Nothing is more exciting than when you’re doing a major remodeling project on your home. Whether it’s a kitchen, bath, bedroom or all the above, it’s thrilling to anticipate how your home will have fresh, new, updated look when the remodeling is done. Except for a few very brave homeowners, most people who are having their home remodeled will likely work with a licensed contractor, who should know what is required regarding pulling permits and city approvals. However, it might be a good idea to brush up on the basics yourself, just to be safe. Here’s what you need to know about home remodeling and permits.
What is a building permit?
Building permits are written authorizations issued by a city or county to construct a project. They are required for most construction or remodeling projects, to ensure the safety of the work and its compliance with building, construction, and zoning codes.
When do you need a permit for a remodeling project?
Seems like a simple question, but there are no easy answers! There are some projects that almost always need a permit, while others may, and still others do not. An article by The Spruce does a great job listing what may or may not need a permit, but here’s a partial list from that article:
You need a permit if you’re:
- Building an addition
- Moving or removing a load-bearing wall
- Any kind of major demolition
- Garage conversion
You may need a permit if you’re:
- Moving a sink
- Removing or moving a non-load bearing wall
- Replacing doors or window
You probably don’t need a permit if you’re:
- Putting in flooring
- Replacing an existing sink
- Doing minor electrical work
How can you find out if any portion of your remodeling project needs a permit?
Not all construction requires a building permit. Whether your remodeling project needs a permit depends on what is required by your local building code. Each municipality is governed by its own building code, which has its own permitting requirements. Your contractor should know which items require a permit and which don’t but to be safe, it’s best to contact your city building and permit office. Most have information online that you may review. It wouldn’t hurt to share that information with your contractor as well so you’re both on the same page about remodeling and permits.
Should contractors get building permits?
The short answer is that it’s up to you. If you hired a contractor for your project, they’re usually responsible to obtain or “pull” the permit. Keep in mind that the person who pulls the permit is responsible for construction following code, so the responsibility is on them. If you pull the permit, you are typically liable if there is a construction problem. Most opt to have their contractor deal with permits for a few reasons:
- Contractors know what does or doesn’t require a permit
- Contractors are familiar with the process and the city’s inspectors
- The contractor’s preexisting relationship with the city may work to your benefit to not running into issues
How do I pull a permit myself?
If you feel it’d be in your best interest to get a building permit on your own, here are the basic steps though again, each city is different so do your due diligence to make sure you check all the boxes:
- Complete a permit application
- Create a site plan for what you’ll be doing during the remodeling
- Obtain an appointment for the plan approval
Don’t forget that you can’t start any construction until you have received your approval!
How long does it take to get a building permit?
This varies by city and of course, it also depends on whether the application process was done correctly the first time. It’s not uncommon to have to revise the application or site plan before it’s approved. A plan review can take up to two weeks for residential construction. Review times vary, depending on the complexity of the project and the level of information you submit with your application. You want to plan and build that time into your overall remodeling timeline.
The process can be overwhelming, and many people are concerned that their contractor may not follow the process correctly. For kitchen or bath remodeling projects, finding a company that offers comprehensive design services can help manage the process. These companies can guide you through the complexities of kitchen and bath design, overseeing your project from concept to completion.
However, you choose to proceed, it’s a good idea to know about home remodeling and permits to help your project go smoothly.