Imagine you’ve invested hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars into your latest home renovation, and you’re in the final stages of planning your big kitchen reveal when the project comes grinding to a halt. It’s every home improvement enthusiast’s worst nightmare.
You’re ready to show off your new tile and light fixtures to friends and family, but there’s a problem – you forgot to pull a permit, and the city noticed. You’re not alone. Permitting challenges are one of the top reasons why building projects frequently take longer than expected.
Getting a building permit can be a complicated process, but with some basic knowledge, you will be well prepared to venture into the world of municipal paperwork in pursuit of more beautiful living spaces.
Read on for answers to some of the most common questions about building permits and how to get your hands on one as effortlessly as possible.
What Is a Building Permit, Exactly?
A building permit is a document, usually issued by your city or county, that provides official permission to proceed with a home improvement project. Basically, it’s the green light you need to begin building that master bathroom of your dreams.
Building permits help municipalities keep track of projects, ensure that building codes are followed, and of course generate revenue.
Are Building Permits Expensive?
The cost of building permits varies wildly, depending on where you live. Sometimes there is a flat fee, but in other cases, the total fee is based on your project budget. If you are working with a building contractor, they should be able to help you modify your application to avoid unnecessary spending.
What Does “Pulling a Permit” Mean?
“Pulling a permit” is contractor-speak for the act of applying for and obtaining a building permit for your project. The phrase probably originated back when administrative staff would physically pull the permitting paperwork from file cabinets. Now it can be completed online, in many places.
What Projects Require Me to Pull a Permit?
The answer to this question is different everywhere and probably lives on your city or county’s website. Building codes are often related to the local landscape and climate and are designed with safety in mind.
Generally, you will always need a permit for larger projects that involve plumbing, electricity, roofing, or structural modifications. If a renovation requires an expert or a structural engineer, there is a good chance you’ll need to pull one or more permits.
You might be able to complete simple repairs or beautification projects like installing a new kitchen appliance, painting, or changing your flooring without a permit.
Check with your local building department for a current list of rules.
What Is the Application Process Like?
Before you start tearing down walls, you’ll need to file an application. The requirements vary, but the steps to apply are often similar. You’ll probably need to submit a detailed project plan that includes drawings, budget details, and your anticipated timeline.
You will also be asked to share information about any contractors, engineers, or architects you are working with.
The building department may have questions about your plan, in which case they will follow up with you. Typically, it takes 2-4 weeks to receive a permit after filing your application.
Who Should Pull the Permit?
If you are working with a building contractor, they should be responsible for pulling the permit.
If you are managing the project without the help of a contractor, you will need to apply for the permit yourself. Keep in mind that you will be fully responsible for scheduling inspections and liable for anything that goes wrong, so it’s a good idea to make sure you know what you’re doing before you take this route.
What Are Some Tips for Successfully Pulling a Permit?
Allow plenty of time to complete the permitting process before your project start date. Delays are common, and the turnaround time can be unpredictable.
Building permit applications are rarely straightforward. There will be technical jargon to translate and documents to photocopy. If you are pulling the permit yourself, be sure to read the instructions carefully. Don’t be afraid to call the permitting office with questions.
If you prefer to save yourself the headache, consider working with a professional. Building contractors, structural engineers, and architects will have plenty of experience pulling permits.
They will be familiar with the steps and might already have connections in the building department. Professionals are usually able to obtain permits much faster than you would be able to independently, and their assistance can be surprisingly affordable.
Will Anyone Notice if I Skip the Permit?
It’s certainly possible to begin your project without a permit, and sure, you might get away with it – but it’s not worth the risk. Building permits exist for many reasons, most importantly to keep you and your family safe, and projects completed without a permit are often uninsurable.
If you get caught renovating without a required permit, you will be asked to stop construction until the problem is corrected. Delays are expensive, and you will probably be fined a significant amount. Wouldn’t you rather spend that money on upgrades?
Also, consider the fact that real estate agents check permitting records, so if you plan to sell your home in the future, you are likely to encounter challenges if you have not pulled the proper permits.
Leave Permit Pulling to the Pros
If you have never tried to pull a permit before, hiring a professional to help is well worth the investment. Allow yourself to focus on creating a warm, welcoming space for friends and family without the hassle of dealing with local regulations. If you need help finding excellent building contractors, architects, and engineers in your area, we can help you get started today.