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A Manhattan Duplex Remodel To Expand & Welcome a Child

Expecting parents take on a Manhattan duplex remodel to expand their space and fortify for the future

Greenwich Village home renovation

  • Homeowners: Rachel + Marco posted their Manhattan duplex remodel on Sweeten
  • Where: Greenwich Village in Manhattan, NYC
  • Primary renovation: Swapping rooms between two floors of a duplex co-op
  • Notable: A kitchen expands with hidden appliances and built-ins
  • Result: The kitchen and living room come together to create a great room
  • Sweeten general contractor
  • Sweeten’s role: Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

Guest post by Sweeten homeowner Rachel

A Manhattan duplex remodel (instead of moving)

This is our first home, which we bought about six years ago just after we got married. When we were planning to expand our family, we knew we had to renovate or move. There was enough square footage, but we needed more distinct rooms or spaces. The apartment is a duplex co-op in Greenwich Village which was built in 1910. We love Greenwich Village so much and I really wanted to have the experience of raising a baby here. So, we renovated!


Living here for so long before the renovation was really helpful since it gave us plenty of time to think about the best possible use of the space. We had a two-bedroom, two-bath, but wanted another bedroom for a baby. The old layout didn’t really work for entertaining, either—the kitchen and dining room were upstairs while the living room was downstairs. Marco and I also wanted our own personal spaces within our home for his hobbies and for my closet/office. Overall, we hoped to create a comfortable family home that met everyone’s needs.

I always thought of our apartment as a hidden gem—a colorful, fun place where you could see a little girl growing up, sophisticated yet flexible enough to allow for events like playdates and parties. The general contractors we found through Sweeten were really amazing. On top of being creative problem solvers, they were incredibly nice guys!

The top floor would be a combined kitchen/dining/living area, so the kitchen needed to be functional but also beautiful enough for a dinner party. We hid most of the appliances behind paneled cabinets; an “appliance garage” and snack storage were organized inside hallway cabinets outfitted with marble countertops. When we have family-style dinners, we set up the self-serve dishes and bar in those spaces. So, yes, you’re in a kitchen, but it’s also an elegant dining room.


Customizing the almost-black kitchen

I cook a lot and was so excited for the stove. I wanted one of those fancy French stoves that come in custom colors, but they are so expensive! Instead, I found one from a U.S. manufacturer for maybe one-third the price. (They also do custom colors.) The cabinet color was chosen to match the stove, so this appliance is “hidden,” too. We wanted something different from the typical all-white kitchen that would also complement the light wood floors. This almost-black shade is just a little more interesting than plain black. It took lots of trips to the paint store for swatches!

We put a lot of thought into maximizing space and brainstorming with our Sweeten contractors. We really pushed them to be creative. I just kept saying, “We need to hide the trash and we need a spice cabinet. Where can we do it?” I wouldn’t let up! The answer was wrapping the cabinets around the pillar and also where the lower cabinets end, which created a finished look. There were other details: I don’t think you can go wrong with big molding. I chose the largest size I could find for the ceilings, doors, and floors! It makes a big difference for not a huge cost.

I don’t think you can go wrong with big molding. I chose the largest size I could find for the ceilings, doors, and floors! It makes a big difference for not a huge cost.

There were a few challenges, like the flooring. It took a couple of tries to get it just right, including completely refinishing the downstairs floors more than once.

Then there was the fireplace, which was very old and didn’t work. Our contractors figured out it was a faux fireplace that took up space for no reason, so it was removed.

Matching new and old brick

We also needed to make our brand-new brick match with the brick from 1910. Our contractors came up with a solution that was even better than what we had imagined. We repaired some portions, which was very expensive, and painted the wall solid white, stripping that paint off layer by layer to create the current washed effect. That helped to blend the new and (very) old brick.

The bathroom needed updating, too. It was really old with a weirdly-shaped, very deep, mini tub. We installed a beautiful regular-sized tub and shower tile I had seen in another project our contractors had done, which I loved. I pushed hard to put in a double-wide mirror, even though there were a lot of issues with making a recessed cabinet fit the space. I’m glad I persevered because it makes the room so much bigger.


A bedroom transforms into personal hobby spaces

Marco and I have always believed in having our own spaces. We divided what used to be a huge bedroom into two separate spaces to create his office and my closet. Marco needed his own space where he could work on his hobbies without driving me crazy! He likes to do things that create dust and noise and play his music really loud. He works hard during the week, so he should have a place to do that! The office is actually soundproofed so he won’t wake the baby.

Greenwich Village home renovation

Throughout the process, Sweeten was great; they continually checked in with us. I knew I could go to them if there was ever an issue with our contractor. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you need to pick finishes in person whenever possible. It’s really hard to imagine what crown molding, counters, or other elements look like on a computer screen.

Thank you, Rachel and Marco, for sharing your Manhattan duplex remodel with us!

Shopping Guide

KITCHEN RESOURCES: Kitchen cabinets: Showplace Cabinetry. Black of Night cabinet paint color: Benjamin Moore. Cabinet hardware: Lewis Dolin. Sink and faucet: Newport Brass. Refrigerator: Sub-Zero. Stove: Big Chill. Dining table: ModShop. Dining stools: CB2.

LIVING ROOM RESOURCES: Crown molding: Sofas: Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams. Rug: AllModern. Bookshelves: CB2.

BATHROOM RESOURCES: Hardware, shower fixtures, and toilet: Kohler. Sink and vanity: Restoration Hardware. White Wisp paint color: Benjamin Moore.

