Permits vary greatly depending where you live. Check your local laws.
If you put up a shed or install a fence without a permit, the city may
fine you and make you take it down. If something was added
incorrectly and you attempt to sell the house, it might become an
issue and stop or delay the sale process. Use common sense and think
safety. A good home repair manual will clue you in on what things
may require a permit.
As you can see, there are as many answers as there are locations. Each
governmental entity decides for itself what work needs to be permitted.
I'm not antagonistic about our local building department. Most of their
people know what they are doing, and all of them know more than I do. I
once asked them just when a permit was necessary, and they admitted it
was not clear. Decorating doesn't require a permit; changing electrical
fixtures doesn't; replacing a gas water heater does; replacing a gas
stove or drier doesn't. If I have a question as to whether a permit is
needed, I call and ask. Once I added some outlets, which required a
permit. When they came out for final inspection, he said I had to put
bushings at the ends of the conduit; I would have if I knew to, but I
didn't, so I had to go back and put in bushings. When I did that, I put
them into the installations that were here when I bought the house, too,
as apparently they weren't required when that work was done. My
electrical is grounded to the water supply, so the inspector checked to
see if there was a jumper across the water meter (there was, but only
because I had recently read about it in the newspaper and put it in
myself). When I pointed that out, the inspector said that requirement
was fairly new, but he always checked it even when the work was on a
different part of the electrical system.
Interestingly, in my town, some tradesmen can become certified as
self-inspectors, and when you use one of them, they don't have to get a
permit, nor is there an inspection, but somehow the building department
has come to an agreement that those registered tradesmen will meet code
on everything they do.
In any event, permits here are inexpensive, and I take some comfort in
knowing that someone who knows more than me is giving me advice.
Incidentally, I was a lawyer until I retired, and those people talking
about insurance companies denying claims for damages caused by
unpermitted work are absolutely correct. They are not in business to
give away money.
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