In Great Britain a householder can do his own electric and water and
installations/alterations with no legal restrictions or qualification
requirements although with Gas there is a legal requirement that you must be
"Competent to do so" and "Keep to safe and appropriate standards" obviously
this is sensible for water and electric but not mandatory and there are no
mandatory standards for electricity alterations/installations just guidelines
from the institute of electrical engineers.
Are there any legal restrictions/requirements for a homeowner
installing/altering gas, water and electric in the USA?
Thanks in advance,
Restrictions are local options, there is no universal code.
In most places the homeowner can do the work, but much of the work
requires permits and inspections. Generally the owner can not do their own
work on multi-family (attached) housing.
I just upgraded the electric service in my kitchen (okay, my BIL did the
work assisted by my 16YO son) and I had to get a permit from the
appropriate governmental building authority (around $70) and two
inspections (a rough inspection with all the wires in and a final
inspection with the GFCIs and everything else all done) to make sure
that the work was done to current building and safety code requirements.
It was no problem to do this on my own home.
I know God will not give me anything I can't handle.
I just wish that He didn't trust me so much. - Mother Teresa
Possibly time to abolish these permits and inspections, firstly they cost the
home improver uneccasary money, also they are probably a waste of time as a lot
of people who dont do the work to safe standards would simply not bother
getting a permit and an inspection.
In other countries like Great Britain that does not have this permit/inspection
system I dont notice any more safety issues with unsafe wiring than I do in the
If someone just barely knows what they are doing, $20 for a permit gets him
a lot of help from an expert consultant.
Every once in a while though, getting the permit and inspections works
against doing the job right. When I had a garage built last November, I
wanted to drive the ground rod under where the slab would be, and clamp a
#4 copper wire to both the ground rod and the nearest 1/2" rebar. But I
couldn't schedule to do it and have it inspected because the concrete guys
set up the forms and rebar one day and poured early the next morning. I
coulda done it anyway, but the inspector wouldn't have passed it because he
never saw the work before it was buried under the concrete.
Overall I think it's a good system. You work on getting it abolished in
your local jurisdiction and leave the rest of us alone.
You could very well be right, but it will never go away anytime soon. The
town keeps the money they collect for so called permits, so essentially it
is another tax that they would fight tooth and nail to keep.
The reason that most knowledgeable people comply with the requirements
for permits and inspections is that anything done without a permit is
not insured. If unpermitted work causes a casualty loss to the home it
is not covered by the insurance policy. So if you perform unpermitted
electrical work on your home and that work causes a fire the resultant
loss is uninsured.
Someone told me that if a fire occurs, and any unpermitted work is
found, insurance will be denied even if the change did not cause a
Example. I install a receptacle in the kitchen without a permit.
Then, some time later, a drunk friend comes in, falls asleep with a
cigarette, the cigarette lights up the couch and the house burns down.
According to my friend's theory, if the insurance adjustor finds an
unpermitted receptacle, my insurance will be denied. Is that actually
I tend not to believe it, but am curious.
That may be true someplace but it is not true in the areas of the US
that I've served as a firefighter. We often find all sorts of bogus
work during the investigation of a fire but unless that work is the
cause of the fire we don't even report it unless it rises to the level
of a clear and present danger. The principal involved here is that the
nature of the insurance contract is what is called a "contract of utmost
good faith." Both parties to the contract have an obligation to reveal
to the other anything that can effect the likelihood of a loss or the
ability to pay for that loss. Both sides have an additional obligation
under that type of contract to scrupulously obey the law in anything
that affects the contract. The idea of insuring against the
consequences of your own unlawful act is considered a legal absurdity.
My four semesters that covered various aspects of fire service law don't
make me a lawyer and YMMV.
I was not suggesting that people should not comply with the permit/inspection
system, I was just questioning the wisdom of the system as it relates to gas,
water and electricity instalations and suggesting that it should be abolished
as it serves no useful purpose although other Postsers have disagreed.
