Determining if you need a permit for your home remodeling project can be difficult.
Permitting departments often frustrate homeowners' attempts to sort out rules. These departments traditionally have served commercial interests over those of do-it-yourselfers.
While all cities and counties are different, certain themes emerge to clarify permitting requirements. These themes, expanded below, can be generalized as: public and personal safety, plumbing, electrical, and natural gas.
Projects touching on those areas will require permits.
This leaves the question: After all that, what's left? Answer: Not much.
With a need for greater revenue, cities and counties shift more projects to the "Permit Required" list.
Few localities will not require a permit for the following activities.
|Walls||Demolishing a load-bearing wall.|
|Roof||Changing house's roofline.|
|Layout||Changing the house footprint. Whenever you expand the house in any way or alter the house envelope, you will need a permit.|
|Electrical||Installing any new electrical wiring or adding circuits.|
|Fences||installing a fence over a certain height, such as 6 feet.|
|Demolition||Parking your roll-off dumpster on a public street. This is one of the rare permitting instances where your own property is not involved.|
|Decks||Building decks over a certain height, such as 30" above grade.|
|Sewer||Doing anything with a sewer line. This permit action concerns not just your personal hygiene, but the health of the main sewer line down from your house.|
|Addition||Building an addition.|
|Driveway or Garage||Carport building.|
|Windows and Doors||Exterior doors, windows and skylights that require a new opening.|
|Fireplace and Chimney||Fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, and inserts.|
|Water Heaters||New water heaters.|
|Plumbing||New hose bibs for the outside of your house.|
|Roofing||Re-roofing involving structural elements, including but not limited to sheathing, skylights, change of roof pitch and change of roof material where the total weight exceeds 10 psf. (pounds per square foot).|
Permit Might Be Required
|Plumbing||Moving a sink, as this entails running new plumbing supply and drain lines.|
|Walls||Demolishing a non load-bearing wall. Even though this type of work does not structurally compromise your home, some permitting agencies want to be overly cautious and make certain that do-it-yourself homeowners do not undertake dangerous repairs.|
|Doors and Windows||Replacing doors or windows on a one-for-one basis.|
|Landscaping||Cutting down a tree on your property.|
|Landscaping||Retaining walls over 4' tall. Four feet tends to be the magical number that triggers permits, as retaining walls have a tendency to topple above this height.|
Permit Often Not Required
|Roof||Laying in a new roof of similar materials.|
|Demolition||Parking your roll-off dumpster on your own property. However, if you happen to live in an association-controlled neighborhood, make sure you do not run afoul of your own housing association's rules.|
|Flooring||Putting in any kind of hard flooring (wood, laminate, vinyl, etc.) or carpeting.|
|Plumbing||Replacing an existing sink.|
|Painting||Interior or exterior painting.|
|Kitchen||Replacing your countertops.|
|Siding||Freshening up the exterior with new siding, as long as it is non-structural.|
|Electrical||Minor electrical work, such as replacing a light fixture or an electrical outlet. Replacing a circuit breaker in-kind will not require a permit either.|
|Decks||Decks below a certain height (such as 30").|
|Exteriors||One-story detached buildings like workshops and storage sheds as long as they do not receive electrical or plumbing services.|
|Landscaping||Building tree houses.|
|Fences||Fences below a certain certain height, such as 6 feet.|
|Property Boundaries||Permitting departments are not concerned with matters involving your boundary with your neighbor. Disputes are civil matters for the courts.|
|Landscaping||Retaining walls below 4 feet tall.|
|Decks||Decking surface replacement, as long as you are not replacing structural materials.|
|Bathrooms and Kitchens||Bathroom and kitchen fixture replacements without plumbing line modifications such as sinks and toilets.|
|Appliances||Appliance replacement in the same location as long as you are not modifying gas, plumbing lines, or electrical circuits such as dishwashers, ranges, ovens, gas logs, washers, and dryers.|
For Definitive Answers
A phone call to your local permitting office is the best--and only--way to determine if you need a permit. Many permit officers are happy to discuss permitting issues with anonymous callers as a way to ward off future code violations.