Which Home Projects Require a Permit and Which Don't?

Before you begin to tackle a home improvement project, you may have to secure a permit from your local government. Rules vary from one location to another. Below are some general guidelines, but you should check with your local building department before you undertake a renovation project to make sure you comply with any relevant laws.

Projects That Typically Require a Permit

If you want to make structural changes to your home, you will have to secure a permit. Those changes may include adding or removing walls, changing the configuration of one or more rooms, finishing a basement, building an addition, or demolishing part of the house. Replacing the roof, installing new windows or exterior doors and building a new garage or deck will probably require a permit. You may also need a permit for large roof repairs.

You will most likely have to get a permit before you begin to make changes to a major system in your house, such as the plumbing, electrical, or HVAC system. The local government will want to make sure the work is done according to code.

Projects That Generally Don’t Require a Permit

Minor renovations, such as replacing your kitchen cabinets or countertops and painting walls, can usually be done without a permit. If you want to construct a fence, check with the building department. The rules may depend on the height of the fence and the type of material used.

Your local government may allow you to build a shed without a permit if it doesn’t exceed a certain size and is a minimum distance from the property line. If you want to construct a larger shed or install electricity and/or plumbing, you will most likely have to get a permit.

Why You Shouldn’t Make Home Improvements Without Getting a Permit

If you proceed with a project without securing the necessary permit, you may face serious consequences, either immediately or years later. If the local government finds out that you’re having work done without a permit, you may be required to stop the renovations and pay a fine. You may also be required to restore your home to the condition it was in before the work began. That means you may spend thousands of dollars and wind up with nothing to show for it.

Renovations performed without a permit may not be done correctly. If you don’t get a permit, the work won’t be inspected. That means your family may live with a serious safety hazard and be unaware of the danger until someone gets hurt.

Even if you don’t get caught making home improvements without a permit and don’t face any safety issues, the decision may come back to haunt you if you decide to sell your house in the future. A home inspection may reveal that work was done without a permit, which may create complications for a potential buyer and may even cause the deal to fall through. 

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2022. All rights reserved.

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