If you’re undertaking any type of home improvement or work on your home, you’ve more than likely done your research into what it is you want, and who you want your Pro to be. During all of this research, you may have come across the term “permit” before, and maybe you’ve wondered if this applied to you. Most major home improvements, particularly those that affect the structure of the home, will require a permit to begin. Not having a permit can set you up for a lot of trouble down the road, but why, and how do you know when you need one? Knowing the answers to these questions can help get your home improvement project off on the right foot.

When You Don’t Need a Permit

The list of changes you can do to your home without needing a permit is a lot shorter than the list of changes that you do need a permit for. Anything cosmetic such as painting the walls, replacing your floors, or changing out a sink faucet does not require a permit. In some cities and municipalities, you can also do things like having your roof replaced or a deck built without a permit, but for projects of this size, it’s always best to double-check before you begin.

Even if you are doing the work on your home yourself, you still need to pull a permit and submit the job for inspection when it’s done. This is particularly true if you’re making the kinds of changes or upgrades to your home that may come to light during a sale. Remember; every state has regulations on what you can and cannot do to your house without a permit, and this includes work that DIYers take on. If you’re ever not clear, you may want to pay a visit to your town or city hall.

Why You Need a Permit

When you pull a permit, your project will be filed with your city or town, along with all of the intended changes that you’re making. Once the project is done, an inspector comes to your home to check the work and make sure that it was done according to state and federal building codes. When the time comes to sell your home, that home inspection that you have done may turn up changes to the house, and those changes need to be documented with the town the house is in. If they aren’t, a bank may refuse to finance the purchase of the house, because those changes may not meet state and federal building codes.

Above all, most states have the permit and inspection process in place to make sure that the work was done properly so your house is safe. For example, one plumbing code requirement for permits is to install a special type of pressure balancing or anti-scald valve beneath your tub if you have a deck-mounted tub filler. This is to prevent you from filling your tub with water hot enough to give you or a loved one a burn. During the inspection process, you will have to show that valve to the town so they know it’s there.

Most Pros also won’t get involved with a project without a permit. Why? Because if a permit is required, and the city or town finds you don’t have one, they can fine you and require that the work be completely removed and redone. This is a huge waste of time and money for you and the Pro, so play it safe and get the permit every time.

A permit helps protect you and ensures that your home is meeting the dictated state and federal standards.

Who Pulls the Permit?

Technically, anyone involved in the project can go down to the city hall, file the plans, and pull a permit. This could be you as the homeowner, or it could be your Pro. Many Pros prefer to do this step themselves to make sure it gets done correctly and they aren’t held responsible for something going wrong. Other times, the homeowner prefers to take on this step for the same reasons.

The Permit Process

Every city and town has different processes involving the permits and what forms you may need to file. For example, houses built before 1950 in rural New Hampshire need to apply for a variance along with a permit to have any kind of major work done. To get a variance, you need to look up the original blueprints of your house and your plot lines and file these along with your application so the town is aware of what you’re doing. Before pulling any permit, you or your Pro should take the time to check in with your city or town hall to find out what is required of you for the type of work you’re planning on undertaking. This is where hiring an experienced, local Pro can be beneficial; your Pro will already be aware of what’s required by your town, and can help make this process easier.

Get Started on the Right Foot

Getting your project off to a good start involves filing the various forms either in person or electronically and getting the required permits before you begin. This important step should never be overlooked, or you could find yourself in the position of having to redo the work down the road just to sell your home.

If you’re ready to get started, sign up today to find an experienced, local Pro who can help you with the permit process, as well as the rest of the process of getting your home improvement off to a great start.