Renovating your home can be an exciting undertaking, but it is important to slow down and make sure you check all the boxes before you proceed with your project. Building permits primarily exist to protect the health and safety of the home's residents, so while it might be inconvenient to apply for a building permit, it can be worth it in the long run. But how do you know if you need a building permit for the project you are planning?
1. Do I need a permit for the project I am about to start?
A few general guidelines can give you an idea of whether you will need a building permit. In most cases, you will need a permit for any modifications you would like to make to your existing home. These include electrical, sewer or plumbing updates and mechanical installations. They also include changes to the roof line, the addition of fireplaces and the expansion of pre-existing windows.
On the other hand, there are some situations when a permit is usually not required. Cosmetic changes, such as new flooring, trim or paint, typically do not require a permit. Other types of modifications, such as building a deck, replacing the siding on your home, or building a new fence or retaining wall, may or may not require a permit depending on your location.
2. Why do we have building codes?
Building codes are put in place to protect the home's residents as well as the community at large. One commonly cited example of a building code applies to stair railings. Stair railings are required to have sturdy hand holds to help occupants traverse them. In general, railings are also not permitted to have any gaps that are larger than 4". This regulation was put in place in order to prevent small children from getting stuck while trying to climb through the gaps.
Building codes can also help make the community safe and clean for everyone. Examples of this include environmental efficiency regulations.
3. Is a building permit my responsibility or my contractor's?
If you choose to hire a contractor, make sure you discuss with the contractor who will be pulling the building permits. In some areas, you have to be a licensed general contractor in order to pull building permits, but in many other jurisdictions you are able to pull building permits for your own private residence.
4. How can I find out if I need a permit?
Check with your local jurisdiction. Different areas have different laws surrounding building permits and building codes. In general, urban areas are more strictly regulated while the requirements in rural areas tend to be more lax. Make sure that you check the most up-to-date versions of all the guidelines. For example, requirements for energy efficiency have changed drastically over the past decade, causing building codes to adjust accordingly. It is always best to make sure that you are up to date on the local building codes and guidelines.
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