Making Improvements – Do I Need a Permit?

What to Know About Permitting Home ImprovementsThe opportunity to renovate one's own property is a huge draw when it comes to purchasing a home. Instead of being afraid to do little things like paint the walls or hang pictures, homeowners love being able to make dramatic changes at a moment's notice.

Whether home improvement projects are for cosmetic reasons or they improve the condition of the property, people should think twice before they begin knocking down walls and building decks. Many projects require permits, as the city regulates certain data on all homes. Want to know if you need a permit or not? Here are some common projects that homeowners undergo and what's required for each.

Ready, Set, Build!

Before beginning any type of home renovation project, it's always wise to be aware of the specifics of the project and find out if a permit is required first. Here are some of the more common types of work that homeowners tend to do themselves:

  • Cosmetic additions like carpet, wallpaper, paint, or new flooring typically do not need a permit before the project can begin.
  • Work to the outside of the home, like replacing the roof with a similar type of shingle or updating siding usually do not need permits.
  • Building fences and decks get into a bit of a gray area - depending on the height of either item, a permit may or may not be required. Be sure to check with your local permitting office for specifics.
  • Major remodels totalling over $5,000 or ones that create a dramatic change to the layout of the home will usually require authorization before moving forward.
  • A new water heater, adding electrical outlets, or attempting to make changes to the sewer line are all items that will likely require permits as well.

Why Is A Permit So Important?

Getting a permit for your home improvement project isn't just a way for the city to keep tabs on your home - it ensures that projects are being completed safely and correctly. Work that isn't permitted has a greater chance of being done by inexperienced homeowners who want to save some money by doing repairs themselves. This can create a huge safety hazard, especially when dealing with electrical or plumbing issues.

While avoiding a permit might be tempting for some, it can actually make it harder to sell a home in the long run. Home inspectors are very thorough when looking at a property, and if they notice work that has been completed poorly and is unsafe, it usually means the owner will have to spend more money fixing the issue or could have a hard time selling altogether.

If the local permit office finds out about home improvements that have not been permitted, the homeowner is subject to code violations and could run the risk of paying fines as well as having to redo the work they've just completed.

Repercussions for Not Having a Permit

Depending on local laws, fines for performing work without a permit can range from $100 to $1,000 per day. If the project is in progress, all work will need to stop until a permit is acquired. If it has already been completed, however, then the improvements may need to be torn down or redone to avoid even more penalties.

Additional fines may be piled on for any code violations found during the inspection. The first violation may only cost $100, but it just goes up from there. As new violations are found within the same year, the fines tend to double and triple. The code enforcement officer will usually provide a deadline for the fixes or even more fines could apply.

Although it can take a little while, getting the proper permits is often much easier than dealing with all these repercussions. As it prevents all those fines, the permits will also potentially save homeowners money that can be used for other improvement projects in the future.

Going About It The Right Way

Home improvement projects can be stressful enough on their own, but getting a permit from the local government office will actually make the job easier. Homeowners should know exactly what is within their rights to do or not do. Not only will the work be done correctly, but it will create a smooth path down the road when it comes time to sell the home.

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