Are you looking at your house and dreaming of renovations? Do you envision yourself twirling around your new and improved walk-in master closet or enjoying your new kitchen or addition? Well, dream on! But be sure to keep your feet on the ground even if your head is in the clouds. You’ll want to find out if you’ll need a building permit for the work you’re planning on doing. Residential building permits are also different than commercial building permits, so making sure you know which you need and what the requirements for each are is necessary. Every state (and even different cities) have varying regulations for when you need to go get residential building permits and skipping getting the permit can lead to big problems later on down the road. For one thing, it’s not going to be pretty if you get caught. So why do you need a permit and how do you go about getting one?
Why Are Building Permits Even Necessary?
Building permits make sure that all the work being done is up to various safety codes — it’s not just for your safety, but for those around you, and anyone who might be working on making the renovations or repairs to the building. The International Code Council (ICC), which was founded in 1994, updates their requirements every three years. These manuals dictate 15 integrated, topical, and geographically specific model codes, such as the International Building Code (IBC), the International Residential Code (IRC), and the International Existing Building Code (IEBC).
Chances are, if you’re doing major work, like remodeling a room (which accounts for over 30% of renovations done), you’re going to need a permit. Over 98% of residential buildings that are owned privately were built in places that require a permit to be issued for work. Additions or modifying your home’s structure or roof line, adding fireplaces, altering your sewer, and carrying out major demolitions also usually require a permit.
Other Than Safety, Why Do I Need to Bother With Residential Building Permits?
Not seeking out residential building permits could get you in trouble later on down the line, if you try to sell your home. If you sell via a real estate company, you have to tell them about any repairs or home improvement work done and the status of permits and inspections on those projects; modifications that were not issued a permit may have to be destroyed, left unoccupied, or fixed. Your insurance may also not cover property or damages as a result of work done without a permit.
Ugh, So What Should I Expect?
A permit can be under $100 or as much as $1,000 or more; it largely depends on where you live, and what size and value of work is being done. For a contractor, securing a permit is between $200-400 and filing a project is anywhere between $1,500 and $3,500. However, not doing so puts you at much greater risk, so spend the money and do it!
If you’re in a rush, there are permit expediting services available where a permit expeditor can do so for you. Today there are over 8,300 permit expeditors working in the United States, compared to between 300 and 400 in the early 1990s. These representatives have to register with the Building Department and pay $50 every year to stand in lines at department offices.
You’ll have to submit your building plan to local building officials; if you’re hiring a professional like a designer, architect, or contractor, you’ll want to talk with him or her first. They’re more likely to be aware of and up to date on new or existing codes and permit requirements. Be as specific as you can be about size, scope, and type of your project so you’re prepared to explain it to the officials you meet with.
It’s not in your best interests to skip the crucial (and legal!) step of obtaining a building permit! There are many legal and financial ramifications that can haunt you later if you choose to ignore getting one. A strict Homeowner’s Association may also make your life difficult if they learn you’ve done repairs or construction without one.