COST CONSIDERATIONS:
    Obviously of extreme importance. We have seen many projects fail to materialize when they turn out to be unaffordable. It also can be unwise to “over improve”, that is to spend more than is justified for the neighborhood and location. Also, beware of the common contractor ploy of offering a low price up front but coming in with big cost increases once the project is started. On the other hand, some cost increase may be justified due to unforeseen conditions.
  16. Your Design Professional should give you a cost estimate for the project and as a rule of thumb you should add 10-15% to this.  

    A rough cost estimate for a second story addition using builder’s grade (average quality) materials is $100.00 per square foot. Add $12,000.00 to this if you are adding a bathroom. Figure $4,000.00 per 1000 square feet for new siding on an existing first floor and $5,000.00 in repairs to an existing first floor to support a new second story. A separate one story addition will cost approximately $125.00 per square foot (the extra $25.00 is mainly for the foundation) or $110.00 per square foot if done along with a new second story. A porch, deck or garage is about $40-$50 per square foot.

    Please keep in mind that there are many variables associated with the cost of any construction project. The figures above are approximate and should be taken as guidelines only.

    Finally, never make the final payment to a contractor without having received the Certificate of Occupancy for the project from your municipality. Don’t buy contractor’s statements like “the Town issues the C.O., it is not in my control so it is not fair to make me wait for final payment”. Once that final payment is made you will have no leverage to get any problems fixed which may arise and you may be stuck “holding the bag”. <Top of Page>


  17. MOTHER-DAUGHTERS PERMITS & ACCESSORY APARTMENTS PERMITS (2nd Kitchen):
    These will raise a red flag in most municipalities due to concerns about overcrowding and sometimes are prohibited in houses less than 2-5 years old. They will just about always require a special permit as a parent-child (formerly called mother-daughter) residence or as an Accessory Apartment. Oftentimes there are special off street parking requirements. Also, most Towns, Villages, and Cities will not allow two front doors in residential neighborhoods.
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  18.  GARAGE CONVERSIONS:
    Off street parking requirements can also be an issue with these since there is a concern about parking for cars which were formerly parked in the garage.
  19. Also keep in mind that most Building Codes require a minimum 7’6” ceiling height for living space. If the available height allows, it is a good idea to provide wood floor beams over the existing garage floor to allow space for insulation. This will help to prevent a cold and uncomfortable floor as well as saving energy.  <Top of Page>


  20. PUBLIC SEWERS vs. PRIVATE SEPTIC TANKS/CESSPOOLS:
    You could be in a better position if your project is located in an area with a public sewer system as opposed to a private cesspool and/or septic tank located under your property.
  21. While a public sewer system has a practically unlimited capacity, your municipality may require a new private septic system depending on the size of your project if it is not located in an area with public sewers. This requires the design of a new septic system and may also require filing for a separate Septic System Permit, not to mention the cost of the system itself.


  22. TAKE ADVANTAGE of ECONOMIC DOWNTURNS:
    When the economy slows you may be able to secure a lower price for your project as contactors become more desperate to keep busy. Be careful not to push too hard, however, because a bid that is unrealistically low can cause the builder to cut corners, abandon your project before it is completed, or come to you later with cost increases. One rule of thumb is never to accept the lowest bid but one that is closer to the middle.
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  23.  COMMERCIAL PROJECTS:

    When leasing a commercial space, make sure to have your attorney include a clause in the lease that relieves you from paying rent if the municipality withholds your Building Permit or Certificate of Occupancy based upon violations elsewhere in the building or on the property.

