It is late morning and you are wondering where your building inspector is? You certainly know where he isn’t; he isn’t approving the most recent work so that you can move on with your project. Your inspection was scheduled for first thing in the morning and the inspector finally shows up near the end of the day. On the one hand you want to yell, scream and complain; on the other hand you know that you need him to sign off on the work so that you can proceed. Outwardly you are respectful and cordial; inside you are seething and thinking, “Next time I’m doing this without permits!”
Do I Really Need Permits?
It’s very tempting to do renovations without pulling permits. It may appear that you will save time, money and a big hassle, but at what cost? The primary reason that municipalities require permits is so that they can be sure that work is performed to acceptable standards and that it meets all building codes. The codes are created to set minimum standards for safety and appearance. These standards give home buyers a reasonable level of assurance that a home is safe for them to live in.
A lot of cosmetic work can be done without permits. Installing new carpets, painting and landscape changes normally do not require any kind of approval. However, major renovations involving plumbing, electric, foundations, extensions etc. always will. A good starting point is your local building department if you have not retained the services of an Architect or General Contractor, they can give you a wealth of information on what the requirements are. When in doubt, give them a call. They are there to help.
So Called Professional that works without Permits!
When working with contractors you need to be careful. If they tell you that they don’t need permits to do the project you should check to be sure. It could be that they are unlicensed or they may be looking to cut corners. Be especially wary if they say that you can save money by not pulling permits, you may end up paying a lot more in the end.
The building inspector will check a contractor’s work to be sure that it is up to par. If the work is shoddy it will fail inspection. This is a case where an inspector can save you a lot of trouble. If the work fails inspection the contractor will have to make it right and they should be the ones bearing the cost for any corrections that need to be made.
County vs. Municipality
When working with a building department in a large city you a probably dealing with a bureaucracy and may not see the same inspector twice. In a small town, you will most likely deal with the same inspector for multiple inspections. I personally like dealing with small cities, this gives the inspector a chance to create familiarity with your construction project. Furthermore, you will need to adapt to the local conditions of your building department. In a large city you want to develop a good reputation so that inspectors know that you are easy to deal with. In a small town you need to make the inspector your friend. Making an enemy of a small town inspector can be the kiss of death.
Permits, inspectors and inspections can be a big hassle. However, in the long haul, they may save you a lot of grief.
Marc Scavuzzo, M.A., Assoc. A.I.A., CGC, LEED AP of Scavuzzo & Associates P.A., Architectural, Engineering and Construction Services
We offer FREE Construction Planning. Give us a call at 305-776-8921 and/or ask for references or visit our company website www.scavuzzoassoc.com