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You are ready to begin a renovation. One of the first questions you ask is, “do I need a building permit?” The idea of obtaining a building permit is intimidating and complicated to most people. It sometimes seems like an unnecessary hurdle that you would rather avoid. Here are some very important points to consider:


What is a Building Permit and How Do I Get One?

A building permit is a certificate of approval for a construction or renovation project to begin.

A building permit application is submitted to obtain a building permit for your project. The application process is a way for authorities to review building projects and ensure public safety. The building permit application includes drawings of the proposed project. The drawings are reviewed for building code compliance. Then the project is monitored and verified by building inspectors throughout construction. Building codes ensure the safety, accessibility and comfort of future occupants.


There are too many examples of renovation project disasters that have occurred because building codes and engineering were overlooked. Personal injury, structural failure, and fire are just a few of the horrible outcomes that can result from building code infractions. The building permit process is there to help protect us from those situations.


Project UP - Do I need a building permit?Each municipality has specific rules around building permits. This information can be found on the local municipality’s website. In most cases the answer to the question, "Do I need a building permit" can be obtained by reading through the guides provided. Building permit requirement information can be found here:





Some municipalities allow you to submit online permit applications while others require the application submitted in person. There is a review period for the permit application. Once the review of the building permit is complete the permit will either be approved or rejected with comments.


Ensuring Quality Work

The building permit process is focused on ensuring quality work. Typically, only licensed and insured contractors can pull a building permit. Homeowners can pull permits for minor renovations but they will still be inspected and held to the same criteria.  The renovation cannot be declared complete until the final inspection is signed off by the building inspector.


The Hidden Benefits

Beyond the obvious safety benefits, there are some hidden benefits to pulling a permit.

  • Home Resale Value –If an older home is renovated, relators will often look for building permit information to ensure inspections have been completed. Having the building permit documents will prove the renovation is building code compliant and ultimately increase the resale value of your home.
  • Insurance – In the event you need to file an insurance claim, your insurance company will often ask if there has been a recent renovation completed at the residence. They are looking to ensure that any renovation work was completed to building code. Your building permit is proof of code compliance. Insurance companies often have the right to deny a claim if the cause of loss is faulty workmanship.
  • Peace of Mind – A building inspector is a neutral third party. Their job is to ensure code compliance. This provides you that extra level of comfort that your renovation has been completed properly.
  • Warranty – Building permits are record of who completed the project. In the event of a warranty issue, the building permit data can be used to contact the contractor and review warranty terms.


Building Permit Enforcement

There will always be the do-it-yourself-ers (DIYers) that try to work around building permit rules. “How can I get caught if I don’t tell anyone about my project?” There are huge risks with this approach. The problems are usually discovered when you sell the property. Relators will ask for building permit info. If it can’t be provided, you risk losing the sale and the situation can be reported to local authorities.


Construction is also noisy, messy and disruptive. Neighbors may complain to local authorities. Most cities will issue fines for projects under construction without the proper permits.


Do the Right Thing!

When you ask yourself, “Do I need a building permit?” check with your local municipality. Find the exact criteria and don’t bend the rules. The benefits to pulling a building permit are worth it. The city staff are usually very helpful through the process. If you hire a full-service contractor they will often handle the permitting for you. Start your search here!