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Do you need a permit for your renovation project?
If you are planning any home improvements or repairs, you may be wondering if you need a permit. While the requirements vary from state to state, and even between neighboring cities, the answer is yes more often than you may think. Building permits are not free. They are a significant source of revenue for local government, leading many people to believe fee collection is the only reason they are required.
However, this is also a matter of safety. You will have to agree to follow proper building code. In most instances, you will need at least one home inspection to verify that code was indeed followed. For this reason, most projects that could prove hazardous if not done properly, involve permits. For new construction you can be fairly certain you will need at least one permit, if not several for various aspects of the project. This includes constructing outbuildings, or adding onto existing structures. For renovations, remodels, and repairs the guidelines are more complex, and more varied.
Ask yourself if you will be adding, removing, or replacing any portion of the basic framework? Adding a window or doorway will require cutting a hole in the wall, possibly weakening it. Enlarging a room requires removal of an existing wall. Any work done to the foundation, floor joists, or sill can have a dramatic impact on the strength of the building. Any project affecting the structural integrity of your home will probably require a permit.
Electrical and plumbing work is regulated in many locations. Again, it depends largely on the scale of your project. You can change out a light switch or faucet without a permit. If you add an electrical circuit, or replace the water main - that's a different story.
You may need to get a permit before installing an appliance. This depends on the appliance, and the local laws. No city in the United States will make you get a permit to plug in a coffeemaker. On the other hand, most cities demand a permit before installing a new wood stove or furnace.
Many cities regulate the aesthetic factor, and may require permits for any work that will significantly change the appearance of your home. If you are a member of a homeowner's association, you will probably need to get the association's approval for cosmetic changes, but remember they do not represent local governmental agencies.
Most work having a potential environmental impact will need a permit, and be subject to strict regulations. This includes excavation, changing a septic system, installing a drainage system, and installing a swimming pool.
Although some local laws are particularly stringent, there are a few projects you can nearly always do without a permit.
- Replace existing doors and windows
- Replace existing siding
- New flooring
- New cabinets, shelving, or countertops
- Replace rain gutter
- Install small appliances
- Replace interior wall coverings
- Minor repairs
- Interior painting
- Fence repair
- Add a small, prefabricated storage shed
Remember these are just guidelines. You will need to find out the specific permit requirements and building codes for your area. Be sure to check city, county, and state agencies. However, if you hire a local, licensed contractor he or she will be very familiar with local laws. Often, the contractor will take care of determining when a permit is needed, and secure the permit themselves, saving you considerable tine and inconvenience.
- Hire a licensed contractor because...
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- Warning signs of a contractor scam