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How to Know if Your Latest DIY Project Requires a Permit

Building plans
Working on DIY project and want to know if you need a building permit?  This has great info about the types of projects that may require you to pull a permit. Are you planning on adding some curb appeal to your home? Perhaps you want to expand your patio for more space, or even add some fencing or outside lighting. There are all sorts of ways to make your home look great, but before you start any project you should see if the project requires a permit.

Some outdoor and household projects do in fact require a permit from your local government, and the result of not getting one of these permits can be hefty fines.  I'm going to be honest here and tell you that for many of these projects, you can "get away" with not pulling a permit, but just because you can, doesn't mean you should.  Even contractors will often ignore the permitting process, but don't let them!   Doing unpermitted work on your home can really come back to bite you if you ever go to sell it or need to have it appraised.  Often you will need to get a permit after the fact, and that will be a huge nightmare!   
Brittany has a fabulous interview with her local building inspector about the rationale behind building permits.  
So how do you know if your next project needs a permit or not? Look below at some helpful tips on how to know if your latest DIY project requires a permit. This way, you can stay safe and legal while getting the job done.

Please note that permit laws may vary from city to city and county to county. Use these tips below as a guideline but always check with your local government offices to check on current permit laws.  For example, plumbing projects (as simple as replacing a toilet or water heater) require you to have a permit, but that is not typical in other parts of the country. 

Here are the household projects that more than likely require the homeowner to obtain a permit before beginning:

1. Installing any new electrical lines.

Anytime adding new electrical lines is on the agenda a permit will be needed. This is a job that needs to be done by a professional and done correctly for safe installation.

2. Changing the layout of the house or the floor plan.

If the layout of your home’s original plan is changing, a permit will be needed. This means adding on additional rooms, removing walls to expand a room, or raising a ceiling to open up a room.
Building plans

3. Building/installing fencing over 5 feet tall.

Your small picket fence won’t be an issue, but any fencing over 5-6 feet often needs a permit. It is also a good idea to get your property line in writing so you can be sure you are keeping the fence within your rights.

4. Removing any large trees from the property.

While you are free to remove small saplings and shrubs, any large trees that require professional removal may require a permit. You may need to block off the street during removal as well, which will require the proper paperwork.

5. Adding on a deck or expanding a current deck.

If you are adding a deck onto your home or expanding what you already have, a permit will be required. The permit will state what the height of the deck should be as well as safety features that should be in place.
Wood deck

6. Adding new windows to the home.

While you don’t need to get a permit to replace old windows, you do need a permit if you are adding windows where they didn’t previously exist. This falls in line with the changing layout as mentioned in #2.

7. Roof layout changes.

While you don’t need a permit for a new roof, you will need a permit if the design of the roof is changing. If adding any sort of solar paneling or opening in the roof (for a window) you will need to have it approved.

8. Large storage units.

If you care to add a carport, additional garage, or large storage unit, you will need a permit. Any large structure being added to the property will need to be approved and often times the property area you will be placing it on needs to be confirmed.

As you can see, there are a variety of household projects that require the appropriate permit before the project begins. Use these tips as a guide before starting your next project so you can be sure the job just isn’t done right, but is done within the laws of your city or county.

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