Armchair Builder

Do I Need a Permit for My New Renovation?

Roof Trusses

On any construction projects that require plumbing, electrical, HVAC or structural work, always obtain a permit through your local building department.  There are some headaches involved with getting a permit and subsequent inspections, but the benefits definitely outweigh the costs.

Why are Permits Required? Believe it or not, there are a few trades and contractors out there that don’t know what they are doing or don’t pay attention to details.  For example, I had an electrician one time decide to cut holes through several roof trusses…which is an absolute no, no.  I saw the holes and made modifications to strengthen them, but if I hadn’t been paying attention, I could have missed the problem.  I also had a concrete contractor try and pour a porch slab up against a house without any vapor/moisture barrier between the concrete and the untreated wood framing.  This is also a major no, no.  The local inspector helps to identify these types of problems before they get covered up.

When Do I Need a Permit? As mentioned above, you will need a permit whenever your project involves mechanical or structural work.  If you are just replacing a light fixture, you don’t need a permit.  I hear it all the time…”But I’m only changing a doorway in my home, do I still need a permit?”  If you’re not sure whether your project meets the requirements, call your municipal building department and ask.  Other instances where you may need a permit include pouring concrete slabs, roofing replacement, driveway changes at public road access point…etc.

Advantages to getting a permit When you pull a permit, the local municipality will provide you with plan review and inspections at various stages of your project.  Trust me…this is a good thing.  Why would you not want to have a second set of eyes look at your project to make sure it is being done in a safe and quality fashion?  Your trades may be great at what they do…but nobody is perfect.  Also, potential buyers of your home will want to know that all work done on the home was permitted and approved by the local municipality. This gives them assurance that all work was done per code behind the walls.  This one bit me not long ago.    I was finishing a basement off on a completed new home and needed to get the work done in a hurry.  So, I convinced myself that since the project was small and no structural work was involved, it wouldn’t matter if I didn’t get a permit.  After all, my projects are always built over and above the code…because I take pride in what I do and I want the building to last a long time.  Well, I had a potential buyer come in after the work was about done and they decided to call the local building department to see if it was built per code.  I received a slap on the wrist and a $350 extra fee for not pulling the permit before work was started.  We passed inspection of course, but we lost a potential buyer.

Costs associated with getting a permit You will be required to pay a fee for your permit.  This covers the cost of processing your permit, reviewing your plans and performing inspections.  Inspections can also slow your project down some.  Typically, my experience has been that local building departments will come inspect the day after you call in your inspection.  However, this is not always the case.  During busy times, I have seen them take up to three days to get out to the site.  Therefore, you may want to ask for the typical turnaround times for inspections when you pull the permit.  As long as you know it takes three days from the time you call in, you can plan accordingly and call early.  Pulling a permit can also trigger changes to your real estate taxes.  As you improve your home, the value will go up.  Municipalities handle these differently…I’ve experienced a few that will reassess your property with any major additions or changes.  Also, if work is not done per code or a re-inspection is required for whatever reason, you will typically be charged an additional fee.  I’ve seen these range from $25 to $100 so make sure you are ready the inspection is called in.

So instead of asking the question, “Do I need a permit”, it’s best to assume you do and take a trip down to your local building department.  It’s always better to error on the conservative side.  If you are thinking of building or remodeling your dream home, go to to see how to save money and get exactly what you want.

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