Home Improvements without Having to Get Permit


Planning on undertaking a major home improvement project? Tread carefully because you may be in for a rude shock! Some home improvements require a permit – bet you never thought of that!

And if you are buying a home from another owner, make doubly sure that all major renovations done earlier are under valid permits, wherever these were necessary. Not having a permit may mean you’ll have to demolish and tear down perfectly good remodeled stuff.

Home Improvements

What are these permits? Why and when are they necessary?

The purpose of a permit is to ensure that homeowners comply with certain criteria and safety concerns in relation to building, mechanical and electrical codes as well as zoning and environmental requirements.

Obtaining a permit, however, can be a tricky problem as it is a local affair.

  • A renovation that does not need a permit in one locality may need one in a different jurisdiction. Since there are no federal or state standards, laws concerning permits vary from city to city and state to state.
  • Some improvements, that do not need a permit, may need one if your home falls within a historic district or is a historic home. This is to ensure that any exterior changes to your home are in accordance with neighborhood historic home guidelines.
  • All major home improvements such as additions, changes to load-bearing walls, decks, balconies, porches or new constructions which make structural changes to your home, require a permit.
  • An electrical permit is needed to install, relocate, alter or repair electrical wiring and HVAC systems, and a plumbing permit is required to install, relocate, alter or repair water, sewage, draining or gas systems and to replace or install water heaters, dishwashers and fixtures.
  • Some municipalities require a permit if the proposed renovation costs more than a certain amount.

So then, which home improvements do not need a permit?

If you really want to know which home improvements you can safely undertake without applying for a permit, you need to check with your local building department for the relevant information before you start or decide on any home improvements. The following cosmetic renovations and simple upgrades and changes in fixtures that don’t entail moving anything, are representative of some projects which do not need a permit, in most locales:

  • Routine maintenance, inside or outside your home.
  • Painting the interior or exterior of your home, wallpapering, installing trim, or other finish work.
  • Laying carpets or tile of vinyl or other types of flooring onto the subflooring.
  • Installing cabinets or countertops, or shelves.
  • Installing fences below the stipulated height.
  • Replacing window panes and installing window awnings. In some locales, replacing existing doors, windows and skylights provided you are not cutting additional ones or making the existing ones larger.
  • Installing a walkway or repairing driveways.
  • Certain plumbing work like replacing or repairing faucets or toilets. Repairing existing landscape irrigation piping
  • Electrical work such as installing switches and changing existing fixtures such as ceiling fans and track lighting. Low-voltage landscape accent lighting certain kitchen appliances
  • Minor roof repairs like re-shingling or retiling with the same material as that existing. Replacing gutters or downspouts
  • Installing window awnings

A word of caution!

You may be faced with dire consequences. Like what? Like paying a heavy fine or even the possibility of having to tear down your home improvements. Getting the necessary permits is expensive and time-consuming, but worth the effort. Violation of building codes can cause fire or other hazards to life and property. Not having permits could also jeopardize the sale of your home later on. Insurance companies will refuse to pay out fire claims if any project which needs a permit has been carried out in the absence of one. Besides this, the responsibility of bringing your home improvements in line with the existing codes rests on you and not on former owners who may have done some of the improvements.

And now for the good news! If you want to avoid the hassles of getting a permit, there are plenty of contractors you could employ to undertake your home improvement project and are willing to get all the paper work done for you.


How much do you know about permits for home improvement projects?  Did you know that most major home improvements require a permit, but there are some minor renovations and repairs that do not. Find out why it’s important to get a permit and which home improvement projects actually need a permit.

About the Author:
Michael has a natural flair for interior and exterior home decor. He believes home improvements should not only be aesthetic but sensible and energy-efficient as well. Michael is a freelance writer who has had 12 years of experience as an interior designer. He writes for Champion Window and other home improvement companies.  Currently, he is evaluating Champion Replacement Windows to make it better.

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