Do it Right, Do it Once: Permits and Inspections


If you’re going to do a home improvement project, you’re probably wondering if you will need to get a building permit. In most cases if the project is small, then most likely you won’t need one. Typically if the job requires an inspection such as a deck or out building, you will need to get a permit. If its cost is under $500 then you might not need one.

Calling ahead to the building department will set you straight and they probably have an already made list of the things you as a home owner can do without a license and permit.

If you’re going to do your own project without the help from a licensed professional, then you still will need advice and help from building inspectors in your area. If you risk not getting a permit and getting caught, you could be hit with a large fee or told to remove the work you’ve already done. Its not legal and it’s an expense you can easily avoid by using these tips for deciding if you need a building permit.

Many of the frequently required permits vary from area to area.

Some of the more common building permits are for the following:

  • Projects that involve structural work such as adding windows, doors, and general openings in your walls or roof. This includes some interior doors and if you plan on removing a wall.
  • Building a deck, fence, outbuilding, or pool. Codes exist for fences in many neighborhoods for height restrictions, types of fence, easement concerns and even the way a fence may look. Many neighborhoods require that you only put a fence in your backyard.
  • Adding electrical outlets, new circuits, outdoor circuits or lighting fixtures. It may seem excessive, but it is a safety concern and is something that a professional should help with or at least to give advice in
  • Installing and replacing appliances. This includes refrigerators, water heaters air conditioners and furnaces and fireplaces. Again there is a safety concern here with fire hazards for fireplaces and electrical. Proper plumbing procedures should be addressed also by a professional.
  • Finishing a basement or attic space. You will probably be required to submit a blueprint or plan for this. It’s the same as building a room addition. With insulation, electrical, and plumbing possibly being added, it can be like adding on to the exterior of your home.
Check Out: How to Save On Time and Money In Building Your Home

Some smaller projects may or may not require an inspection in your area. Larger projects may require 2 or 3 and up to a dozen or more. Once you get an inspection, the building inspector will tell you what you need to do to pass. If you pass then you may move on to the next phase. Your inspection must be completed and filed with the building department to be able to complete the next phase.

Some of the more common building inspections are:

  • Foundation and footing inspections. These include footing depth, proper layout of steel and dowels and form placement.
  • Rough framing inspection and sheathing. Included here are proper load bearing structures, standard building code practices and nailing patterns.
  • Rough plumbing and final plumbing. Pressure checks on fixtures, and drain and vents.
  • Insulation inspections. Proper vapor barriers, attic venting and sealing of doors windows and penetrations through walls and roofing
  • Rough and final electrical inspections. Electric panels, boxes, and national building codes are followed properly.
  • Final inspections. Completion of the project and all codes has been followed including pest control and address numbers are posted.

These practices are in place for a reason. Safety concerns for people and surroundings are important. Weather such as hurricanes, tornadoes and snow are some of the more common concerns of building inspections. Always check with your local building department for what they require and what they don’t. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

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