Forum Thread

Do you ever get a building permit for stuff you do in your own home?

oynot 277 51 July 10, 2011 at 08:56 AM
I asked about it, regrettably, could have claimed ignorance is bliss.

Was told I could change a faucet washer, but not the faucet. I can change a light bulb but not the fixture. In essence, I can do maintenance but not repairs or improvements.

So if I need to, say, change a light switch or a faucet or change a light fixture I need a permit for electrical and plumbing?

And likewise if I'm changing the tiles in the bath and need to pull out the vanity and toilet I need one for remodeling and plumbing?

Does anyone actually do that and will insurance really deny a claim if they find anything done without a permit?

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#2
Actually this all depends on your local laws and regulations.
In MOST cases, a Homeowner can make pretty major changes to their home in both plumbing and electrical fixtures WITHOUT a permit.
Where you run into permit issues is usually when replacing structural/systems items and anything that has to do with Gas lines.

IE you can replace the shower valve in your tub/shower without needing a permit, however if you replace the tub/shower itself you need a permit.

Or you can replace faucet on your kitchen sink but not the Hot Water heater.

Every locale is different in what is required, however most I have ever seen give much more leniency to the homeowner doing work themselves versus hiring it done.


As to insurance, the only time I have ever seen a denial of a claim is when the work was done incorrectly and was deemed to be the cause of the issue.
This was in reference to a person replacing their own water heater and an improper installation causing a ruptured pipe that flooded the basement.
Luckily it was an unfinished basement.
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#3
Don't ask, Don't tell.

Fix your stuff and don't make it obvious to the neighbors. Hide the trash and work out of sight.

People will complain when they see you improving your property.
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#4
Quote from G37 View Post :
Don't ask, Don't tell.

Fix your stuff and don't make it obvious to the neighbors. Hide the trash and work out of sight.

People will complain when they see you improving your property.
be sneaky about it.
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#5
Laws vary and what-not, but based on my experience with permit enforcement and stuff, here is my advice:
1) Never perform work that modifies the outside of your home without a permit. Don't re-roof, add a skylight or window, or modify a chimney without a permit. It's fine to repair a window.
2) Always get permits for electrical work, because some day you will sell your house and you'll want the permit on file.
3) Replacing a water heater is no problem, but if you move the water heater, get a permit.

We refinished our attic without a permit. It had been totally unfinished before -- bare rafters and no access. We did a lot of work -- braced the 2x4's with 4x6's, ran electric, put in a floor, put in a staircase, sheetrocked, painted, and added three skylights. We did get a permit for the electrical work. The Bitch Next Door decided that she needed to call the City. This is the sort of thing you do when you think it will somehow be a good idea to live next door to someone who hates you. I don't recommend doing this.

The Inspector came in, bounded up the stairs, and declared that the skylights were illegal and needed a permit. And, fortunately, that was that. Now that it's over, I'm glad that the whole thing is legal. Some day the house will be sold, and it's good that the electrical, HVAC, and plumbing is all permitted.

All of this is a huge YMMV. For example, our electrical work involved changing the service from the pole to the house to higher amperage, replacing the main and sub-panel, adding outlets & light fixtures, and replacing some of the knob and tube wiring with romex. The Inspector simply noted that the electric company correctly sealed the new electric meter. My friend was flabbergasted at this, because when he did this, the inspector had him switch each breaker off and on, and prove that outlets were grounded, didn't exceed maximums, etc.
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Last edited by Rebound July 10, 2011 at 11:43 AM.
#6
I might be the wrong one to ask because I don't understand how an improperly installed hot water heater can cause a pipe to burst, nor why someone would pull an electrical permit but not a building permit for the same project. Isn't one part of the other and on the same card? Nor how illegal skylights can be made legal with simply a permit. Stuff like the FAR ratio should come into play as it was an unfinished area, structural things should have been looked at and if that inspector was around here he'd probably be shown the door.

But as someone put it, get a permit for whatever you need and be "glad that the whole thing is legal".

Bundle one up with a bunch of stuff you'll be doing, around here they're good for a year. And why be sneaky about it?
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#7
Quote from TBurr View Post :
I might be the wrong one to ask because I don't understand how an improperly installed hot water heater can cause a pipe to burst, nor why someone would pull an electrical permit but not a building permit for the same project.
I don't think they would have given me a permit to refinish my attic, unless I hired a structural engineer, reinforced the foundation, and a whole lot more stuff. That's why. Could have cost me four times more.
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#8
Quote from Rebound View Post :
I don't think they would have given me a permit to refinish my attic, unless I hired a structural engineer, reinforced the foundation, and a whole lot more stuff. That's why. Could have cost me four times more.
So when the next buyer sees the attic is unfinished on the official records, and that you finished it without proper inspections, do you think a red flag will be raised? And if you built it knowing a structural engineer would have wanted the foundation reinforced, why not just have done it?

You knowingly didn't do things right to save a few bucks.

And there are disclosure forms for this kind of thing. If I was a buyer, I'd flee, and you likely decreased the value of your home by improving it. Ditto for insurance liability.

And how do you refinish an attic?

I think it's for "improvements" like you made that permits should be more stringently required, sorry. It protects everyone. My guess is that your electrical permit was for work done outside of the attic area, right?