MASTER BEDROOM RESOURCES: River Blue paint color: Benjamin Moore. Arc Floor Lamp: Sit Down New York. Console: West Elm. Stool: Wayfair.

NURSERY RESOURCES: Sun Kissed Peach paint color: Benjamin Moore. Wall art: Johanna Goodman. Crib and upholstered chair: Babyletto.

OFFICE RESOURCES: Baby Seal Black paint color: Benjamin Moore. Closet system: California Closets.

WALK-IN CLOSET RESOURCES: Closet system: The Container Store.

When you’re ready to build your dream home, having a licensed general contractor is key. Read more on why.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

The post A Manhattan Duplex Remodel To Expand & Welcome a Child appeared first on Sweeten Blog.

2020 Costs for Home Renovation in Washington DC

Remodeling costs in Washington DC in 2020, including  kitchen, bath, and whole-home (plus building additions and permit tips!)

Washington DC remodeling cost

A stately Capitol Hill rowhouse. A mid-century modern jewel in Falls Church. A unique craftsman’s cottage in Kensington. Whatever your abode, it’s a great time to renovate in Washington DC, the sixth most populated area in the country. If you’re ready to make your own splash to a home and increase its value, one of your first steps is to create a budget to cover your remodeling costs in DC. 

Sweeten offers a cost guide to give you a sense of how to budget for remodeling costs in the DC area, Montgomery and Howard counties in Maryland, and select counties in Virginia, including Fairfax and Arlington. Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

Here’s a quick overview of budgets for some standard renovation projects:

  • Gut renovation: Starting at $100 per square foot (psf)
  • Low-end kitchen remodel: Starting at $20,000$25,000
  • Mid-range kitchen remodel: Starting at $30,000$40,000 
  • High-end kitchen remodel: Starting at $68,000
  • Low-end bathroom remodel: Starting at $12,000$15,000
  • Mid-range bathroom remodel: Starting at $21,000 or $600 psf.
  • High-end bathroom remodel and extension: Starting at $40,000
  • Adding square footage: Starts at $120 psf

Total Gut Renovation Costs for a DC Home

A total gut renovation in Washington DC that brings a home down to its frame and studs could start at around $100 psf. Doing it all at once will get you the best price per square foot if you are already planning multiple projects. 

How much does a Washington DC kitchen remodel cost per square foot?

  • A best-value kitchen remodel typically starts between $20,000$25,000. This allows the replacement of cabinets and countertops from big-box stores, a stocked appliance package, and tile flooring.
  • For a mid-range kitchen, expect starting costs between $30,000$40,000. This pricepoint would include semi-custom cabinets, hardwood floors, upgrade in appliances, and an island (with no sink).

Remodeling‘s Cost Vs Value report found the average cost in the Washington DC area costs around $68,000. This works out to be $340 psf. About 60 percent of the cost is recouped in the value it adds to your home. With a budget of this amount, you can remodel a 200-square-foot space with countertops, semi-custom wood cabinets, and a stainless steel sink with a standard single-lever faucet. It also allows the addition of a built-in microwave, dishwasher, and custom lighting. Other than adding a kitchen island, the layout, such as where the oven and dishwasher are installed, must remain the same as the original design. Keeping your layout will be the biggest influence in a low budget down.

  • For an upscale kitchen remodel, costs start at $68,000 and include a stone or marble countertop as well as opening up the space or removing a wall.

A luxury remodel comes in at an average of $135,000 for Washington DC, the Cost Vs Value report found. The psf cost is $675. This project can add 58 percent of the budget to your home’s value. An upscale kitchen remodel can consist of custom cabinets, built-in sliding shelves, stone countertops, and imported ceramic or glass tile backsplashes. The appliances would also kick up a few notches to include a commercial-grade cooktop and vent hood. The kitchen can also have designer faucets and a water filtration system.

Washington DC remodeling cost

How much does a DC bathroom remodel cost per square foot?

  • For a best-value bathroom, expect a typical project to start between $12,000$15,000. At this budget, it would not be a gut but a refresh.
  • A mid-range bathroom remodel has costs at $21,000 or $600 psf. These figures come from the Cost Vs Value report. For this price,  you can remodel a 35-square-foot bathroom. It includes adding a porcelain-on-steel bathtub, ceramic tiles, and a recessed medicine cabinet with built-in lighting. This renovation can add $14,000 to a home’s value. That’s 65 percent of the project’s cost.
  • A high-end bathroom remodel starts at $40,000. This budget includes a 3 or 4-piece bath such as the sink, shower/tub combination, and toilet. For $67,000, a 5-piece bathroom could be installed.

According to the 2020 Cost Vs Value report, the average price in this category is around $67,000. For this price, you can expand your bathroom from 35 square feet to 100 square feet. The new bathroom can have features like a freestanding soaker tub. On top of that, you can have a shower with recessed shelves, a frameless glass enclosure, and body spray fixtures. Your budget can also afford a double sink and double-mirror vanity with custom draws and wall cabinets.

Adding square footage to your DC home 

Enlarging living space to an existing floor plan starts at $120 psf and can easily go up to $200 psf. The most economical addition is adding square footage over a crawl space. An extension where you are adding or adjusting the foundations will come in around $150 psf. The cost increases to $200 psf if a wet space—bathroom, laundry, or kitchen—is added. The cost of adding a second floor can start at $150 psf.  

