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How City Permitting May Determine Your DIY Destiny

Updated: Apr 19


Why Do Permits Matter to Your Project?

City permitting is a crucial aspect of any home renovation project as it ensures that the construction or changes made to a property comply with local building codes, zoning regulations, and safety standards. Obtaining the necessary permits is essential for legal compliance and can significantly impact the success and smoothness of your renovation project. Here's why city permitting matters, typical permits you may need, and how to obtain them:

  1. Legal Compliance: City permitting ensures that your renovation project adheres to the rules and regulations set forth by local authorities. Failing to obtain the required permits can result in fines, penalties, and even being forced to undo the work.

  2. Safety and Quality Assurance: Permitting processes involve inspections by building officials to ensure that the construction or renovation work meets safety standards. This oversight helps identify potential hazards and ensures that the project is executed to high-quality standards.

  3. Insurance and Resale Value: Many insurance companies require proof of permits for any significant renovations. Additionally, when selling the property, potential buyers may ask for documentation of completed permits to verify that the work was done correctly and legally.

Typical Permits You May Need for a Home Renovation Project:

Building Permit: Required for structural changes, additions, or significant renovations that affect the building's structure or footprint. Even fences require a building permit.

Electrical Permit: Needed for electrical work, such as rewiring, installing new circuits, or changing the electrical panel.

Plumbing Permit: Required for any changes to the plumbing system, including adding new fixtures or altering existing plumbing lines.

Mechanical Permit: Needed for work related to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, like installing a new HVAC unit.

Demolition Permit: Required if your project involves demolishing any part of the existing structure.

Zoning Permits: In some cases, you may need zoning permits for changes that affect land use, such as building an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) or changing the property's use.

Other: Other permits include Roofing, Doors, Windows, Siding and Solar Panels.

How to Obtain a Permit:

  1. Research Local Requirements: Visit your city's official website or contact the local building department to understand the specific permitting requirements for your renovation project.

  2. Prepare Necessary Documentation: Depending on the scope of your project, you may need architectural drawings, construction plans, engineering reports, and other documents. Consult with a professional architect or contractor to create the required documentation.

  3. Submit the Application: Complete the permit application form and submit it along with the required documents to the local building department. Some cities may offer online permit application systems, while others might require in-person submissions.

  4. Pay the Fees: There are usually fees associated with obtaining permits. Pay the required fees when submitting your application.

  5. Await Approval: The building department will review your application and documents. If everything meets the necessary standards, they will issue the permits.

  6. Schedule Inspections: Once you receive the permits, you'll need to schedule inspections at different stages of the project to ensure compliance with building codes.


  1. Application Approval: Before any construction work begins, the homeowner or contractor must obtain the necessary residential building permit from the local building department. Depending on the scope of the project, this may involve submitting plans. In most of our small, room-by-room projects, written text outlining the scope and adherence to code (ie: electrical outlet quantity and placement) was often sufficient.

  2. Pre-Construction Inspection (New Build): In some cases, a pre-construction inspection may be scheduled to assess the site's condition and verify that the proposed plans comply with zoning regulations and other initial requirements.

  3. Start of Construction: Once the building permit is approved, construction can commence as outlined in the permit application.

  4. Requesting Inspections: During the construction process, various stages require inspections to ensure compliance with building codes. The homeowner or contractor must request inspections at specific milestones relative to the scope of the permit.

  5. Inspection Schedule: The local building department will provide a list of required inspections and their corresponding stages. It's crucial to adhere to this schedule and coordinate with the building inspector to ensure inspections are carried out promptly.

  6. On-Site Inspections: The inspector will assess the work to verify that it meets the required codes and regulations. Inspections may involve checking structural integrity, safety features, plumbing and electrical installations, or overall compliance with approved plans.

  7. Inspection Results: After an inspection, inspector will provide feedback and inform the homeowner or contractor of any issues that need to be addressed or corrected. If everything meets the required standards, the inspector will approve that particular stage.

  8. Corrections and Re-Inspections: If any deficiencies are identified during an inspection, the homeowner or contractor must make the necessary corrections. Once the issues are resolved, a re-inspection can be requested to ensure compliance.

  9. Final Inspection: Once all construction work is complete and meets the necessary standards, a final inspection is scheduled. If the project is a new build, this is a comprehensive inspection covering all aspects of the project and is crucial for obtaining a Certificate of Occupancy (C.O.) or other documentation required to legally occupy the property.

  10. Certificate of Occupancy: If the project is a new build and the final inspection is successful, the building department will issue a Certificate of Occupancy, indicating that the property complies with all building codes and regulations. The C.O. allows the property to be legally occupied.

A Crucial Note for DIY'ers:

Home renovation permits can indeed differ by city, particularly regarding who is allowed to do the work. The regulations surrounding permits and who can perform the renovations are typically established by local building codes and zoning ordinances. Some cities may require that certain types of home renovations, such as electrical, plumbing, or structural work, be performed only by licensed professionals. This means that homeowners or unlicensed individuals might not be allowed to handle these tasks without the proper credentials. In some areas, homeowners have the right to perform specific renovation tasks on their own property without needing a licensed contractor. However, there may still be limits on the scope of work and types of projects that homeowners can undertake.


Remember that the permitting process may vary depending on your location and the complexity of your renovation project. It's essential to work with qualified professionals, such as architects and contractors, who are familiar with local regulations and can help guide you through the permitting process smoothly.


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