Geepers, if your foundation isn't good why'd you want to build more onto it? Scary.
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Last edited by TBurr July 10, 2011 at 03:09 PM. Reason: typo

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#9
Quote from TBurr View Post :
So when the next buyer sees the attic is unfinished on the official records, and that you finished it without proper inspections, do you think a red flag will be raised? And if you built it knowing a structural engineer would have wanted the foundation reinforced, why not just have done it?

You knowingly didn't do things right to save a few bucks.

And there are disclosure forms for this kind of thing. If I was a buyer, I'd flee, and you likely decreased the value of your home by improving it. Ditto for insurance liability.

And how do you refinish an attic?

I think it's for "improvements" like you made that permits should be more stringently required, sorry. It protects everyone. My guess is that your electrical permit was for work done outside of the attic area, right?

Geepers, if your foundation isn't good why'd you want to build more onto it? Scary.
Goody-goody for you and your perfect world, where tossing another $70,000 or $90,000 at a construction project is a drop in the bucket. I know that I could have hired a structural engineer and ripped the walls off my house and pour a new foundation and run rebar up the walls, but I also know that it's a bunch of bullshit to apply today's building codes for new construction to an 80 year-old home. New homes are built with really cheap, thin, green wood, while 80 year-old homes here were built with much thicker, better-cut, old growth woods. They wrote the new codes based on the kinds of construction materials are available today.

Anyway, I don't give two shits for your sanctimonious bullshit. My home's been fully inspected and the attic is approved for non-bedroom use, so if you don't buy my house somebody else will.
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Last edited by Rebound July 10, 2011 at 04:36 PM.
#10
90% of the time the permit serves no purpose other then to make money for the government
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#11
it is true that homes built 30-40 years ago were built with better quality wood then todays rapid built cheap wood homes are.
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#12
Easy now. Codes are there for a reason.
80 year old home may with a great percentage equal balloon framed construction. dangerous? yes
older lumber equal better lumber? 5 in one hand 5 in the other. might have been older growth and cut thicker but that doesn't mean it was nailed properly or framed correct.
would i get an engineer..no. Would i worry about my foundation on my 80 year old house supporting a finished attic? no, unless it's falling apart.
the new homes I've built are still built to specs that the lumber can support. a 2x4 back 80 years ago was actual 2x4...overkill for most of the build. all my years working with old and new i sometimes wonder how it worked back then. I don't always pull permits but things i have questions on i call them or someone prior.
i do not pull permit for
faucets
toilets
tubs
small re-wire
decks..unless over 6'
drywall
siding and windows (not required now here) pissed me off when they just drive by and pass it. why should i pay for that.
i don't get permits for wooden steps but other people should. extra step at top, same level as porch, 1 or 2 short steps (1 at top and/or 1 at bottom) drive me NUTZ!
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Last edited by stufine July 10, 2011 at 06:12 PM.
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#13
Quote from Rebound View Post :
Goody-goody for you and your perfect world, where tossing another $70,000 or $90,000 at a construction project is a drop in the bucket. I know that I could have hired a structural engineer and ripped the walls off my house and pour a new foundation and run rebar up the walls, but I also know that it's a bunch of bullshit to apply today's building codes for new construction to an 80 year-old home. New homes are built with really cheap, thin, green wood, while 80 year-old homes here were built with much thicker, better-cut, old growth woods. They wrote the new codes based on the kinds of construction materials are available today.

Anyway, I don't give two shits for your sanctimonious bullshit. My home's been fully inspected and the attic is approved for non-bedroom use, so if you don't buy my house somebody else will.
An engineer would have taken all that into account before making a report, Fb factors and all. Point remains if you know the foundation needs replacing... heck, why bother? You stated yourself that the place was not fully inspected. I'd expect the inspector to have made you tear out your drywall so the framing and supports could be seen, that didn't happen so who knows how whatever mystery materials you put in there are fastened etc. Glad it's not my problem! Are you aware of the stress factors?

And yes, while many places are designed to "meet" building code, it's not a guide for quality construction, only safety, and many homes routinely exceed it.

My place is balloon framed from the 1800's, about the time of the Civil War. Do you know if yours is balloon framed? A whole different set of rules apply that defy modern standards.
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Last edited by TBurr July 10, 2011 at 06:59 PM.
#14
Laws do vary greatly by area, town people have it much worse. Where I live, the only zoning concerning construction are how close you can put a hog confinement to a residential house, things like that. As far as improvements in and around the house and buildings there are none. If I wanted to install a waterslide indoors, I could. Place a Statue of Liberty constructed out of aluminum cans and duct tape on the roof, I could. I do all my own roofing, wiring, well everything with every building I have. Plumbing things like installing a septic tank recently require certification (I also can and have done that, prior to the cert. being necessary, couple hundred bucks or so to get certified).
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#15
This reminds me....

I was visiting my MIL's in the People's Republic of Davis, CA (walk downtown Davis sometime, you'll see the signs in store-fronts clear as day). Anyhow... she wanted a ceiling fan, and I was puzzled at the myriad of paper work that was assembled (didn't bother reading at the time, too busy drinking beer). The next day, I snatched the Home Depot printout for the fan she had desired (plus mover coupon), drove to Vacaville and made the purchased. Returned, flipped the breaker, installed the fixture and thought I'd surprise her when she returned from a trip with DW n kiddies....

She went ape-sh!t on me when she saw the fan.
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