Anyone whose work is so bad that it causes a fire should not do the work in the
first place although if their work is that shoddy then they are probably so
badly mentally incapacitated that they would not be able to realise that they
were unable to do the work to a safe standard.
There is an old proverb that reads in part "He who knows not and knows
not he knows not is a fool shun him." In localities that that have a
trained inspection force, and make it easy for a homeowner to obtain a
permit, the inspection process guards against a well intentioned but
unqualified home owner imperiling her/his family and neighbors. There
is no system that can completely guard against a scofflaw incompetent.
Those are the dorks most likely to consider their own work the best -
they don't know good work, and their's is "cheaper". The number of
folks with no regard for the law is amazing, as well. I'm just a
housewife with a little DIY ability. I have a neighbor whom I have
helped finish concrete, re-do a lock installation, pressure wash, paint,
re-build door. He has worked for hire, his work is crap, and he is
juvenile and impulsive. Considers himself a craftsman. He's fallen off
roofs, been told to stay off ladders due to vertigo, and he still goes
at it. Another neighbor worked on a live electrical line with a toddler
running around the house. He got a load of new kitchen cabinets
delivered and was going to leave them outdoors with rain threatening. I
don't think these guys had mothers :o)
In most places in the US, a homeowner can do his own home improvements, and
can be issued home improvement building permits. It is unusual for a
homeowner to be bothered in any way for making repairs, competent or not,
except in wealthy areas or where the homeowners' association has too much
authority. Where there is a permit, there is usually an inspection. The
value of having an inspection varies greatly from one jurisdiction to
another. There is no examination given to prove competency for a homeowner,
as there is for a contractor.
Repairs that violate the building codes often catch up with the homeowner
when the property is sold, or in the event of an insurance claim, making it
highly advisable to strictly follow the electrical, plumbing, or other
building codes. If you don't know these codes, there are some very good
books for amateurs.
Repairs that affect the neighborhood, such as fence building over a certain
height, or addition of a second story, will attract attention, and possibly
lawsuits. Obviously, it would be foolhardy to proceed with such a project
without a permit.
In some localities, the authorities patrol the area looking for obvious
construction jobs, such as roof and driveway repair, and "granny unit"
construction, being done without a permit. In my area, this is done to
promote collection of overpriced building permit fees, and to satisfy the
"no growth" constituency, as well as for enforcement of the building codes.
In short, for anything major, get a permit and discuss your project with the
permit authorities. You might be required to submit a plan drawing, or at
least a description. For minor stuff, like replacing plumbing fixtures and
electrical equipment, you can probably just proceed, but I recommend a
phone call to the permit office to discuss it.
On Sat, 28 Feb 2004 23:52:07 GMT, Anthony Straight
Usually being the operative word. Around here some towns and cities
require permits for any significant roofing you may wish to have done.
None, absolutely none of these municipalities inspect the work for
which they have required a permit. That begins to seem like bribery to
(Remove the Primes before e-mailing me)
But I believe that some municipalities will up the assessed value (and
therefore the property taxes as well) if significant improvements are made.
On 02/28/04 07:39 pm John Willis put fingers to keyboard and launched
the following message into cyberspace:
On Sat, 28 Feb 2004 21:05:00 -0500, Minnie Bannister
Be that as it may, but if a city is going to require a contractor to
obtain a permit in the course of his work, then they ought to be
required to have enough inspectors on hand to perform appropriate
inspections. The main reason to require a permit in the first place is
to maintain a certain standard in the work performed. (The real
reason, as we all know, has to do with money...) If there is no need
for an inspection then there ought to be no need for a permit in the
(Remove the Primes before e-mailing me)
And if you have increased the property value significantly, you should have
When we bought this particular one home, we put several thousand into it,
and being a contractor, and believing in the permit system this county uses,
we hoped that we would get a significant tax increase...and thus, property
We sold and loved it.
The home we are in now....same thing. Value more than doubled. I have no
problem with the system, and of course, seeing the DIY screwups in the
course of a day like we do...there is good reason this state will not allow
a homeowner to do many things.
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