Planning a remodeling project can be both exciting and stressful, so it’s understandable to overlook a detail or two. But in the midst everything else you have going on, don’t forget one of the most crucial first steps: Obtain the proper building permits for your project! Here’s what you need to know.

What you need a permit for. A permit grants you legal permission to begin construction on a new structure or make certain changes to an existing one. Permit requirements vary from state to state, and even city to city, but in California we have special energy efficiency requirements involving windows, lighting, insulation, and fire sprinklers. And of course, certain requirements for plumbing, electrical work, and other types of renovations are common almost everywhere. The point of building permits is to protect the general health and safety of the population.

You don’t need a permit for everything. Permits are generally not required for cosmetic remodels, such as installing new cabinet doors or repainting the living room. But when in doubt, ask! The last thing you want to do is get halfway into a job and then get shut down by the permit office. You also want to make sure any work you perform is done correctly and safely.

If a permit is not required, can I go ahead with my renovation? Probably, but not if you live in an HOA. Those who reside in neighborhoods with a homeowners association should also check with those rules, to be sure you won’t be penalized for unapproved work.

What if I don’t get a permit? Your contractor might suggest you can skip this step, because the work is performed indoors and no one will know. But if you’re caught, you can actually be sued.

How do I get a permit? First, ask your contractor which permits are required for the job. If they don’t know, that’s a major red flag. Your contractor should be able to obtain the proper permits for you, so that you don’t even have to do anything. If you’re performing the work yourself, call your city permitting office. Of course, if a job requires a permit, it probably also requires professional expertise. So keep that in mind.

If you’re considering a home remodeling project, give us a call to discuss your plans. We can help you understand what permits might be needed, and answer other questions you might have.