Do I Need a Permit for My Remodeling Project?

Tool boxWhen it’s time to remodel or make improvements to your home, one thing you must take into account right from the start is whether you need a permit. Licensed contractors and other home renovation professionals will usually know what to do, but if you are embarking on a DIY project it’s best to do your research to avoid potential expensive and frustrating problems down the line.

Permits are crucial to ensure changes to your home are on record with the city, and permits ensure inspectors will check for any problems along the way. For example, if you rewire your home incorrectly, there could be exposed wires, potential for short circuiting and fires and expensive future repairs. Also when you try to sell or refinance your home, buyers and lenders will be assured that any improvement to your home comply with building codes, so be sure to keep proof of all permits in your files.

The general rule of thumb for permitting is that structural, electrical, plumbing or mechanical work will require a permit. Here’s a quick list of projects that require permits:

Structural: Any kind of structural change including changes to load-bearing walls, balconies, decks, porches, roofs or foundation flooring.

Additions and remodels: New construction, remodels, repairs and upgrades will definitely require at least one, and often several, permits. This includes detached structures like garages and sheds.

Plumbing and electrical: Installing or replacing plumbing or electrical wiring, except for small projects like repairs and light fixture installations.

Fencing: Whether installing or repairing fences, many cities have height and placement restrictions that must be checked.

Door and windows: When you need to cut into walls or ceilings to install or upgrade windows or doors, a permit is require. Simple replacements do not.

Heating maintenance: New water heaters, changes to the ventilation system, gas and wood fireplaces and ducts all usually require permits. This does not include filter changes, motor lubrication or seasonal equipment cleaning and servicing.

When you DON’T need a permit

Don’t worry, you won’t always have to get permits when you want to fix up your home. According to the Arlington Department of Community Planning, Housing & Development there are a few structural work projects that don’t require permits. Here’s the list, but be sure to check back at their website or with their office when you decide to start one of these projects, as regulations can change.

  • Construction of a storage shed (of less than 200 square feet)
  • Tents of less than 900 square feet
  • Construction of a patio flat on the ground
  • Residential cabinets
  • Backyard recreational play equipment
  • Installation of gutters

Beyond that, here are a few other projects you can do without a permit:

  • Painting and wallpapering
  • Installing flooring like hardwood, carpeting, linoleum or vinyl tile
  • Minor electrical repairs
  • Installing new countertops
  • Installing or replacing a faucet
  • Landscaping work

**Note: Requirements may be different for your city, county or state. Please before beginning any home improvement or remodeling project check with your local city offices for current permitting information.