When Do You Need a Permit to Work on Your House

When Do You Need a Permit to Work on Your House

It’s obvious when you’re building a home that you need a building permit. But what about home improvement or remodeling projects of an existing home? And who is responsible for getting the building permit? You’d be surprised that even minor home improvements may require a building permit.

The average American spends about $7,000 on home improvements, with exterior renovation accounting for 20%. And a third of millennials are opting to complete most of the home improvements themselves.

Before you start your next remodel or home improvement project, you’ll want to learn which projects require a building permit. And you need to know the repercussions if you are caught without a permit.

What is a Building Permit?

A building permit is written permission from your city or county that authorizes a construction project on your home. It creates a record with the government that verifies that the renovations meet building safety codes. Most construction and remodeling projects require a building permit to:

  • Ensure work safety
  • Require compliance with building, construction, and zoning codes

Because most remodeling projects require a permit, it is a good rule of thumb to abide by: if in doubt, get a permit. 

Related Link: How to Add Space to Your House

How to Get a Building Permit

While the process can change depending on your city or county, to obtain a building permit, you need to:

  • Complete a building permit application with your city or county.
  • Provide a site plan for the project.
  • Schedule an appointment to get the project approved.
  • Obtain the building permit.
  • Schedule any necessary inspections by the city.
  • Receive final approval from the city once the project is complete.

Remember to file for an application weeks before you begin your project because the city may take its time to approve the project.

My Site Plan offers three different site-plan options for a residential or commercial building permit to help you create an approved site plan for your remodeling project. The Residential Medium Site Plan is an affordable, popular option because it is widely accepted by HOA and city building departments for obtaining a permit.

Do you need a site plan ASAP? My Site Plan offers many services home improvement and building projects.

Related Link: My Site Plan Customer Reviews

house under construction

Projects that Require a Building Permit

Local building codes largely influence whether your home remodeling project will need a building permit. You’ll need to visit your local city office or website to find out its building permit requirements. Codes usually reflect an area’s regional issues, such as climate, geography, or population.

Remodeling projects that may create unsafe work conditions will usually require a permit. These types of projects include:

  • Installing or replacing plumbing or electrical
  • Demolishing a part of your house
  • Adding or removing walls
  • Converting a room for different use
  • Updating or fixing piping
  • Re-roofing your home
  • Fixing or replacing heating

You’ll need a permit if the project requires structural, electrical, mechanical, or plumbing changes. You can often find permit information on a city website. Any remodeling projects that cost over $5000 will generally require a permit.

Projects that DON’T Require a Permit

Luckily not all home improvements require a permit. Typical projects that don’t need a permit are:

  • Landscaping improvements
  • Painting your house
  • Replacing appliances
  • Repaving walkways or driveways
  • Installing new flooring
  • Building a new fence
  • Adding or replacing cabinets

Cosmetic updates to your home usually don’t require a permit.

Cosmetic Projects Often Don’t Require a Building Permit

Who Arranges for the Permit?

If you hire a contractor for a home improvement project, they generally know if they need a building permit. If they do, they will get the permit because they are responsible for ensuring the work follows city building codes.

You may want to discuss this with your contractor before you begin the project. They often have good relationships with the permit office and the inspectors, which can help fast track your project.

If you contractor suggests skipping the permit because it will add additional costs or slow the project down, while they may be correct, this isn’t a good idea. For project requires structural, electrical, mechanical, or plumbing changes, you need the permit if you ever plan to sell your home.

If you apply for the permit, understand that the city will hold you liable for the work if it doesn’t pass inspection, even if you have a contractor do the work for you. You’ll need to weigh the costs because contractors may charge extra for submitting for permits.

Can I Skip Getting a Permit?

Do not skip getting a permit. Work with your contractor to ensure all permits are obtained before starting your home improvement project. If you’re caught without a permit, the city may:

  • Stop your remodeling project.
  • Require you to tear down any work
  • Require that you obtain a permit.
  • Increase permit fees by double or triple.

It’s not worth the risk. Also, if you ever sell your home, you may need to provide proof of permits and inspections for any major remodeling work.

If you have an upcoming remodeling project that isn’t cosmetic, you will want to check with your contractor or city building codes to see if you need a building permit. Make sure to file for a permit well before you start your project because the city can be slow approving permits depending on where you live.

My Site Plan has a team of experienced CAD designers who can create a non-certified site plan for various home improvement, building, and remodeling projects. After gathering the required information, My Site Plan can create a site plan within 24 hours for most projects.

Do you have a home improvement project that requires a site plan to obtain a building permit? My Site Plan can create a site plan for your project within 24 hours.

Related Link: My Site Plan Frequently Asked Questions

Question Answer
What are the potential penalties for not complying with local building codes beyond fines and project halts? Non-compliance with local building codes, aside from resulting in fines and project halts, can lead to legal actions, increased insurance costs, and difficulties in selling the property. It may also pose safety risks, leading to liability issues in the event of accidents or injuries.
How long does a building permit remain valid once issued, and what happens if it expires before the project is completed? The validity of a building permit varies by location but typically ranges from six months to one year. If a permit expires before project completion, you'll need to renew it. Failure to renew can lead to the same penalties as not having a permit, including fines and forced project cessation.
Can changes to the original project plans affect the building permit, and how should these changes be handled? Yes, any significant changes to the original project plans can affect the building permit. Such changes should be reported to the permitting authority, which may require a revision of the permit or additional approvals to ensure compliance with building codes.
Are there any exceptions or special considerations for historic homes when it comes to building permits? Yes, historic homes often have different requirements to preserve their architectural integrity. This may include restrictions on materials and techniques used or requirements to obtain additional approvals from historic preservation committees.
How can homeowners verify that a contractor has actually obtained the necessary permits for a remodeling project? Homeowners should ask the contractor for proof of permit acquisition and can verify permits by contacting their local building department. This ensures that the work is authorized and compliant with local regulations.

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  • Ryan Crownholm