Other remodeling costs in DC: Permits

The District of Columbia is a compact city of only 69 square miles. The Council of the District of Columbia issues building permits for this area. Permits cost two percent of the budget for work over $1,000. For example, a permit for $20,000 bathroom will cost $400

Prince George’s County, to the east and south of the city, uses an equation for permit fees. $50 + (Construction Costs x 0.008) = permit fee. So, a $20,000 renovation would cost $210. Watch out for specific fees for projects such as basement finishing which is $340

In Montgomery County, the area to the north, building permits for alterations, additions, and repairs start at $270.

Enjoy making your DC home your own! Know the costs and find the right renovation team to bring your vision to life. Post your project on Sweeten and you’ll be one step closer to your home sweet home!

Six steps on how to start your renovation and finding the right general contractor for your scope.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

The post 2020 Costs for Home Renovation in Washington DC appeared first on Sweeten Blog.

5 Unique Mirrors to Glam Up Your Bathroom Design

5 Unique Mirrors to Glam Up Your Bathroom Design

Bespoke mirror designs can easily become statement pieces in one’s luxury bathroom as they add a fresh and bright touch to space.  Regarding any style of decor, there’s a great selection of pieces that are a real game-changer.  It’s not an ordinary piece that is able to change the perspective, but instead a great and bespoke piece, that directly speaks to its setting.

Continue reading 5 Unique Mirrors to Glam Up Your Bathroom Design at Maison Valentina Blog.

A New Jersey Condo Gets a Bright Side

A condo renovation in New Jersey combined different design styles for a happier, brighter home

New Jersey condo renovation

“After” photos by Jonathan Ayala for Sweeten

  • Homeowners: Chong + Adam posted their project on Sweeten
  • Where: Fort Lee, New Jersey
  • Primary renovation: Kitchen and two bathrooms in a 1,090-square-foot condo
  • Notable: One wall holding the pantry came down and was replaced by a peninsula.
  • Result: More storage and an increase in natural light
  • Sweeten general contractor
  • Sweeten’s role: Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

From rental to property owner

Chong and Adam were ready to ditch the small one-bedroom, railroad-style apartment they were renting in Jersey City. Eager to put down more permanent roots, they looked for homes in Fort Lee, NJ—a good midpoint between his work in central New Jersey as a business analyst and her job at a molecular biology lab in Manhattan. They found a 1,090-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo on a quiet, pedestrian-friendly street in a well-maintained high-rise built in the ’60s.


Chong said that for years she read “with envy the various home blogs and design sites, one of which was Sweeten.” She daydreamed about having her “own home and a kitchen with ample counter space and height-appropriate storage.” She wondered if she would forever store pots and pans in the oven and have to keep a step stool in the kitchen to reach the upper cabinet shelves.

As soon as they closed on their condo, Chong said, “I posted our condo renovation project to Sweeten and was matched with our contractor. From our first meeting, we were on the same page as to how to bring the unit out of the ’60s and ’80s. We loved his energy and creativity, and also felt assured that Sweeten had done the legwork for us in checking his credentials and reviews of past work.”

To maximize planning for their New Jersey condo renovation, they came to the first meeting with lots of ideas. Their contractor, Chong said, “allowed us to make the design decisions while they focused on the nuts and bolts of how to make it all happen. Aesthetically, I favored simple lines with a touch of an industrial feel, and Adam liked warm, traditional finishes.”


Kitchen drawers make the difference

The first item on their New Jersey condo renovation checklist was to slightly enlarge the footprint of the kitchen. At about 8’x8’, it was not very large, and a floor-to-ceiling pantry blocked natural light from the living room. In the small footprint, a standard-depth refrigerator made access to the pantry awkward, and there was limited counter space.

Adam will say out of the blue, ‘I love our place.’ And I really do, too.

They opted to tear down the pantry and put in a peninsula, adding about a foot of space along its length. The peninsula addition forced a change to the kitchen’s entry, so they cut a portion of a hallway wall and redirected some electrical lines and a light switch. Drawers in the peninsula solved storage issues from the loss of the pantry. As a result, they gained easy access to frequently used items, storage for pots and pans, and “most importantly, little use for a step stool,” Chong said.

There was a challenge to the floor plan since the kitchen wasn’t level with the rest of the space; the contractor had to do some research so he could raise the kitchen floor. “He did a great job of making it seamless without the need for any transition pieces,” Chong said.

Updating the bathrooms

The two bathrooms were easier in terms of design, but the plumbing and electrical changes were more extensive behind the walls. Once the updates were made, the bathrooms came along quickly. The guest bathroom was set in a traditional style, while the master bath would be a little more modern. “We love the minimalist handles and how the handles and the glass doors together make the bathrooms look larger,” Chong said.


In the rest of the apartment, some of the walls were repaired and plastered with new baseboards and fresh coats of paint were applied. They also removed all of the old carpets and discovered parquet floors. “We liked the original walnut color, so our Sweeten contractor simply screened (removed the old finish without sanding) and coated the floors with a satin finish,” Chong said.

Working with their Sweeten contractor

Their New Jersey condo renovation took about four months from the day they signed a contract with their Sweeten contractor to the date of final inspection. “Considering how he was limited to the work hours and days set by my building’s management, he kept to a good pace,” Chong said.

While there were no major surprises or roadblocks, she and Adam moved into the apartment about halfway through the renovation. During their overlap, Chong said, “Our contractor, ever the gentleman, was very accommodating and respectful of our privacy and comfort.” Now, after a few months since the renovation’s completion, “Adam will say out of the blue, ‘I love our place.’ And I really do, too.”

