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When Do You Need a Building Permit in Your Home Renovation?

“Help! Do I need a building permit for my home improvement project?” This is a question posed by many a homeowner. The simplest solution is to ask your remodeling contractor. In most cases the remodeling contractor takes care of the paperwork.

Why is a building permit necessary?

A building permit ensures you meet local building codes and safety regulations. It is an absolute necessity if you’re having major work done on your house, such as an addition, significant renovations, or new construction – normally any project that makes a structural change to your home. If you have construction that wasn’t properly permitted, your municipality could make you tear it down. Make sure your remodeling contractor has the right permits BEFORE work begins.

What about smaller projects?

Permitting is tricky, however, because it’s all local. A project that doesn’t require a permit in one jurisdiction may need one in another municipality. Projects that may need a permit in some areas include: putting in a swimming pool, replacing a roof, putting up a sign, or installing lawn sprinklers or retaining walls. Some projects that might not ordinarily need a permit may require one if your home is a historic structure. In fact, if you live within a historic district, Manual J a permit is often required to ensure any exterior changes to your home are in line with neighborhood guidelines.

Remember your HOA

Likewise, most homeowners’ associations require permission to make exterior changes to your property. This is typically your responsibility, not that of the remodeling contractor.

There are a number of projects that do not normally require a permit in most locales:

• Routine maintenance, inside or outside
• Painting, wallpapering, installing trim, or other finish work
• Laying tile or carpets
• Installing cabinets or countertops
• Putting in fences under six feet
• Rebuilding a deck
• Installing a walkway
• Plumbing work such as replacing or repairing faucets or toilets
• Electrical work such as installing switches
• Putting in or repairing driveways
• Hanging gutters
• Installing window awnings

How do I apply for my own building permit?

If you are doing your own work or agreed to handle permitting rather than relying on your remodeling contractor, contact your municipal housing authority to obtain the initial application packet. Once approved and all fees are paid, construction can begin. Remember to post your permit on the work site. TIP: Your local government will often post information about building permits for homeowners on its website.

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