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How to get a building permit?



how to get a building permit

Many homeowners, even dedicated do-it-yourselfers, quail at the thought of pulling a building permit. It can be an intimidating prospect. You’ll probably have to take time off work to go down to city hall during the day and fill out forms and interact with local building inspection officials. 

You’ll have to answer questions about your building project and you may have to produce site plans and other documentation that shows you have the plan to complete the project according to code.

But you might be surprised to learn that not every home improvement requires a building permit. In fact, many things can be done without a building permit. And for many of those jobs that do require a permit, the fees and paperwork can be negligible. Here are the home improvement jobs you do – and don’t – need a building permit for.

Improvements You Need a Building Permit For

Usually, you only need a building permit for home improvements and renovations that will change your home's structure or affect its market value. For example, if you want to knock down walls or put up some new walls, you’re going to need a permit. 

Renovations that include converting an unfinished space, like a basement or a garage, into a finished space will require a permit. Rewiring your home or redoing the piping will require a permit. If you want to tear down part of your house, add an addition, put on a new deck or porch, or replace the roof, you’re going to need a permit. 

You will need to apply for a building permit at your local office for building inspections and permits, although many such offices now use building permit software to allow homeowners to apply for building permits online.

There will be a form to fill out, and you may need to submit architectural plans for your project, especially if it’s a large one. You may be able to get approval over the counter or the city may need to review your plans before you can get approval for your permit.

Remember, you need a building permit before you start work, so get the license before you swing a single hammer. City inspectors will need to come out and sign off on your work at various stages of construction. At the very least, they’re going to need to come out and look at everything before you close the walls up, and then after you finish the renovations. 

Improvements You Don’t Need a Building Permit For

What kinds of improvements can you do in your own home without a building permit? You can perform one-for-one replacements of things in your home without a permit. So you can replace a broken window, a leaky faucet, or an old ceiling fan without a permit. In most places, you can paint the house, put in new cupboards, repave your driveway, replace your floors, or put up a small fence without pulling a permit. 

Not sure whether you need to pull a permit for the work you have in mind or not? You can always call the permitting office and ask questions. The purpose of the permitting office is to keep contractors from cutting dangerous corners when they build and renovate homes. When working with homeowners, they tend to be more lenient, in the sense that they’re more willing to help homeowners to get the job done right, rather than leaping straight to punishment.

What other Reads?

Why You Should Get a Permit If You Need One

If you need a building permit to perform a specific home improvement, you should get one. If you don’t, the city will notice that you’re doing unpermitted work and could order you to stop and impose fines. You’ll be required to buy a permit anyway, and the fees will be higher because you got it after you began work. 

The city will need to inspect the work you’ve done so far to make sure it’s up to code, and they will require you to rip out any work that’s not up to code – or any work that obscures systems they’re trying to check. 

So if, for example, you’ve already walled up your wiring and plumbing, you’ll have to tear that back out so the city can inspect it. It’s cheaper and easier for you to do things the right way. Even if you manage to get away with not pulling permits for your work, you’ll have a hard time selling in the future if there is unpermitted work in your house. You might need to get a permit after the fact any way to sell.

If you want to do work on your house, it’s a good idea to know whether you’ll need a building permit. Each municipality has its own rules on what does and doesn’t require a permit, so when in doubt, ask your local officials. It’s worth it to make sure everything in your house is above board.

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