Often people call in and ask if they need a permit for a certain project. Understandingly it can be confusing at times. Another question that gets asked a lot is, "Why do we need a permit"? Or can I do the work myself? I will start with the question, why do I need a permit first? Permits are used to ensure the safety of the work and its compliance with building, construction, and zoning codes. When calling in and asking for a permit, the applicant often finds out that zoning regulations may go hand in hand with the project that needs a permit. For instance, fences can only be a certain height depending on where it is located. Accessory buildings such as sheds and garages could have a setback requirement on your property regardless of the size. There are also size limitations for the accessory building that need to be followed. Permits can also be a good selling tool when it comes time to sell your house. Potential buyers may request to see any permits issued to do certain projects that may have been done to improve the home for selling. Potential buyers will do their due diligence to make sure that any work done was permitted and safe. It can be a red flag to potential buyers that improvements were done "under the radar," and no inspections occurred. I am always getting requested to see what permits were pulled on a house for sale. I also get requests from Insurance companies to know if a permit was pulled to reroof a house. If no permit was pulled and the owner claims it was shingled, it may be difficult to file a claim. If the permit shows a contractor did it, the insurance company knows they were licensed. Having a permit on record to show the insurance company can make the claims process less complicated.
For the question of "can, I do the work"? The answer is yes. If you own the property and it is your primary residence. You can pull a permit if needed and do the work yourself. You will still need to have inspections if required. I want to mention that just because you own it and you live there, you may not be qualified to do some of the work. Many how-to videos on YouTube range from landscaping to installing an electrical service entrance. It would help if you were careful when learning from some of those videos because some are dangerous and not to code. I say stick to what you can do and leave the life safety issues such as electrical, some plumbing, and HVAC projects up to the qualified contractors.
Here are some examples of what needs a permit.
- Any accessory structure/carport or decks over 200 sq. ft.
- Reroofing (Must remove all layers)
- Fences unless you are replacing an existing fence.
- New electrical, plumbing, or HVAC circuits.
- Replacing electrical service
- Water heater
- Demolition of an entire house
- Egress windows
- Business signs
Permits are not needed for the following.
- Flatwork for concrete
- Replacing windows or doors
- Kitchen cabinets or countertop
- Replacing outlets, lights, or minor electrical repairs.
- Replacing plumbing such as faucets, sinks, toilets
Now for the other aspect of permits that many people forget to do, the inspection side of permits. Just because you pulled a permit doesn't mean you are good to go. Inspections are the most important part of the project. You may know what you are doing, but it is always good to have a second set of eyes to make sure that you have crossed all the t's and dotted all the I's. The inspector's job is to make sure that it is done safely. The building code that is followed is only the minimum requirements needed. Many people think that they went out of the way because they did it to code. In reality, what they did was the bare minimum that was required. So, at the very least, the person doing the work should do it to code. People need to understand that "code" is not a cuss word but a minimum standard in keeping you and your family safe.
Below is an example of what needs to be inspected.
- Footings and foundation prior to pouring concrete.
- Framing inspections prior to covering.
- Electrical, plumbing and hvac prior to covering.
- New gas lines will need to be air tested.
- Final inspection after construction is completed, prior to occupying the structure.
- Certificate of Occupancy may be required.
If you are uncertain if your project needs a permit and inspection or have any questions regarding Building, Planning or Zoning. Feel free to call 785-483-6311, and we will be happy to answer any of your questions. You can also apply for permits online and find out which contractors are licensed to do work in the City of Russell along with many other informational forms on the link below.