Shopping Guide

KITCHEN: Oxford Linen Ice porcelain tile floor tiles, #100235829: Floor and Décor. Shaker-style kitchen cabinets in charcoal gray: Hanssem. Oberon cabinet hardware: Amerock. Cabinet pulls, #BP40519BBZ: Amerock. Misterio polished countertops, #BQ8815P: Pental Quartz. Bright White Ice backsplash, #914100887: Floor and Décor. Cardale faucet, #R72247-SD: Kohler. LG refrigerator, #LFC21776S7: Home Depot. Kenmare dishwasher, #KDFE104DSS: Home Depot. Maytag range: Home Depot. Collier lighting, 3381HB: Hinkley.

GUEST BATHROOM: Festival White and Black Dot Octagonal porcelain floor tile, #100104629: Floor and Décor. Bright White Ice ceramic wall tile, #100112689: Floor and Décor. Delta Greenwich hardware, #138284: Home Depot. Moen Kingsley faucet in chrome, #6121: Lowe’s. Ellenbee Collection sink/vanity, #C21124-SS: Lowe’s. Allen + Roth Winsbrell lighting, #B10077: Lowe’s. Mirror, storage, and cabinets, #33116: Lowe’s.

MASTER BATH: Festival White Herringbone porcelain floor tile, #100230804: Floor and Décor. Festival Pure White Glossy ceramic wall tile, #914101065: Floor and Décor. Delta Greenwich hardware, #138284: Home Depot. Kohler Ellison faucet, #K-R72780-4D-CP: Home Depot. Style Selections Drayden Gray sink/vanity, #CM18F30-SS: Lowe’s. Allen + Roth Kenross lighting, #18652-000: Lowe’s. Kohler vanity mirror, #CB-CLC3026FS: Lowe’s.

LIVING SPACE: Distant Gray paint, #2124-70: Benjamin Moore. Academy flush mount ceiling light in the foyer, #67012OZ: Hinkley. Theory pendant ceiling light in the dining room, #3574DZ: Hinkley.

Carol and Jon took over a spare bedroom to enlarge their kitchen in Jersey City. Check out Sweeten’s home reno cost guide for New Jersey!

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, and scope, helping until project completion. Follow the blog for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation on Sweeten.

The post A New Jersey Condo Gets a Bright Side appeared first on Sweeten Blog.

2020 Cost Guide for a Home Renovation in Westchester County

A guide to house renovation costs for Westchester in 2020, including kitchen, bath, and whole-home (plus a basement budget and permit tips!)

Westchester remodel cost

(Above) Westchester home renovation by Sweeten general contractor Alan

Moving into a new house—or realizing an older home hasn’t kept up with your lifestyle—can make renovation feel like a path to reinvention. However, creating a budget for a remodel is unique to every project! Budgets depend on many factors, like the materials you choose, changes in layout, or moving plumbing or gas lines.

Sweeten has compiled a guide to renovation costs across Westchester County, New York, focusing on four categories: kitchen, bathroom, basement, and permits. Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

Here’s a breakdown of typical starting costs compiled from Sweeten renovations and Remodeling’s Cost vs. Value report.

  • Full home renovation: $100—$250 per square foot (psf)
  • Low-end kitchen remodel: Starting from $25,000$30,000 for under 100 square feet
  • Mid-range kitchen remodel: Starting at $40,000—$50,000
  • High-end kitchen remodel: Starting at $70,000
  • Low-end bathroom remodel: Starting at $16,000
  • Mid-range bathroom remodel:Starting at $628 psf or $22,000
  • High-end bathroom remodel and expanded: $700 psf or $70,000
  • Basement remodel: $50 psf

Keep in mind: every professional contractor will want to have a detailed conversation and inspection of your home before developing an estimate specific to your needs and wants.

Westchester home remodeling costs per square foot

It’s no secret that Westchester County, with its close proximity to New York City, is one of the pricier areas when it comes to real estate. That is also reflected in the cost of renovations. On average, many Sweeten projects can range from $100 psf—$250 psf. Based in Westchester, Sweeten contractor Gregory has worked on projects that involve multiple rooms or a gut renovation at the $250 psf range. 

Anything higher, he said, “usually applies to one or more specialty trades, such as architects or engineers, and insurance costs which factors into the overall budget.” Choice of material will also affect the cost per square foot.

Similarly, a higher cost stems from the quality and experience of the skilled workers the contractors hire for the project. “Costs for construction vary based on experience, which increases for a higher-end result,” said Sweeten contractor Chuck who handles projects in the Westchester area. For instance, “A presentation representing the finished product—design and organizing, scheduling, and advising on the materials—is a service that adds to the budget.”

One thing to note: While Sweeten contractors attempt to explore all avenues to stay competitive, it is an industry that is affected by trade. Therefore, the prices you’re quoted at any given time may not be the same six months or a year from now. Prices on labor and materials fluctuate and this will be reflected in your overall quote.

Westchester renovation costs

How much a Westchester kitchen renovation costs

  • Low-end kitchen: Sweeten kitchen remodels can start at $25,000—$30,000 for under 100 square feet with budget-friendly finishes from retailers such as Home Depot.
  • Mid-range kitchen: Expect to see starting budgets from $40,000$50,000 for a typical mid-range kitchen.

Westchester-based Sweeten contractor Majid has worked on projects costing $40,000 for 150 square feet, or about $260 psf. This budget includes mid-range finishes.

