We have a mixed bag of requirements on that here in San Antonio. We are la
rge city that has expanded to engulf many smaller cities and incorporations
. All of them have their own rules and regulations.
In San Antonio itself, you can perform just about any kind of >>repairs or
maintenance<< you want yourself as long as you conform to the Southern Buil
ding Codes. You can paint, fix your fence, replace a window, fix your roof
, plant grass, replace a faucet, and install paneling if you want with no p
But you cannot change the profile of the domicile in any way. So no room ad
ditions, no patio covers, no fireplaces, no dormers, etc. Also, no mechani
cal work of any kind. While you can replace an electrical plug or switch (
considered maintenance)or replace a light fixture, you can't do much else w
ithout a permit. No circuits, wiring of any type or replacement or upgrade
of service without permits and inspections. Same guidelines for plumbing
and air conditioning.
The catch? If a city building inspector or code compliance officer drives b
y and you are doing more than allowed or are not doing it to Southern Build
ing Code (and San Antonio local codes)they can make you stop on the spot.
A ticket follows that depending on the violation can generate up to a $5000
fine. Also, no work can commence until a full, written scope of work submi
tted by a city licensed contractor, and if needed, drawings. Those have to
be approved by the city. To add to the cost, you have 10 days to comply and
may not do anything to the stopped work without risking further fines. Als
o, since it is now considered an "expedited" project, approval fees double,
inspection fees double, and all fines must be paid up front before work ca
That's the penalties for a homeowner. As a contractor, it is much nastier
and they can prevent you from working at all if you are a repeat offender.
On the other hand, some of our little encapsulated burgs require permits fo
r anything. I mean anything. They do NO inspections during or at the end
of the job unless it is a huge job. If it is a roof, siding replacement, w
indows, etc., you apply for a permit at which time you "promise" to install
the item specified to the manufacturer's specifications and in compliance
with all applicable codes. While they do no follow up, they will fine you a
s much as they can if they catch you doing anything without a permit.
Personally, I am of a mixed mind on this subject. Overwhelmed homeowners t
hat want to play contractor after watching a steady diet of tattooed, pierc
ed 20 somethings and bossy women that can run rough shod over experienced c
ontractors on TV make up about 1/3 of my clients. Unless these folks were b
old/foolish enough to play contractor they wouldn't be nearly as grateful t
o me for taking charge when they have enough of it all. I get a lot of refe
rrals simply from folks that start a project, can't finish it, and someone
gives them my name. Works for me.
The other aspect of it is that once folks get screwed by a fly by night unq
ualified contractor they are usually much easier to work with and will pay
more to get more. I hate to see a homeowner that wants to try something ne
w for themselves or is trying to be more self reliant get screwed. Likewis
e if they just don't have the money to hire a professional to do some maint
enance. But I can't help but laugh when one of these TV educated contractor
s gets a REAL education in contracting and code compliance in the real worl