    Also keep in mind that it may take quite some time to get the Town, Village, or City Certificate which you need to open the business. You might pay a lot of money in rent before you can generate any income. Try to get a clause in the lease stating that you pay no rent until you have all the approvals you need to legally open your business. <Top of Page>

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  24. ECB / DOB Violations

    Did you recently get a number of ECB or DOB Violation from the Environmental Control Board or Department of Buildings? If you have decided to get a (CC) certificate of correction from the inspector, you will have to know how to correct the ECB or DOB Violation, the right way. What exactly will you need to correct the situation? This information, as well as what needs to be done, can be found on your ECB or DOB Violation. <Top of Page>




  25. How to Correct The ECB / DOB Violation

    The inspector will list multiple options that will allow you to correct the ECB or DOB Violation. It might be obtaining a new permit, or it might be restoring the building back to the way it was before changes were made. Most of the time, there will be at least two options that you can look into on the ticket itself. Many people do not know that the ECB or DOB Violations Department also has other suggestions online for the most common violations. If you don’t feel like surfing the net for more options, asking the building inspector who gave you the notice might actually shed light on some less expensive ways to eliminate the ECB or DOB Violations. <Top of Page>




  26. ECB / DOB Violations Options

    Learning your options concerning the ECB or DOB Violation is worth taking the time to do, and there are many reasons why this happens to be true. The first reason is that many of the options that are available might actually be able to save you money on repairs. Another reason why researching is a good idea is because there is a chance that some of the methods that inspectors offered might not actually be feasible for you in the correction of the ECB or DOB Violation. Lastly, knowing what you can do to fix the problem also will help you find a contractor who can do it for you more easily

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    Many times, people forget to actually correct all the violations that were given on the ECB or DOB Violation ticket, or they simply don’t notice that there are more than one or two violations on the ticket. Every violation listed on the ECB or DOB Violation notice will have to be corrected by itself. You cannot simply obtain one permit for two ECB or DOB Violation. Asking for a certificate after only correcting half of the Violations often will only result in more fines.<Top of Page>




  27. ECB / DOB Violation and Permits

    Correcting the ECB or DOB Violation will require the right permits, as well as the signature of an inspector in order to complete a correction. Depending on what the violations might be, you might also need the help of an engineer or an architect, in order to get the right certificates. It’s also quite possible that you will have to pay a penalty while the ECB or DOB Violations are being corrected. In cases where there are signs of construction without permits, you will have to pay both DOB civil penalties and ECB Violation fees.

    The good news that what you need to know about correcting ECB or DOB Violation is that you don’t have to do it alone. There are resources out there which can help you navigate through all the paperwork, and all the fines and fees that come with ECB or DOB Violations concerning building codes. With the right resources and a little bit of work, it won’t be too much of a hassle.

    Concerning those right resources, the office of JL Drafting & Expediting Inc. can help you tremendously. We thoroughly review your ECB Violation to make sure there are no errors on the violation itself. If there are errors we might even be able to get the Violations Department totally removed.

    At JL Drafting & Expediting Inc we clearly go over and make sure you understand everything as we prepare to get your ECB or DOB Violation corrected or removed. Our knowledge, experience and high personalized care will go a long way in removing any anxiety concerning the Violation.

    I want to give you a warning about taking your ECB or DOB Violations seriously. If you have received a Violation telling you to come to an ECB hearing and you or your representative don’t show up to the hearing, you will be in an ECB Violation default status. If that happens, you will get an order from the ECB that states that since you didn’t show up, you must now pay DOUBLE amount for your fine.

    In this situation you can ask for another hearing. To do this you have to fill out the proper form that you can get from the ECB Violation website or in person at their offices. You have to do this within 45 days from the date you missed the ECB Violation hearing.

    At the new hearing you will have to explain why you didn’t show up the first time. If you get an ECB Violation default order and don’t ask for another hearing, then you have to pay the fines. Therefore, this is not a good practice and you must answer the default order. Even if it is more than 45 days after the original hearing date, it is sometimes possible to get a new hearing and avoid a late penalty, but you don’t know until you try.

