When do I need a building permit or inspection?

I guess I'm a little fuzzy on when I "need" to apply for a permit for work I am doing around my house. Can I just call the city I live in and ask someone every time I work on a larger project?

1a) I install a ceiling fan, I don't think I need a permit.

1b) I remove a single fluorescent tube light fixture and install recessed lighting in my kitchen. Do I need a permit (or inspection) since I'm rewiring/placing new wire in the ceiling?

2a) I change a faucet. No permit.

2b) I install a water softener. I was told I would need a permit for this because if it isn't installed properly the resin could backflow into the city water header.

I feel it is my home and I can do what I want and I guess that is true for the most part. I can understand issues arising like mentioned with the water softener (I'm not planning on doing this and haven't looked into any details so I don't know if the resin backflowing is even a concern but I think it's a good example). If I do the work correctly, no one is really going to know that I installed recessed lighting, but still...

When do I NEED to get permits or have inspections performed when I am working on my own house?

6 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    As a general rule (most municipalities follow this) you technically would need a permit for anything connected to the city which would include any changes to the electrical or plumbing within the walls, ceilings, etc or anything that would be a possible safety issue which would included any structural changes.

    The only exclusions are external items such paint, carpet, fixtures, etc (ie: changes to a faucet, toilet, ceiling fan) that don't require any changes to the internal (hidden, within walls, etc.) areas of the house.

    This is just a general guideline.

    And to your examples:

    1a. If replacing an existing fan, NO. If installing a new one YES. (because of electrical changes to the house)

    1b. Changing lighting within ceiling - YES. (because of electrical changes to the house)

    2a. Change a faucet. NO.

    2b. Water softener. I don't have any experience with these but again if that requires the alteration of the internal plumbing then YES.

    Something else to keep in mind is if you do, for example, install recessed lighting, and your house burns down because you didn't install the correct housing for your ceiling insulation type, in addition to the fact that your house insurance will not cover you, but you may be liable for other costs as well.

  • 1 decade ago

    That depends on where you live. You should be able to contact your local building department to make sure. They may even have a website. If you are planning on doing anything structural to the house, replacing the roof or moving plumbing, you will probably need a permit. Replacing lighting fixtures and adding a water softener should not require a permit.

  • I would check with the Buiding Inspection Unit in your city. Laws are different in every town. Never heard of needing a building permit for installing a water softener. Again might be your city too.

  • 4 years ago


    Source(s): Learn Woodworking http://woodworkingprojects.enle.info/?323Y
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  • 1 decade ago

    If its structural or mechanical give them a call. Really depends on how comfortable you are with code and common sense. Insurance companies can deny a clam.

  • Anonymous
    6 years ago

    As a general rule you need a permit to change the structurality of the place, open a window, change door disposition etc, it however depends on t hstate you are in, I hear that Texas ismore permissive than other states.

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    When do I need a building permit or inspection?

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