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Do I need a permit?

The ramifications of not pulling building permits in the past were only seen later in the history of the home. When a poorly done reno, retrofit, upgrade etc. was done it inevitably came back to haunt the DIYer or the new owner. Without going into the old if it was done to code it was most likely done right argument, l can tell you whats going on around this part of the world. Here in Ontario Canada our government(s) believe we need to be protected from ourselves. Cigarettes come with graphic photos of lung tumours, all consumer products must have both English and French text, and in Ontario I must pull a $100.00 permit to change a toilet plus the cost of a plumbing inspection.
Several individuals here today are unable to sell their homes.
Since the mid 90’s when 99 % of all government records went digital all permits that were pulled in most municipalities are filed against the property related to the project. In the process of a sale the legal description of a property is kept on file outlying briefly what existed on the property at the conclusion of the last change of ownership. If the general description did not, and this an example only, describe a inground pool, finished basement, 2 car garage etc. etc. The sale may be put on hold until the seller can produce paperwork or prove these things were in place when he or she purchased. If it is determined that any changes were done without proper permits and inspections then the pain starts. This practice is so new the municipalities have yet, as far as I am informed, have a policy in place to follow.
I truly believe that doing a job right the first time is the only way to go. I believe that when done correctly to or beyond code is a good thing. I always say “would you let your children or grandchildren play under this rickety roof”. I’ve been preaching the importance of getting the proper permits required for years, especially to business partners and clients. I’m not being political here, yes permits and the fines for not pulling them certainly generate revenue and I’m sure some legislators don’t care why they are required other than the revenue generated.
I would be very interested in hearing the opinions of both homeowners as well as builders on this.

Re: Do I need a permit?

One time I had a conversation with a city building inspector, who was a former subcontractor, on this subject. While permits do raise revenues for the cash strapped cities, the main reason for the existence of codes and permits is safety. No kidding.

You have no idea what people do if given complete freedom to do things their ways, without inspections. Just look at the quality of building in countries where buildings go up without inspections.

The building code of today, as contradicting and ridiculous as it sometimes seem to be, is a collective accumulation of the past experiences of all building activities thus far. And it's a good thing, because it stops individuals from making mistakes that have been done in the past, plus it forces them to build correctly.

I would agree that requiring a permit to replace a toilet is stupid - where is the safety issue here? - but requiring a permit to run a propane gas line to the kitchen stove is a safety issue to the homeowner and the neighbors as well.

In summary, permits do protect us from ourselves, and they are necessary. Without them, folks will repeat building mistakes again and again, causing damages and risking life unnecessarily.

MLB Construction
Re: Do I need a permit?

amen to that dj

Re: Do I need a permit?

Permitting also adds one layer of credulity to the profession. Since there are recognized guidelines for a contractor to follow - when things go wrong a judge will know how to decide if things were done correctly or not.

A. Spruce
Re: Do I need a permit?

I seriously question the argument that codes are for our safety and that their purpose is not fiscally driven.

Case in point, a client purchased a home under construction by an owner/builder. For all intents and purposes, the home was completed with the exception of primarily finish work such as drywall, paint, trim, tile, floor coverings, etc. Before I could start working, I had to go pull new permits under the new owners name, which were as expensive as the originals, not just a nominal "renewal" or "transfer" fee. Then, all of a sudden, work that had been previously signed off by the building department no longer met code and had to be upgraded at considerable added expense in both new permit fees and cost of upgrade/repair of the now red tagged items.

The other side of the argument is that it weeds out the unlicensed hacks from the legitimate contractors. Again I call bullshit on this, as more than once I've had to go in behind fully licensed and insured contractors to repair botched work. In fact, I am currently dealing with a seriously botched addition that was completed in August 2012 and leaked like a sieve in the first rain storm. A topical inspection found that there was no step flashing of the roof along an adjacent wall. Upon removal of the wet drywall and insulation, it was revealed that the roof was never tied into the existing house roof properly, there was no valley flashing of any kind and the shingles were not woven properly. Opening the interior also revealed a cavalcade of horrors from the ground up. It is not likely that this particular project had permits, however it does show that there are as many licensed hacks out there as unlicensed hacks.

