One of the battles homeowners and professional contractors find themselves regularly struggling with is the concept of permits. I know a contractor who bids jobs by how much he is going to spend on permits and inspections – a weird system, but sometimes just uttering the word ‘permit’ and ‘inspector’ is enough to make people run for the hills.
The question then becomes – should we permit? When do we? Where, or why? And most of all – what does getting a permit mean, and what does it entail?
From here on out, data provided is coming from the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department (pprbd.org), your friendly local building department. What is valid rules or ruling in our area of the country may or may NOT be an accurate reflection of the building regulations in your area. Please remember to check with your local building department before moving forwards with any kinds of construction or renovation as each area’s regulations differ.
Firstly – most people would ask, ‘Why bother getting a permit?’
Where my parents live, no one would ever post their permits because the neighbors would get nosy, make excuses to come into their homes, and use it as a way to peek at each others possessions and brag about their own – or because people then felt obligated to answer with improvements of their own.
The real reason that your local authorities will expect you to petition for building permits is because it protects property and saves lives. The last thing anyone wants is a bunch of powerfully motivated people without practical knowledge trying to plumb pipes, run electrical wires, or construct decks or other structures people tend to consider safe. While it is true that getting a permit means investing money and often having to pay for a follow-up inspection to make sure things are copacetic, these options are far better than the alternative – flooding homes, electrical fires, and collapsing structures!
According to our local building department, homeowners (and contractors, of course) are required to have permits provided and displayed any time they ‘construct, install, and replace’ the following projects: decks, hot tubs, pools, basement finish, room addition, exterior siding and stucco, porch, sun room (solariums), patio or deck enclosure and roof covering, gazebo, shed of more than 120 sq. ft., garage, conversion of a garage to a room, electrical work, lawn spring systems, water heater, boiler, furnace, air condition system, fireplace (gas, wood, or other fuel source), fireplace conversion to gas, wood stove, fences over 6’ high, and retaining wall 4 feet or higher’.
Wow, what a mouthful! Easier to just say what doesn’t need permits – ‘general cosmetic improvements such as house interior/exterior painting, replacing kitchen cabinets and most kitchen appliances, installation of carpet or flooring materials (wood, tile, etc.), patio, fence 6’ high or less, shed 120 sq. ft. or less, replacement of concrete (driveway or sidewalk), minor plumbing or heating repairs’.
Well that wasn’t really any easier – the point is that a lot of stuff you have to get permits for is pretty important – and usually the things we love to work on or improve throughout our homes. Do they cost money? Yes. Do they serve a purpose? Absolutely! By making sure work is done up to standard and regional ‘code’ – and that your building department is aware of what you are having done, by whom, and when – then you can prevent future problems. Not only that, but if a permit is not obtained, a regional building department does have the right to issue a stop work order! Such an incident could ruin your home construction project, or dream bathroom upgrade.
Better safe than sorry – and always make sure that your contractor is licensed and pulling the appropriate permits. When in doubt, contact your local building department and ask!
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This is an original article written by Mai Bjorklund for Swartz Electric. This article may not be copied whole or in part without the express permission of Swartz Electric, LLC.
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