Remodeling’s Cost vs. Value report puts $350 psf or $70,000 total, as an average for Westchester County. These figures are based on a 200-square-foot kitchen with standard finishes, like an energy-efficient range, built-in microwave, and ventilation system. It also includes garbage disposal, custom lighting, and resilient floorings such as vinyl, linoleum, or cork.

  • High-end kitchen: Sweeten has seen projects start at $70,000 for an upscale kitchen.

In the Cost vs. Value report, the average high-end kitchen remodel cost more than $137,000 for a 200-square foot space. A project in that price range includes custom cabinets, built-in sliding shelves, stone countertops, and imported tile backsplashes. The appliances can include a commercial-grade cooktop and vent hood as well as upscale faucets and a water filtration system.

According to Sweeten contractor Majid, a large part of a high-end kitchen can be attributed to the cabinets. For example, one of Majid’s clients recently spent $50,000 on fully custom European cabinets.

How much a Westchester bathroom renovation costs

  • Low-end bathroom: A lower-end bathroom renovation, including demo, plumbing work, and new finishes, can reach $16,000, said Oziel. Bathrooms in this category typically lean on big-box stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot to source the majority of materials.
  • Mid-range bathroom: A mid-range bathroom in Westchester County will cost on average $22,000, according to the Cost vs. Value report, which is $628 psf for a 35-square-foot bathroom. This includes a recessed medicine cabinet, a standard toilet, solid-surface vanity counter, and a porcelain-on-steel tub.
  • High-end bathroom: That same report put a high-end bathroom renovation and expansion at $70,000, based on a bathroom expanded from 35 square feet to 100 square feet. It worked out to be $700 psf.

With a higher budget, clients are looking at faucets that can cost $2,000 apiece, marble flooring, custom vanities, built-in medicine cabinets, a rain shower, and top-of-the-line lighting fixtures. At times, those pricey finishing materials can amount to half the budget. Whether low-end or high-end, good general contractors can strategize with a reasonable budget to help clients achieve renovation goals.

Costs for a basement renovation in Westchester

Sweeten contractors have worked on basement renovations that cost anywhere from $20,000 to $75,000. A $20,000—$30,000 or $50/psf budget would update an already finished basement. This includes painting, flooring, and lighting. If the space is raw and being renovated to a finished living area, the cost is around $75,000. For this budget, a bathroom, a kitchen, and HVAC can be added.

For Majid, a simple basement remodel can cost as little as $50 a square foot, which works out to be about $40,000 for an 800-square-foot space. Adding a toilet or shower could increase your budget, plus any necessary work to bring the room up to code. Waterproofing and drainage can also push up a basement project’s cost. 

Some town regulations might require two forms of egress or natural light (by adding a door or a window) or a certain ceiling height, which means digging down and lowering the floor. An average basement conversion in Westchester is $75,000, according to the Cost vs. Value report. A project with this budget includes a 20×30 foot room, a 5’×8′ bathroom with a shower and bar area, plus insulation and laminate flooring. This example project works out to $117 psf.

Costs for permits in Westchester

The cost of permits changes from town to town in Westchester County. Typically, home renovation costs will be determined by your budget, and require some basic math to figure out. For example, the permit costs below are broken out among the different towns across the County:

  • Pelham: Building permits cost $250 for a project costing under $5,000 plus $12 per each additional $1,000.
  • Scarsdale: Building permits cost $255 for a project costing between $10,000 and $50,000. For projects budgeted over $100,000, a permit costs a flat fee of $1,755 plus $14 for each $1,000 or fraction over $100,000.
  • Katonah: Permits cost $14 for every $1,000 of a budgeted project.
  • Hastings-on-Hudson: The fee will cost $17 per $1,000 of the estimated construction cost.

These figures provide a jumping-off point for your Westchester County renovation budget. On the (more fun) planning side, Sweeten’s Renovation Checklist offers you a downloadable roadmap to organize all of the moving parts of a renovation including laying out your “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves.”

Thinking about renovating? Sweeten can help!

Post your project on Sweeten and we’ll match you with multiple vetted general contractors to provide estimates for your renovation. Sweeten also checks in with you until project completion. Talk with your general contractor to develop an accurate budget, and you’ll be on your way to the home you’ve always wanted.

ADUs or accessory dwelling units can transform into home offices, living space for family or as a rental, or a retreat.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

The post 2020 Cost Guide for a Home Renovation in Westchester County appeared first on Sweeten Blog.

A NYC Bathroom Remodel Restores Prewar Beauty

For this prewar NYC bathroom remodel, tile and gold finishes reveal old-school charm

prewar bathroom renovation

“After” photos by Miao Jiaxin for Sweeten

  • Homeowner: Leah posted a project on Sweeten
  • Where: Upper West Side, Manhattan, New York
  • Primary renovation: A rip-and-replace bathroom
  • Notable: Feature and custom items were worth the wait.
  • Result: The removal of a drop ceiling brought the space closer to the original feel.
  • Sweeten general contractor
  • Sweeten’s role: Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.


Leah, a lawyer in the finance industry, bought her prewar one-bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side. She spent several years living in the apartment before embarking on a kitchen renovation. She also redid the floors. “The decisions I made after really living in the space were just better—how I moved in and out of the kitchen, how the rooms communicated with each other,” she said.

The renovation projects became exhausting, so she took a break—even though the bathroom was disjointed from the rest of the apartment, with its beige tones and frumpy ’70s aesthetic. It also had a dropped ceiling for seemingly no reason, which cramped the small space. “I backed away because it seemed like too much to take on,” she said, but she finally took the plunge and posted her NYC prewar bathroom remodel on Sweeten to find a general contractor.