The fundamental idea that codes are about safety is a good one, as is the idea that permits/inspections make sure that work is completed in a professional and safe manner. The reality is quite the opposite, as is outlined in the two instances above and many many others I could recite in my 20 years in the business.

Re: Do I need a permit?

Thanks for the input folks very interesting. Just as we have hack pro's, we have as many hack inspectors. I have run across many inspectors who will backtrack previously approved work. One inspector constantly was looking for missed or on the fence approvals from a previous coworker. Come to find out both these pro's had an ongoing feud for years. So it went back an forth until I had enough documentation to present to the building department. It turned out that inspector #2 had been bypassed for a promotion in favor of inspector #1.

The reason for the permits for a toilet retrofit, as was explained to me, was to ensure that drains and closet flanges were to all be 4". This would minimize possibility of sewer back up. I really don't know how any of the authorities would be able to prove otherwise, hold on a second, I bet dollars to donuts an insurance company looking at a claim will be able to.

A. Spruce
Re: Do I need a permit?

Another story to tack into the "for profit" column.

Why are roof inspections not important when there is impending rain, hence they will give you permission to proceed without inspection, before, during, or after? On sunny days you can be the inspector will be there.

I've also played the "tag team" crap with inspectors, one guy will pass, the other won't, another will call petty stuff. When working for other companies in my early years, I knew of several inspectors "owned" by the contractor I worked for. I even made deliveries of materials (purchased by the contractors ) to said inspectors homes. I always thought it a bit odd that we always had the same inspector on every job. :rolleyes:

I'm not suggesting that all, or even a significant portion of inspectors fall into the corrupt or petty category, but suffice it to say, in my experience they are pretty commonplace, as are all forms of inept and unemployable individuals within the civil service sector.

Re: Do I need a permit?

Another purpose of permits is to ensure that property tax assessments are updated according to the value of the work performed.

I can see the value of permitting and inspection in commercial construction and multifamily dwellings, as the people served by those facilities do not have the ability to observe the safety and workmanship of the construction nor do they have the ability to choose their risk. However, for DIY work performed by an owner-occupant, the risk is entirely on himself (and his insurance company) and no permit or inspection should be necessary (but it should still be an option). If his insurance company drops coverage because of failure to seek inspection, that's his problem. As for resale, it's incumbent upon the buyer to ensure the safety and workmanship of construction of the home being considered for purchase.

Even if a home was constructed with proper permits and reliable inspections, that's no guarantee that it is safe. What may have been "to code" 30 years ago may now be considered unsafe or may be failing due to age.

Re: Do I need a permit?

I feel that permits and inspections anre a good thing within reason. In our area the permit requiments are pretty reasoable and the inspectors i have dealt with are generally very good. That being said i know there are areas that it has gotten rediculous for examle changing a tiolet sould never requre a permit. replumbing a house should. i feel that permits and inspections are just as important if not more so for diyers because of there limited knowledge and experince. the argument that they are only putting themselves in danger doesnt hold water because what happens at resale there are some things that can be seen upon superficial inspection but some things are hidden and will never be seen and those can be very dangerous.

A. Spruce
Re: Do I need a permit?
junkout wrote:

the argument that they are only putting themselves in danger doesnt hold water because what happens at resale there are some things that can be seen upon superficial inspection but some things are hidden and will never be seen and those can be very dangerous.

That is very true. There is no easy answer or solution to the problem. There will always be unscrupulous contractors, hacks, and ignorant DIY'rs who will continue to do their horrors while the rest of us pay for it, not only in the form of subpar practices and unsafe structures, but ever restricting permit/government meddling in a halfassed attempt to "fix" the problem.

Re: Do I need a permit?

Consider once a permit and inspection has been completed the municipal inspection department has certified the work is to code. At any time after if there was an issue that required an insurance claim on the previous certified work, then it becomes a non-issue compared to work done that wasn't permitted and inspected.


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