That is the real question. Every city is different when it comes to what you need a permit for and what you don’t. Some cities require you to get a permit for a garage sale, putting up a new or replacing your fence, or even replacing the windows in your home. But for this article we are going to discuss permits for bath and kitchen remodels. Why is it important? What happens if you don’t?
What do you need permits for?
Each contractor has to be registered with each city where they work. Meaning, the electrician, plumber, HVAC, and often the general contractor. When you have a general contractor managing all your subs they register with the city, they have to turn in their plans for your project and get the permit for the job. Each subcontractor will then register under that job.
Once permits are issued the work can get started. At the beginning of the project you can have the following inspections: foundation, insulation, plumbing, electrical, HVAC, framing, window and exterior door inspections. The city official will check all new or moved plumbing lines, electrical wires, make sure framing and insulation is up to code before drywall is put on, check new or moved HVAC lines, and make sure that the exterior door and windows meet energy code. Bath remodel rough in comes in two parts; first inspection is to check the plumbing lines before concrete is poured, second is when the shower pan/tub is installed to insure that the plumbing won’t leak. Smoke detectors have become important in many cities. If smoke detectors are missing from EACH bedroom, one in the hall outside the bedroom(s), kitchen and they’re not tied together so if one goes off they all go off, they will require them to be brought to code. The only exception to the smoke detectors being tied together is if it would be impossible/price prohibitive to tie them all together – think 2nd story posing impediments to this being completed. Once your project is finished, a final inspection is completed.
Permits and inspections are a matter of public record. So, if you decide to sell your home and the buyer knows to look this up they can question any failed inspections or inspections not done at all.
Why do you have to have permits?
Really, the permits and inspections are to help protect you the home owner. You really don’t want just anyone doing electrical, HVAC or plumbing work and without an inspection, you could also end up in a situation if something did happen – fire as a result of faulty electrical work – your insurance may not pay.
What happens if you don’t get permits?
Everyone tries to save money where they can, and some think well, if I skip the city permits, that’ll be okay, right? How will they know? I’m confident my friends and neighbors are not going to call the city and turn me in. Permits can get pretty costly, as some cities charge more than others. But the cost of getting caught without one… is endless.
Let’s pretend you or your general contractor decided to try and skate by without a permit. A city official for whatever reason drives down your street and sees contractors walking around or their work trucks parked in front of your house and they don’t see the permit that is supposed to be hanging in your window visible from the street. They will then start inquiring as to what is taking place.
If the work that is being done should have a permit, all work has to stop immediately. Say goodbye to that completion date you had in mind. You or the contractor will then have to submit work plans. The city can decide to decline registration for the contractor as well and keep him from registering and working in that city again if they choose. If that happens, you have to find another contractor to finish the work.
Let’s say the city official found you out at the end of your project. The painters, plumber and electrician were there doing the final touches. The city can make you expose the areas where work was done so that they can inspect. Not only can the fines from the city for the lack of permit and proper inspections have to be paid for, but you could potentially end up paying for completed work twice. Fines vary from city to city, but it is usually the permit fee doubled or tripled.
As you’ve read, permitted work does add an additional cost to your project, but why wouldn’t you want your work completed so it insures the safety of your home and family?