Question: What is a building permit?
Answer: A building permit is an official approval to proceed with a construction project. It is intended to ensure that the project plans comply with local standards for land use, zoning, and construction. These standards are intended to ensure the safety of current and future owners and occupants and enforcement of zoning and land use policies.
Specific issues that the building permit process may address include structural integrity, zoning, sanitation, water and sewer lines, fire resistance and electrical service.
In some cases, you might think that you could handle a construction project without bothering to obtain a permit, even though you suspect you might need one. And this is often true. Similarly, you might think you can drive a car without a license. And you can. In both cases, though, if you get caught you will pay a hefty price.
For example, if and when you try to sell your house, the buyers’ inspection may uncover remodeling or additions that were not properly permitted and may not be completely up to code. This can prevent you from selling the house, and may require that you undo the previous work and start again – this time with a permit.
You would likely need a building permit, and possibly other permits, to build a new garage or convert an existing garage into living space. You would probably not need a permit to add drywall or shelving units to an existing garage. When in doubt, though, call your building department.