Yeah, like a wall being more than 3/4" off vertical from top
to bottom. Wait, that was my new carefully built, with
permits, and inspected house built by professionals.
Didn't notice it until I installed a wood stove and dropped
a plumbob for the chimney.
My point is that poorly done doesn't mean that a
non-professional, unlicensed person did it. If you do
careful neat work that is correct, the inspector might
notice but will likely figure it was done by a professional.
I have several friend that have receive highly complimentary
statements from inspectors on their electrical, plumbing, or
other work, indicating that it was far above the standards
done by professionals. Not unusual or unexpected if you
work carefully as the usual trade person doesn't have the
time to be exceptionally careful.
Oh, yeah, we looked for about 2 months and finally selected
this house as the best location and construction from what
we had visited. After 6 months and climbing up on the roof
to install the chimney for that wood stove, I finally notice
that there was no cap on a section of the roof. No water
problem because the shingles were overlapped, but still.
One call and the roofer sent is son out immediately to fix
it. Seems there was some mix up each (father and son)
thought the other had finished the cap. I may have made
some visual errors (no one notices) when I reroofed years
later, but it doesn't leak and I sure didn't leave the cap off.
Oh, I forgot the pieces of wood left in the furnace plenum,
because somebody was too lazy to pull them out after another
stupid person dropped them in there. Lots of stories of
screw ups in other houses.
Nope, you won't have a bit a problem if you are halfway neat
and follow what responsible people at your local supply
houses tell you.
Most people don't get permits for inside work in the west.
Your local building department, city or county, can give you
a list of everything that requires a permit. They may
inform you verbally of all sort of stuff, but believe it
only if it is included on the list. They can also tell you
what must be done to meet code.
Painting, replacing windows, doors, floor coverings, walls
coverings (non structural) and replacing original fixtures
and appliances requires no permit in many if not mosts
areas. Since you are an electrical engineer you will
probably have little or no problem doing electrical work but
you won't know what the code is. Nonetheless you can easily
do minor stuff like adding new circuits. Anything major,
even if they can't see it, should be done with a permit and
inspected just to protect yourself. If you are handy you
can do plumbing and construction, but you need to look at
some books to see what is a,acceptable. You should also get
those free sheets that big box stores and other stores
dealing with the public have on electrical, plumbing, and
structural changes and other areas such as insulation,
concrete work, etc. This stuff should be up to date and
show what is necessary to meet the code.
If the previous owner did something and it is wrong or
unsafe, redo it correctly and forget getting a permit
whether or not the previous owner got a permit. If you
corrected the work remember it isn't your responsibility and
you don't know anything about it. The point is safety for
your family. Even if the work was under permit and
inspected, there may be no record at the building
department. So, an inquiry might result in an inspection
and possibly the requirement of a permit (read money) and a
following inspection even if the original was inspected and
passed. That kind of stuff can get lost easily in many
You might also want to find out what the fine is for not
getting a permit. In my area, if you do the work without a
permit and they find out they will fine you double the cost
of the permit. OTOH, if it isn't visible, they will never
find out. If it bothers you get the permit.
Before you believe what lots of people tell you about home
insurance, check your own policy and/or talk to you
insurance agent. Crappy insurance companies/agents will
screw you no matter what you do, good companies will cover
you no matter what you do. Anyway, why plan for a disaster,
do it right, do it safely, and protect your family so that
you won't have an insurance claim. Don't smoke in bed (or
at all), don't get drunk (without someone watching over
you), use flammable liquids judiciously, don't start fires
or barbecues with gasoline, keep the house clean, vacuum the
clothes dryer and vent periodically, maintain your furnace,
get rid of oily rags, and don't let your kids play with
matches and you will likely never see a fire.
Statistically, if you have a newer single family house, it
is highly likely that you will never suffer any fire damage
even if you are a complete slob at cleaning and smoke in bed
while draining a bottle of bourbon.
Farm and suburban out-building around here burn, mostly
because people burn weeds or fields when it is windy, and
houses burn when there are forests fires. Apartment house
occasionally suffer some fire damage, usually directly
caused by crappy clientel, but single residence houses
usually burn only when the fire department sets them on fire
for training purposes. A quick look at fire statistics can
be rather revealing, but may lead to question of why you are
paying so much in taxes for a fire district. Like many
people, I pay way more per month for health insurance than I
do annually for homeowners insurance, of which fire is a
Plumbing, electrical, outside construction, decks, roofs, anthing that could
increase your taxes.
Not always. Sometimes the problems take a long time to s urface. There is
more to it than leaks in water lines.
