Do You Need a Permit for Your Renovation?

The rise of companies that obtain permits needed for any sort of home improvement or renovation has been quite sudden and strong. That is because, as one expert said, “Determining if you need a permit for your home remodeling project can be difficult because permitting departments often frustrate homeowners’ attempts to sort out rules.”

Why is that the case?

Sadly, many make commercial projects their priority and leave homeowners to figure things out for themselves. This is not out of spite or simple meanness but because of sheer mathematics. It is commercial builders, tradesmen and women, and contractors who seek out the largest numbers of such permits, and so they get the most attention.

So, you can look for local companies that offer to do all of that legwork for you, but if there is no such person operating in your area, we have some answers in a general sense. It is important to note that most areas are different and have different requirements. Yet, a list of work that will always demand a permit of some kind would include anything to do with plumbing, electrical and fuel or gas. As that same expert wrote, “Projects touching on those areas will require permits. With changing safety codes and a need for greater revenue, cities, and counties shift more projects to the ‘Permit Required’ list.”

That list can often include:

  • Additions
  • Decks (usually those over 30″ in total height)
  • Demolition (permits are often needed not for the project but for the dumpster used for debris)
  • Driveway installation
  • Electrical (typically new installation or adding circuits)
  • Fences (typically adding a fence over six feet in height requires a permit, and this includes a fence made of living materials like shrubs)
  • Fireplaces or chimneys (adding fireplaces and wood stoves require permits, but simple chimney work will not)
  • Garages (building them or converting them means getting a permit)
  • Home expansions
  • HVAC (new installations)
  • Plumbing
  • Roofing (re-roofing, changing the roof pitch or material may require a permit)
  • Sewer
  • Walls (taking down load-bearing walls requires a permit)
  • Water heater installation
  • Windows and exterior door installations

Additionally, you may find you need a permit for some types of interior plumbing and for certain kinds of landscaping.

What to Do About Permits
How can you be sure you do not violate your town or city requirements about permits? The simplest solution is to pick up the phone and ask someone in the permitting office, or even go into the office and ask your specific questions in person. Often, forms are needed and this can be a good way to obtain the forms and become familiar with the people who will help to see you through to the end of the process. Of course, you may still not be 100% sure of whether or not you need a permit, and so most experts would say to go ahead and apply for it, and find out from the town or city agency that it was (or wasn’t required).