Monday, September 30, 2019 / by John Schlanbusch
Maybe you’ve heard horror stories about people who invested thousands in a home project only to be required to tear it all down because they didn’t have a building permit. Unfortunately, it’s an all too real possibility if you don’t get the paperwork right. The insights below will help you better understand just what a permit is, when you need one and how to get it.
Building Permit 101
A permit is official, written permission to move forward with your home project. Depending on where you live, a permit may be issued by a state, county or city government agency, such as the building division or permits department. Permits — and the related inspections — help ensure that home and yard updates meet local ordinances and other requirements. This helps ensure the safety of your home’s current and future occupants. Permits may address everything from zoning and fire protection, to water and sewer lines, to electrical service, to structural integrity.
Permits usually have fees, and the cost can vary tremendously by location and project. You might spend less than $20 or more than $1,000. Your contractor or local building agency can tell you an exact price for your project.
Whether or not your project requires a permit depends on where you live. In general, though, these types of improvements will require permits:
- New construction, whether you’re adding a bedroom, deck, storage shed or gazebo
- Major improvements, such as remodeling a kitchen, replacing your roof or doing a large-scale restoration of an older home
- Structural or mechanical changes, such as finishing your basement, removing a wall or altering electrical or plumbing systems
Simple repairs, replacements and updates may not require a permit. For instance, you typically won’t need one to replace appliances, paint or add floor coverings.
If you’re working with a contractor, confirm upfront that he or she will fully manage the permit process. This should include knowing whether and which permits are required, “pulling” (or applying for) permits, scheduling and overseeing inspections, and covering the cost (typically by including it in your total price). If you’re doing the project yourself, check local government websites to learn which agency issues permits. This group can provide details on whether you need a permit, the application process, the cost, and how and when to schedule inspections. In general, pulling a permit requires that you provide detailed information, including drawings of the planned work. On approval, you’ll get a certificate to post where the work is happening.
Risks of Not Obtaining a Permit
First and foremost, proceeding without required permits leaves you exposed to potential hazards from improperly done work. That could mean a risk of anything from plumbing failures to electrical fires to structural collapse. And your insurance policy may not cover the damage.
In addition, if you complete a project without a required permit, you could face fines or may even be asked to undo the work and start again with the proper permits in place. Furthermore, if you try to sell your home and a buyer’s inspection uncovers renovations made without appropriate permits, you may have trouble closing the deal.
Permits= A Peace of Mind
Permits add another step, and another expense, to home and yard improvement projects. They also give you peace of mind knowing the work is done correctly — potentially helping a future home sale go smoothly, preventing fines and keeping your family safe.