BFD! Having a degree means you know how to read a book and memorize. It
does not mean you have the manual dexterity to make a proper connection. It
does not mean you know how to properly route a wire, mount a box, and a lot
of other practical applications that must be done manually. You may or may
not have those skills. In my experience, teachers are some of the worst
when it comes to doing physical work. Knowing that you need a hammer to hit
a nail does not mean you actually hit the target.
Chances are no one will ever find out. If everything ever done to a house
was inspected the towns would have to hire hundreds of more inspectors to
keep up. Don't be concerned about minor repairs on the inside. It is the
thing visible that you want to cover your ass.
Having a masters degree means that I understand electricity, electric,
and electronic components many orders of magnitude better than most
people. I know it's easy for someone who does not understand the
engineering process or what engineers do to become easily confused. My
8yrs of experience have been spent in a practical engineering
environment. So, not only do design but when need be I can make proper
connections, route wires, and mount boxes. I can hammer a nail too.
WIPPIE! Maybe if I were a wet eared engineer fresh out of college with
no practical experience would I not have the ability to connect a
circuit. But hey, as for your other advice, thanks for the repeating
everything "zxcvbob" pointed out.
There is not that much about electricity as such that one needs to
know to route wires etc. The main source of NEC and codes and such, is
accumulated bad experience, knowing what kinds of things can go wrong.
If you try to "route wires" without consulting with that body of
experience, you may repeat some mistakes that you simply forgot to
think about. Troubles that you would no doubt understand once they are
brought to your attention, but may not necessarily recognize at the
time of making decision.
I am not insinuating that you in fact want to do it without reading
codes and how to books. Merely stating that it is necessary.
If you are a handy person, who read books on residential electricity,
I would be greatly surprised if you were incapable of doing a great
electrical job on most everything.
No, I'm not confused at all. I have engineers in the family, I deal with
lots of engineers. Some are geniuses, some are twits. Happens in every
walk of life. I don't get impressed by the wall paper but by your
accomplishments. You only told me about the wall paper you have.
Now why do you denigrate recent graduates? Some have lots of practical
experience and can run rings around the paper hangers.
As an engineer with a masters pedigree, you must know how news servers work.
You probably know that I did not see his post before I sent mine. Anyway,
I'm glad I could reinforce what he had to say. Engineers like lots of
Hey, you never told us what railroad?????
Depends on the jurisdiction. In general, large things like new roofs,
new electrical panels, decks, additions, etc, require permits. Repairs
and decorating don't. Like in my case, a replacement furnace doesn't
need a permit, unless you are changing the type of furnace, like going
from oil to gas.
As to why do people do it? Because if you don't have a permit, and the
authorities are upset, you can be required to rip out all the work, get
a permit, and re-do it. Or they can condemn the house as unsuitable for
Call your local building department, and ask. (or visit their web site,
if they are on-line like they should be these days).
If you have a condition that is wrong, you may need to pull a permit and
In general no, you buy a house as is, and the previous owners problems
are now yours. That is why a pre-purchase house inspection is such a
good idea, so you know what problems you are acquiring.
By "in general" I mean I'm not a lawyer that is familiar with your
Because it's the law, and often they can spot something wrong that you
Because if the worse happens and it was the result of your work and the
insurance company finds out, you may find yourself without insurance to pay
for the damage.
Because when it comes time to sell, you could end up in trouble.
Depends on the local laws.
Not always. It is the stuff you don't think of or know about that will
cause problems. For example using two different metals in a connection
without insulation, may not leak right away but come two years later, it
could be a big problem.
There are a lot of things in the code, local or national that you would
not think of, but if pointed out to you, at least you would be able to
understand, maybe after the fire and death of a loved one.
In many states home seller's are obligated to reveal to potential buyers
any problems or substandard issues with the house. Work done without
permits would be among the things that must be revealed.
Really, like what kind of work? Changing a light fixture? Replacing a
door? A new sink? Everywhere I know work of that type can be done by
the homeowner without a permit or inspection. If permits were required
for most home work, there wouldn't be enough inspectors to handle it.
Certainly you do need permits for improvements that are structural, a
new septic system, well, etc, but I don't think the new homeowner was
contemplating that level of work.
I found this thread quite interesting. In 2 different cities, I have
numerous cases where inspectors have signed off on improperly
My 2 cents: NEVER count on a city inspector saving you from
a bad contractor. The inspector is there for the city's benefit,
That seems to be correct. I posted this same question to some people
that I work with at lunch and the consensus was that an inspector's
signature does not guarantee that the work is done correctly regardless
of whether it was done by a contractor or a novice.
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