Permits for the DIY'er


Old 02-19-14, 10:51 PM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2014
Location: USA
Posts: 10
Permits for the DIY'er

In planning all the many projects I have for our first home I was wondering whats the DIY rule for permits. I know my limits and have no plans to ever attempt any major demolition or overhaul, electrical upgrades or plumbing repairs without expert advice. That being said, for all the small projects around the house such as adding interior/exterior lighting, replacing sinks and toilets, adding garbage disposals and garage door openers and all the small things that "customise" a home, is one required to have all these upgrades permitted and inspected?
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Old 02-20-14, 12:18 AM
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Wet side of Washington state.
Posts: 18,399
It depend entirely on your LOCAL jurisdiction. That could be your city, your county or even your state depending on where you live and the size of the political subdivision. Remember this, NONE of the "model codes" have any enforcement power unless and until enacted into law by a political subdivision. When enacting the law the political subdivision has the power to add to or delete from the model code. Further, there does not need to be any reason for any addition or deletion.

Some places require a permit for a roof replacement or for removing any tree on your property. Other places don't care what you do. Some places are really trying to help and others just want the permit fees. If you live in a "planned community" that has restrictive covenants then these will add to what you (generally) may NOT do without permission. This can include the color you paint your house, the color or style of window shades, the type of roofing allowed and even if you can park a truck where it can be seen from the street.

Almost always electrical work beyond simple replacement of light switches, receptacles and light fixtures will require a permit and inspection. Same is true for any plumbing work. Where I used to live a simple remodel of a kitchen, one not requiring any plumbing or electrical changes required a permit. Sometimes doing what you might think is okay triggers a requirement to upgrade certain systems to current requirements. An example is if the walls inside a kitchen are opened then the electrical is often required to be brought to current code.

Simple things like changing interior paint colors or wallpaper rarely require a permit although some area will require a permit for replacement flooring where others don't care in the least. Some areas have very specific requirements on what materials are allowed. An example of this is Cook County Illinois (Chicago area) does not allow type NM flexible cable for any electrical work but insists upon conduit.

Your LOCAL building department, either city or county, is the best source of information on what requires a permit and what doesn't.
Old 02-20-14, 04:50 AM
Group Moderator
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: NC, USA
Posts: 17,949
Pretty much what Furd said. I would call your local Inspections Dept and just talk to them. Politely explain your situation and that you want to do things right and would like to know when and when they don't expect a permit and inspection. In general I've found inspectors to be very helpful. If you're working on a project that needs to be inspected don't be a afraid to ask them what they want to see or what common problem areas they often run into.
Old 02-20-14, 02:23 PM
Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: United States
Posts: 2,446
I agree with Furd and Pilot Dane you really should check with your permit office and explain to them what you want to do. Generally though little things can go by without a permit like putting in a garbage disposal or changing a like fixture and lastly replacing switches and plugs. All of those things can be done without ever having to get a permit.
Old 02-20-14, 11:17 PM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2014
Location: USA
Posts: 10
Sounds good. Thanks for the heads up.
Old 02-21-14, 05:34 AM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: USA
Posts: 6,127
Getting a permit and getting a final sign-off is always a big benefit when you go to sell. A good home inspector hired by a purchaser can usually spot changes and raise a red flag and the selling price goes down if there is not proof it was complying, and approved construction.


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