Leah envisioned something that was reflective of her co-op building’s beautiful foyer with its marble and clean look. “I think my design was to let the space speak for itself,” she said. The Sweeten contractors she hired set out to raise the ceiling. “We didn’t know what we were going to find,” Leah said. Because they could not find any pipes or any other obvious reason for the dropped ceiling, they were able to raise it again.

She selected classic subway tiles for the walls and a marble top for the vanity. With the floors, the Sweeten contractors made a reassuring discovery—the original tiles were still underneath, and matched the new creamy hexagon tiles Leah had chosen. It was a confirmation that her design choices were in line with how the bathroom was originally meant to be.


While Leah had planned for white and silver tones, she made a last-minute decision to bring in gold fixtures. “I wanted to add warmth,” she said of the 11th-hour choice. Luckily, she found the renovation process to be far less taxing than she had anticipated. She was in daily communication with her Sweeten contractors, who helped solve problems and helped her make those nuts-and-bolts decisions, like how far up the wall the tiles should go. “It was a very collaborative process,” she said.


Leah decided early on where she would save money (like tile choices) with her budget and where she would spend more lavishly. Because of the small space, she decided on a custom bathtub, which took six weeks to make in South Carolina. “Every bathtub that was standard was made for bigger spaces,” she said. “I needed something that fit my dimensions.” The shower enclosure and tub combination became a showstopping centerpiece of the bathroom and were well worth the wait.


Casa Vogue porcelain wall tile in glossy Snow White, hexagon floor tile, and white chair rail: Kohler. Bathtub: MTI Baths. Shower and sink fixtures in French Gold: Kohler. Empire Windsor vanity: AiO Cabinet and mirror: Robern. Vanity light fixture: Restoration Hardware. UltraMax toilet: Toto. Glass surround: Alpha Glass.

Even small changes to a floor plan may free up enough square footage for an extra bathroom. Here’s how five Sweeten homeowners who added one.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

The post A NYC Bathroom Remodel Restores Prewar Beauty appeared first on Sweeten Blog.

Celebrities Open Their Homes to You: 5 Luxury Bathroom Design Projects

Celebrities Open Their Homes to You: 5 Luxury Bathroom Design Projects

The following luxury bathroom design projects are in some of the world’s most famous homes. It’s a fact that celebrities are the most powerful trendsetter when it comes to fashion but also to home interior design. Since our focus is bathrooms, we peeked inside 5 celebrity homes to see how their bathrooms were like. And the result could only be the most amazing you could possibly imagine.

Continue reading Celebrities Open Their Homes to You: 5 Luxury Bathroom Design Projects at Maison Valentina Blog.

Miami Condo Renovations: What You Need To Know

An outline from permits to building requirements for condo remodeling Miami

Are you considering condo remodeling in Miami? While renovating a condo is usually a more limited proposition than renovating a house, Sweeten offers guidelines on a few special considerations you’ll need to take into account. Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

A brand new condo remodeling Miami

City of Miami Building Permits 

First, you will need to obtain the proper city and building approvals before beginning your project. Sweeten contractor Sandra, who is based in Miami, tells us, “The typical process takes about 4-8 weeks for a mid-sized project. [Usually,] the office management has pretty much the same requirements as the city.” You must apply first to the city, and once the city approves the permit, the information is submitted to the management office for the condo. The most common permits needed in condo renovations are required for floor soundproofing, plumbing, electrical, and framing.

Building Requirements 

In addition to obtaining city permits, many new building projects must also meet new building requirements. You must usually meet and comply with regulations around work hours, rubbish removal, gas installation, and more. Here’s a list of everything you should be mindful of during your project:

1) Working hours

These are more limited than in a free-standing house. Typically, buildings will permit workers access between the hours of 9AM – 4PM (occasionally, until 5pm) on weekdays. This translates into shorter working hours. As a result, a condo renovation may take longer than that same project in a house.

2) Prepping common areas

Buildings will require workers to protect the common lobby, hallways, and elevators. This needs to be done on a daily basis. Just note, this can keep the GC from working on the actual project on any given day. 

3) Rubbish removal

As in all large buildings, trash removal presents a bigger obstacle than in a free-standing house. As Miami-based Sweeten contractor Adrian explains, due to the more protracted process, “the cost of removing the trash is much higher in a condo than in a single-family home.” Sweeten contractor Sandra concurs: “We spend a lot of time doing this and do it on a daily basis. That means we need to reserve the elevator every time we have to bring it down. We cannot use the building dumpster, so we need to put it in our truck and haul it away.” 

4) Altering the slab

Since even the oldest Miami condos date only back to the ‘50s and ‘60s, they are largely concrete structures. Sweeten contractor Sandra explains, “It is possible but very complex. We would need a structural engineer affidavit and structural plans.” Management will likely be strict about this aspect of the renovation. After all, Altering the slab can affect the building’s other units. Technically, it is possible to trench or drill to lay plumbing or electrical. However, you would need to prove that you will not compromise the integrity of the slab. Oftentimes, buildings will require “scanning” (via a professional vendor) of the area where the proposed alteration will occur. Sweeten contractor Adrian estimates that it usually costs approximately $600 to scan 100-200 square feet. 

5) Gas

Most Miami condos feature electric stoves and dryers. That said, gas stoves are becoming slightly more common in new luxury buildings. Our Sweeten contractors do not know of buildings that permit gas dryers. If your condo unit does not currently have a washer/dryer in-unit, there’s a 50/50 chance that it’ll be permitted. Again, this is up to your management company’s rules. 

