HOME IMPROVEMENT PERMITS: WHEN YOU NEED THEM, HOW TO OBTAIN THEM
If you have a desire to really irritate someone who is planning a home improvement project, ask them if they have their home improvement permits yet. The typical response is both a disgusted look and, “NO! I don’t want to go through the hassle and expense”, or, “It’s not a very big project, I think I’ll just take my chances.”
Of course, there are also many varieties of other thoughts on the matter ranging from unrepeatable comments to sheepish confessions that they have no idea of what a permit is used for. As a rule-of-thumb, you will definitely need a home improvement permit if you are:
1. Changing the “foot print” of the building (ground floor additions)
2. Adding to the mass of the structure (second floor addition)
3. Making changes which will alter the structural supports (removing or altering load bearing walls)
4. Modifying mechanical, electrical or plumbing systems.
As you can see, most remodeling projects are going to require one or more of these categories to get anything accomplished. One of the functions of a building department is to enforce the rules that insure you reside in a safe structure and that subsequent owners can do the same.
In the event you are one of those owner-builders who are not sure of what a permit is for or are irritated that you need to go through the process, here are a few good things you get when you hand over the money for a building permit:
• With your permit comes an inspector. “Oh Great”, you say sarcastically, but an inspector on the project really is a good thing. In most cases, inspectors are well trained and experienced in the building field. They will assure the work being done, either by you or by others, is structurally sound, building codes are being met and local codes and ordinances are addressed. A good inspector can become a valuable part of your advisory team.
• The permit process includes a plan check by the issuing city or county. If you have done the building plans yourself, this is a way to have engineering, as well as code, safety and zoning issues checked, thus assuring a quality project in the end.
• Many municipalities will give you, as a part of the permit package, a sequential list of construction activities that need to be inspected. This becomes your guide to when to call for an inspection and what has to be completed before you ask to have the inspector on site.
• A permit is, in all but rare cases, necessary for lenders to release construction loan funds. Construction loans are based on the increased appraised value your project will afford to the property. The permit helps to convince them that they are funding a quality project and that their proposed appraisal values will hold true.
• Projects completed under a permit are generally assessed at greater values.
• Resale of the building can be affected by whether improvements and/or additions were completed under a permit. Realtors have pointed out that potential home buyers can be very leery of work done without a permit.
• A number of housing communities will want to review your plans and permits to give their approval of the project.
Admittedly, “pulling a permit” can be a source of frustration, annoyance and added cost at a time when all you want to do is get your budget and builders together.
But, take a deep breath and remember the benefits headed your way once you jump through some hoops to get a permit approved project. The permit process itself is not complicated, but can take some time to clear through the building department. So make applying for a permit one of your preliminary concerns in preparing to start building.
For more insights on new construction and remodels, especially for the owner ready to take control and save money, to see this major investment play out successfully, is to have a blueprint for success.
My How To book, “Screw It! I’ll Be My OWN Contractor,” is available on Amazon in print and eBook formats.
For a small investment in this highly readable, comprehensive guide on DIY project management, “Screw It!” answers all your questions, from hiring the right architect to securing permits and more. If you have any other questions, feel free to contact me using the form on the Contact page in this site. YOU can do this!