    The ECB decides if someone gets a new hearing one case at a time. If you need more information on how this works, you should call the ECB at (212) 3611-1400 or visit the ECB’s office to discuss it in person.<Top of Page>

  28. ECB Hearing Date Every notice of the ECB Violation will have an ECB Hearing date written on the ticket. The reason why they give you the ECB Hearing date is because it gives both you and the ECB board the opportunity to provide information about the ECB Violation to a judge. This might not sound like much, but this single opportunity can save you thousands. In some cases. It’s the opportunity to defend yourself, and it’s the opportunity to prove that the building that you have actually is up to par with what the current DOB standards or what they have on file. If you miss the court date you are going to end up paying the maximum penalty for your violation by default. <Top of Page>



  29. ECB Hearing – Defending yourself If you are going to defend your notice at the ECB Violation, you are going to attend the ECB Hearing to defend yourself. This can result in several different outcomes. You could always be found in violation of your ticket, and this will mean that the DOB violation will have to be corrected. It’s basically saying that you are being found guilty. Fixing, also known as correcting, the DOB Violation is considered to be an automatic admission of guilt at the ECB Hearing. You should always go to the hearing with a contract signed by a professional that you are taking care of this matter. Examples would be and Architect, Engineer, Plumber or Electrician. If you ever get caught with a class A violation you need to hire a plumber to file a LAA to remove the sink and the stove before going to court.<Top of Page>



  30. ECB Hearing – Case Dismissal At best, at the ECB Hearing you could also get your case dismissed. A dismissal means that the violation wasn’t upheld and that you won’t have to file a certificate of corrections. To dismiss the case you have to remove the walls and take pictures or it might be possible they wrote down something wrong on the ecb violation. Some examples would be your name or address of the property. <Top of Page>



  31. ECB Hearing – Stipulations Stipulations are considered to be admissions of guilt at the ECB Hearing, but they offer an extension for the time you are given to correct the problem. The extensions are usually around 75 days in length, and those who accept stipulations also cannot be fined for the same DOB Violations during that period of time. First time offenders can accept a stipulation by mail, and this is often a good choice. Why? Because it often comes with lower penalty fees than might be imposed at the ECB Hearing.<Top of Page>



  32. JL Drafting Queens Illegal Conversions Dept. JL Drafting Queens Illegal Conversions Dept. should be aware of The Nyc Building Code. Illegal conversions can lead to fines up to $10,000. The Office of the Queens Borough President, a long with the NYC Department of Buildings has created a guide to educate various homeowners and tenants about the laws surrounding Queens Illegal Conversions, JL Drafting Queens Illegal Conversions Dept. of basement apartments, Garages, etc. There are three different violation classifications A, B, and C. If you get an A class that means hi risk, a good example would be a kitchen in your cellar. You should call JL Drafting Queens Illegal Conversions Department immediately. The second and third are class B and C these area not as a serious. The type of violation is important. Our Queens Expediter can be of great assistance to you when dealing with Queens Illegal Conversions.

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  33. Examples of Illegal Conversions?
    Illegal Conversions are created when one or more units are created within a one family dwelling. The single family home is usually modified or altered in various ways by creating a fully functioning illegal basement apartment, illegal garage conversion, cellar or basement entrance, detached garage, widening of a driveway, deck or balcony, etc.

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  34. Can I add an apartment to my home?
    It is permissible to add an apartment to a home in some cases. The zoning resolution that a building resides in must allow the additional dwelling units to be added and the property must meet all requirements for zoning. Finally, the DOB must issue a building permit and finally a Certificate of Occupancy to add the additional unit. If you have these requirements then an expediter will tell you everything is fine, your home has no Illegal Conversions.

    What if I already added a bathroom or additional unit? Is it part of what is considered Queens Illegal Conversions?
    If you have a permit from the NYC Buildings Department, and a CO then it is almost for sure legal. Otherwise you need to deal with the Queens Illegal Conversions. You have two choices. It can be removed or you can have it legalized with the help of a Queens Architect. You should review our information and I suggest you get in touch with us.

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  35. What are the fines for Queens IIlegal Conversions?
    The penalty fees range from $250 to $10,000, depending on the number of ECB Violations or the class of the violations A, B, or C being the least hazardous.

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  36. How can I correct a Queens Illegal Conversion and how long do I have? You can remove the Queens Illegal Conversion condition and restore it back to the original way or you can try to legalize the condition. You should try to correct the conditions before receiving an ECB Violation notice, otherwise you will continue to receive fines until the Queens Illegal Conversion is corrected and legalized.

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