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This is the $64,000 question. It is asked in so many ways and so unlikely to get an accurate answer that I had to find out for myself. Everyone thinks I know this stuff anyway, so I might as well.
If the answer were easy, we would all know it. The problem is that the list of what requires a permit is so darn long, that it is easier to list what you don’t need a permit for. My answer used to be “Only if you are doing something structural.” Rong!
Now I answer the question this way…
If You Have to Ask, the Answer Is Yes!
I was recently about to remodel a small bathroom with very few changes, To be extra cautious, I called the city to ask if it was OK to do it without a permit. In the good ol’ days, Perry would say “sure.” Now they say (off the record), everyone is so busy, you know what you are doing, use your own best judgment, Joe. “By the way… this conversation never happened.” “What conversation?” I said grinning. That’s when the dank fog of guilt started to form about my feet, threatening to engulf me.
My takeaway? I don’t want to play that game anymore. Our Judeo-Christian roots provide enough guilt; who needs more? Those who know me will attest that I am a rule follower, too. I’m spring loaded to get permits for everything. I can see the slippery slope that could follow ignoring the need for a permit.
The 12 Little Things
Here is the official list of what does NOT need a permit. The 12 little things that do not need a permit
Although I cannot recite them from memory, you must admit, they are some pretty minor things. The moral of this story is that it is in everyone’s best interest for the city to keep track of remodeling activity in the area. It is also good to provide 3rd party verification that everything was done up to code for our clients.
For the professional remodeler, permits are a must. For the remodeling contractor that belongs to any professional affiliation, the rules are to be followed whether you like them or not.
If you want to change the rules, there are several avenues to be an advocate for change. I became a life long learner about building science and joined the code collaborative as an active participant.
MEP Permits Are Needed Too
Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing permits are usually pulled by the trades. They occasionally sneak under the radar, but for the most part they pull their permits under the primary contractor’s permit.
There is little gray area for this kind of work; these guys are licensed and should be doing it right. I worry that they may a bit too restrictive, but they have their reasons, too. Life safety is the primary driving force.
Your comments are welcome. To ask questions or get more information about remodeling, click here to email me directly, or call 208-947-7261
If you or someone you know is considering remodeling or just wants to speak to a trustworthy remodeling contractor, please contact me. You’ll be glad you did.