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Does Your DIY Need a Building Permit?

Posted by Bruce Jones on Thursday, January 17th, 2019 at 1:38am.

Previously an article I wrote for - the original content can be found here.

 Many homeowners choose to tackle their home improvement projects themselves rather than hiring out. According to’s survey, 65 percent of 1,882 homeowners described their upcoming home improvement projects as do-it-yourself (DIY). Although DIYs are more popular and affordable, they can also require permits that you may not be aware of. Determining what projects require a permit depends on the local building code and this can vary from county to county. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when starting your next DIY project:

1. Before You Get Started: Know What You Need

Before starting your DIY project, make sure you know what you need for obtaining your permit. Have you budgeted the cost of the permit into your project? Do you have a timeline in place for how long it will take to obtain a permit? Are you prepared to deal with a denied permit or are you capable of making any potential changes your municipality may require? Getting a permit can be costly and time consuming. According to “the average building permit costs $1,237.” However, doing the proper planning beforehand can eliminate any unforeseen hassles.

2. Eliminate the Risks: Research Permits

Failing to get the proper permits for a project can cause a myriad of problems including your insurance company not accepting a claim, issues with appraisals, or property inspections revealing missing permits that may create wary buyers. A couple of months ago, I represented a buyer purchasing a renovated home that had previously been purchased through a bank foreclosure and flipped. The seller had the know-how and resources to do many of the renovations himself and this almost certainly saved him a significant amount of money. The roof of the home looked great, but when the inspector went up into the attic there were multiple code violations that raised red flags. The dates stamped on the sheathing showed the roof was only 8 years old. However, when pulling the permits on the property, we learned the newer roof never had a permit. The lack of a permit and the new seller’s inability to produce an invoice, allowed us enough leverage to negotiate a brand-new roof for my buyer. It was an expensive lesson I am sure the seller won’t forget.

3. Contact Your Local Municipality

To avoid potential expenses and safety risks, you will want to begin by contacting your local municipality. You can find this information by searching your local municipalities website or by contacting your local permits and inspections division. Permits will generally be required for projects such as new construction, additions, remodeling, and repairs to electrical, mechanical, and plumbing systems. Examples include:

  • Enclosures and Carports
  • Decks and Patio Covers
  • Re-roofing
  • Swimming Pools and Spas

Permits are not just another way for cities to make money. They allow the local city or county inspector to review the project at critical stages. This ensures that the work is done properly from start to finish, preventing mistakes that may otherwise cause safety hazards in the future.

4. Save All Documentation

Permits protect the homeowners investment in the property by ensuring the work has been documented. This protects a future seller by providing prospective buyers tangible proof of when the work was completed.

Completing DIY projects can be rewarding; nonetheless, by avoiding required permits, you may be jeopardizing the financial rewards, as well as putting you and your family at risk. Do not forget the crucial step of pulling permits for your next DIY project. Doing so can give you peace of mind in knowing that your home is safe and can ultimately save you money in the future.


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