Do I Need a Building Permit for My Home Improvement Project?

If you plan to build a new house or renovate your current home, you most likely will need building permits. Local governments require building permits for the safety of you the homeowner, the contractor, and the general public. Permits ensure that builders and renovators adhere to both local and federal building codes and requirements. Examples of local building requirements include the type and quality of building materials, size and location of rooms and the ability to withstand hurricane-force winds. Federal building codes include requirements relating to energy conservation and building accessibility.

Local governments issue permits to property owners, licensed contractors, architects and engineers. If you hire contractors to build on or renovate your property, it is your responsibility to ensure the needed permits are obtained, not the contractor’s. If your contractor does not obtain the proper permits, you may be ticketed or fined. Consider pulling the proper permits as a dual responsibility of both you the homeowner and the contractor.

If the contractor agrees to pull permits always ask the contractor to see the permits for a job before work begins. You must post a copy of the required permits on active job sites. The best plans do not always go as scheduled and it is possible that work at the site may not start on time. If the project has not started within a certain time after you obtain the permit, it may become invalid.

To find out whether you need building permits, and when you need them, contact your local building authority or visit their website. Depending on the scope of your project, you may need several permits.

Here are some examples of types of permits:

  • Building permit: construction work that alters the premises including the addition of a swimming pool
  • Electric permit: install, alter, reconstruct, or repair electrical wiring on any buildings and/or mechanical equipment
  • Plumbing permit: install alter, reconstruct, or repair any plumbing system, gas system, sprinkler supply, and/ or water heater
  • Roofing permit: installation of new roofing materials
  • Mechanical permit: install, alter, reconstruct, or repair any furnace, refrigeration, or other air condition equipment or system

Building departments require ongoing and final inspections of projects. Cities and counties keep records of permits to confirm improvements, additions, replacements and repairs. To obtain a permit, you must complete an application and include a detailed plan of the scope of work your contractor will perform. The plan may include blueprints or drawings with locations of mechanical systems. Permit processes and fees vary depending on the locality, so contact your local building authority or visit their website for additional details.

The projects listed below usually do not require a permit, but always check with your local building authority. Even projects that do not require permits must conform to building code requirements.

  • Utility sheds less than 100 square feet
  • Chain link, vinyl, or wood fences that are 6’ or less in height
  • Paving driveways
  • Work strictly cosmetic in nature, such as painting and installing wallpaper, carpet, or kitchen cabinets

Every job site is different, but the overall goal of a safe worksite is essential. Additional steps maybe needed to secure the site o that no one gets hurt during an exterior remodel. Determine if your locality requires safety barriers to be installed around your home’s construction site. You don’t want your remodel to become the basis for a claim against your homeowners policy. Adherence to building permits ensures your contractor maintains a safe work environment and your home is safe for many years to come.

Disclaimer: This blog is a general guideline. Always consult your local and state building departments before you begin your home improvement project.

Please remember that the comments contained in this blog are general in nature and that coverage under any specific policy of insurance will depend upon the terms and conditions of such policy.