Start your remodel off on the right foot with the right remodeling permits
Most homeowners know that major home remodeling projects need some sort of permit, but there’s often little information about the type of permit that’s needed, whether small projects even need one, how to get one, and what getting a permit means for the homeowner and contractor. Because of all of this confusion, many homeowners choose to risk it and go ahead with the remodel without a permit, which can have significant consequences. Here is everything you need to know about getting the right remodeling permits for your home remodeling project.
While the process of obtaining a home remodeling permit can be quite a headache, it’s nothing for those who choose to start or complete a home remodeling project without one and get caught. A neighbor could rat you out, you could experience problems along the way and require a specialist, you might have trouble finding a qualified contractor, and chances are you’ll be discovered when you sell the house. Fines always apply to work that’s been done without a permit, and sometimes the work will have to be removed which could mean you’ve lost out on your entire investment and then some (not to mention the additional time and cost of removing your remodel). The risks of remodeling without a permit far outweigh the benefits. Also, beware of any contractor who is willing to work or insists on working without a permit, as this is a red flag that there will be other problems.
Why are permits required for home remodeling?
Home remodeling permits are designed to protect the homeowner and any future owners. By ensuring the work is completed in a safe and proven manner the home will be able to be sold without worry. Plus, a permit acts as a contract between the city and the homeowner or contractor to ensure the construction is safe and to code.
How to know if your remodel needs a permit
Part of the confusion lies in the fact that most cities can choose for themselves which building codes they want. There is no federal standard (except for green remodeling) or even a state-wide standard for homeowners, so consulting with your city will provide you with answers. For example, San Diego remodeling contractors and homeowners will need a permit for electrical, plumbing, demolition, mechanical and structural work, but they can also obtain a combination permit that allows multiple different types of work to be done under the same permit. Things like minor plumbing or electrical repairs, cabinets or countertops, painting, and adding a fence less than 6 feet tall do not require permits in most cities, but it’s best to check to be sure. At the very least, your city webpage will have a phone number you can call to ask whether or not your planned improvement requires a permit.
How and when to get the right remodeling permits
If your project requires a permit, you should apply after the plans have been drawn and finalized. This allows the city to review exactly what is planned. Changing your plans after obtaining the permit can result in fines and penalties and you’ll have to return the location to its original state. It’s your responsibility (or your contractor’s) to call the city for an inspection at various stages of the remodel, which will be outlined on your permit, and then for a final inspection at completion. A city inspector will quickly know if you’ve changed the plans without getting approval first.
If you’re hiring a contractor, he or she should obtain the permit for you. This will save you time and money in most cases (good contractors include the cost of obtaining the permit in their overall cost of the project) and will put the burden of responsibility on the contractor, not on you, for any issues or problems. Plus, a contractor can get the permits at a lower cost because additions like cabinets don’t require permits and don’t need to be included in the overall cost.
Building permits are obtained from your city’s development department. Check your local government webpage for information on location and a phone number, or if you can submit your plans and obtain approval electronically. Depending on the scope of your remodel you could walk out with approval the very same visit, while other projects require plans to be reviewed by a committee and a return visit is needed. The length of time will vary based on the scope of the remodel and the city.
What do remodeling permits cost?
Remodeling permit costs are based on the overall cost of the project. Unfortunately there’s no cut and dry answer to how much a particular permit will cost as it will change from city to city and project to project. A city official will review your plans and assign a fee based on your individual project. Usually a contractor will cover the cost of the permits in his contract, saving you the hassle. You might be able to check with your city government to determine the likely fees ahead of time, but remember that these will still be rough estimates.