6) Windows

Due to the seasonal hurricanes, building codes require impact windows. Luckily, this isn’t the responsibility of the individual renovator because windows are typically a building-wide project. 

7) Fees

Lastly, expect the management company to charge you a fee for renovating your condo. Just note, these fees are paid in addition to any permit and approval charges. These fees aren’t unique to Miami, this is standard in condos across the U.S.

Now, you should have a sense of what to look out for in your Miami condo renovation. All that’s left is to get started! Read up on how long it takes for a typical apartment remodel to complete.

 Have a good handle on your budget. Our Miami home renovation cost guide can get you on your way.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

The post Miami Condo Renovations: What You Need To Know appeared first on Sweeten Blog.

10 Reasons Why Your DIY Shower Makeover Will Fail

10 Reasons DIY Showers Fail

Why do DIY showers fail?

There are lots of reasons. But we’ll show you 10 that most DIYers make.

And you’ll see how to avoid these shower mistakes to give yourself the best chance of getting professional results.

Let’s dive in!

Reason #1: Structurally Unstable Joists

Joists are the foundation of most bathrooms. If joists are structurally unstable the rest of your bathroom remodel is compromised.

What makes a joist fail?

Most of the time it’s either a notch or bored hole.

The International Residential Code sets limits on how big a notch or hole can be in joists. Furthermore, code mandates notches and holes be located in certain locations within the joist.

If you’re not familiar with these codes get the IRC book for One- and Two- Family Dwellings.

Ultimately, the first thing you should do is inspect the notches and bored holes to see if they meet IRC code.

Then beef up the joists by either sistering new ones to the framing or replacing old joists altogether.

Finally, most shower systems require joists to be 16″ on-center; double-check the manufacturer recommendations.

Reason #2: Improper Subfloor Thickness

Thin subfloors can deflect and cause showers to leak. In addition, improper subfloors can also cause cracked tile and grout.

The minimum recommended subfloor thickness for most shower systems is either 5/8″ or 3/4″ plywood or OSB.

Don’t let anyone tell you OSB is bad. The American Plywood Association has a great explanation about OSB and why it’s used for building homes. OSB is made from waterproof heat-cured adhesives and rectangularly shaped wood strands that are arranged in cross-oriented layers.

Basically OSB is super strong and can withstand wind and seismic conditions. So OSB in the bathroom…not a problem.

Reason #3: Wrong Thin-Set Consistency

Most prefab shower trays are bonded to wood subfloors with thin-set.

DIYers, and even some contractors, make the mistake of not measuring water when mixing thin-set.

This makes the thin-set bond strength to be bad or creates voids between prefab shower trays and the subfloor.

Bottom line, measure water when using thin-set mortar like ALL-SET.

Also, use the trowel size recommended by the shower tray manufacturer.

For example, Schluter requires the use of 1/4″ x 3/8″ square or u-notched trowel.

Reason #4: Bad Drain Connections

Shower drains are notorious for leaking.

But their installation doesn’t have to be complicated.

The first step for most shower drains is to cut the drain pipe square and flush with the subfloor.

This can be done by holding a carpenter square against the pipe and cutting it with an oscillating multitool. Then follow the drain installation instructions.

Schluter showers have the best drain in our opinion. The reason why is simple: installation is easier and more permanent than other drains.

Some drains, like the one for Wedi’s curbless shower, rely on the rubber caulking gasket for a watertight seal. But Schluter’s KERDID-DRAIN is permanently glued to pipes and a much better installation method.

Reason #5: Improper Stud Spacing

Every single 1/2″ backer board requires stud framing to be 16″ on-center.

Cement board, Hydro Ban Board, KERDI-BOARD, Wedi…they all specify 16″ on-center studs.

Studs spaced more than 16″ o.c. allow 1/2″ backer board to deflect too much.

Deflection causes tiles to crack and creates an opportunity for the shower tray/backer board connections to leak.

Also, studs should be even with each other and plumb so that tile setting is easier.

Do yourself a solid, check all the studs before waterproofing shower walls.

Reason #6: Wrong Shower Valve Depth

Every shower valve should be installed over solid blocking.

Here’s the problem, if the shower valve is set to the wrong depth, the trim kit won’t work properly.

For example, shower valves set too far outside the stud bay might have a gap between the tiled wall and escutcheon.

This isn’t good.

Fortunately, most shower valve manufacturers like Delta and Hansgrohe specify how deep to place the valve inside the wall.

For instance, a scrap piece of 2×6 can be nailed inside the stud wall and the Delta valve mounted on top. If the stud wall is actually 2″ x 4″, like in older homes, an additional piece of plywood can be used to set the valve at the right depth.

Long story short, read the shower valve instructions carefully, and set it to the correct depth.

If you’re building a shower watch the LIVE YouTube Workshop we did.

It’s called 10 Reasons Why Your DIY Shower Makeover Will Fail

You’ll see all the tips mentioned above plus several more – it’s well worth the time and you’ll avoid a lot of mistakes

What’s Next

Doing a bathroom remodel is tough.

If you’re feeling stuck and want help, check out Bathroom Repair Tutor’s Video Library.

The video lessons are step by step and walk you from start to finish through bathroom renovations.

Let us know if you have any questions and we’ll do our best help.

Hope you have an awesome day!


