The Top 5 Reasons That Remodels Aren’t Permitted


Let me just get this out of the way: Building and Construction Permits not to mention the inspectors that enforce them can be, well, a huge pain in the butt for homeowners and remodeling contractors alike. I have to deal with permitting and planning departments all the time, and as with any other bureaucratic process involving getting permission from the government to do something, the permit process is rarely smooth or enjoyable at all.

It’s not surprising that many homeowners (studies have shown over 75%) never get a permit to build or remodel their home nor do they require their contractors to pull permits. Here are the top five reasons why:

1. Permits not required

It may seem like permits are required for every home project, including setting up a plastic kiddie pool in the backyard. The truth is, however, that permits aren’t required for many different kinds of remodeling projects, including certain kitchen and bathroom remodels that encompass a lengthy scope of work. For instance, if you are removing your kitchen countertops, cabinets and flooring, but are, for the most part, keeping your same kitchen layout, you may not require a permit. If the plumbing, electrical or drywall is not being disturbed and there is no new framing, in most municipalities there is nothing to inspect. Items like a cabinet and countertop installation, painting, flooring install and other cosmetic trades do not show up on most inspection cards.

2. Expense

Yes, permits cost money. There is a fee associated with pulling even a minor permit for an interior remodeling project. The fees increase depending on the scope of the project and the potential inspections needed. A permit for a room addition, for instance, will be much more expensive than a plumbing, electrical and drywall permit for a bathroom remodel. For those looking to save money on an expensive remodel, skipping the permit process and the associated costs can be very tempting.

3. Delays

Major remodels requiring architectural and engineering review by your municipality will definitely take some time to get approved. On top of that, certain trades and phases of construction will need to be inspected before the project can continue. These delays are usually less noticeable on a larger project like a room addition, but when your kitchen or bathroom is out of commission and time is lost due to waiting on an inspector to show up, it can put a dent in the projected completion time.

4. Inspectors

There are definitely some good inspectors around who care about not just their job, but also the taxpaying homeowner who is helping to cover their salary. Good inspectors are concerned for safety and also for the convenience of the homeowner who is living in a house under construction. Unfortunately, there are a lot of the other kinds of inspectors, too. The kind who like to boss people around and take pleasure in thinking up new and inventive ways of inconveniencing contractors and homeowners alike. Some of the worst inspectors don’t really know their job, yet can get away with throwing around unrealistic requirements because, well – they are the inspector, so there! One bad round with competence-challenged inspector will make any homeowner think twice before pulling a new permit.

5. Privacy

In America, many homeowners feel that their home is their castle. They don’t want anybody poking around and telling them what to do with that castle, much less some inspector who could reject a request. With so many legitimate reasons to abhor the permit process, is there any to justify the extra cost, time, and possible rejection that pulling a permit entails (besides that pesky legality issue)? Actually, yes. In my next article, find out why – despite all the reasons listed in this article – you should have a building permit.