Jeff Patterson

This post first appeared on

A Full Apartment Renovation Smooths a Family’s Traffic Flow

A full apartment renovation in Clinton Hill prioritizes comfort and storage

Kitchen view

“After” photos by Kate Glicksberg for Sweeten

  • Homeowners: Dara + Mauricio posted their project on Sweeten
  • Where: Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, New York City
  • Primary renovation: An 1,800-square-foot full apartment renovation to increase function and storage
  • Notable: Giving the kitchen more space and flow by moving the refrigerator out of the space
  • Result: A larger kitchen and better flow throughout
  • Sweeten general contractor
  • Sweeten’s role: Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

Guest blog post by Sweeten homeowner Dara

Figuring out the best layout for the apartment

Our building was originally constructed in 1930, possibly for officers of the Navy Yard located several blocks north. Like many buildings in NYC, it turned into a co-op in the ’80s. The overall layout of the apartment was great, with a lot of natural light, but the configuration of the space in both bathrooms, as well as the kitchen, was awkward.

Mauricio, an architect, and I wanted to open up the kitchen so that all four of us, including our 5-year-old twins, could move around it comfortably while adding counter space and enlarging the existing island. But solving that problem was really challenging. We must have gone through at least ten different layouts.

We discussed everything from a standard galley kitchen layout, to relocating the gas line and stove, but nothing felt quite right. Then we said, “What if we extend the kitchen by taking a bit of space away from the adjacent dining room?” Ultimately, we realized that by moving the fridge and aligning it with an enlarged island, we could seamlessly expand the kitchen without sacrificing room for our dining table.

The kitchen remodel worked, and now we have a much bigger kitchen with a lot more storage and prep space. We even have huge cabinets underneath our island. Most importantly, our dining room is still perfectly roomy.


Renovation tip to help save time

We planned for minimal construction and maximum impact.  The access point to the washer and dryer was moved from the master bedroom to the third bedroom by easily rotating it in its existing space, rather than relocating it. That way, you don’t need to walk through the master to do a load of laundry. It also allowed us a larger shower.

We opened up the “den” off the living room by removing built-ins along three walls to create a more flexible space as a TV room and an office. We saved money and time tailoring modular closets to our needs rather than building out new closets. Non-layout items we needed to address included fixing the electric panel and installing new hardwood floors since the original wood was as thin as the veneer.

Throughout the process, we kept in mind our 3 R’s mantra: Things needed to be easily repairable, replaceable, or recyclable. Most of our purchases were made from local stores that had minimum to no lead time. We chose not to do anything custom until our kids stopped sharing a bedroom when they get older; we might need to rethink some of the spaces.


Compromising on style

In terms of style, we tried to reach a middle ground between our preferences. I chose a more eclectic style in the second bathroom: gray-and-blue patterned tiles on the floor and shower wall mixed with large white subway tiles. In the master bathroom, Mauricio preferred a more streamlined and minimalist look with grays and whites with a floating white glossy vanity.

We had a lot of opinions and ideas, and we were thankful that our contractor took the time to talk things through.

For the kitchen cabinets, we went with Ikea, that we could upgrade to semi-custom later on. We wanted solid hardwood that was reminiscent in the color of the original floor, but more modern looking. We chose a white oak in wide planks.

A good-working Sweeten reno team

Our Sweeten contractor and his dad made a great team. He was very easy to talk to, and his dad was quite resourceful, with many solutions for various problems we encountered along the way. We had a lot of opinions and ideas, and we were thankful that our contractor took the time to talk things through. We could debate different ideas with him, but he was never pushy or non-communicative.

Avoiding subcontractor issues

One thing we would do differently is to put all of the renovation items (except finishes) under the contractor umbrella. We bought our countertop slabs from a local store, which encouraged us to use their fabricator rather than using our contractor to oversee the subcontractors. At installation, there were problems with sizing and fit. The fabricator blamed the contractor for moving the kitchen cabinets. Meanwhile, the contractor blamed the fabricator for cutting a countertop that didn’t fit. If the fabricator had been a subcontractor of our contractor, and under his supervision, that would have all been avoided.


Finally, we’re extremely happy with our home. After the full renovation of our apartment, all four of us can have breakfast at the kitchen island with room to spare. Plus, with all of the closets plus the kitchen storage, we finally have enough space to store everything. It all makes us happy on a daily basis. Now we are gearing up for renovating our rooftop, to create an outdoor space for our family that rivals the interior.

Thank you, Dara + Mauricio, for sharing your full apartment renovation with us!

Shopping Guide

KITCHEN: Cabinets and hardware: Ikea. Countertops: Quartzmaster. Sink: Kohler. Faucet: Grohe. Fridge, dishwasher, and stove: Bosch. Lighting: West Elm. Paint in Decorator White (eggshell finish on walls and semi-gloss doors): Benjamin Moore

MASTER BATHROOM: Medicine cabinets: Wyndham Collection. Toilet and sink: Duravit. Accessories: Delta. Slate floor and wall tiles: Galactic Tiles. Paint in Ultra White: Benjamin Moore.

SECOND BATHROOM: Medicine cabinets: Kohler. Toilet and bathtub: Duravit. Accessories: Delta. Faucet: Kohler. Floor tiles: Vintage and purchased locally. Paint in Ultra White: Benjamin Moore.

LIVING SPACES: Prefinished white oak flooring and base molding: Lumber LiquidatorsShaker-style doors throughout: Brooklyn Windows & Doors. Paint and Plaster in Ultra White: Benjamin Moore.

Plan ahead and read up on how long it takes to renovate a whole apartment.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

The post A Full Apartment Renovation Smooths a Family’s Traffic Flow appeared first on Sweeten Blog.

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