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What home repair warrants a permit?

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by saichele, Nov 22, 2005.

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  1. saichele

    saichele Minister of Fire

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    This is more a philisophical item, as the rules and enforement likely vary some from one jurisdiction to another.

    I was wiring a new light and switch into my barn over the weekend, and it occurred to me that were I in the house, I'd probably technically have to get a permit for this. I do a fair amount of do-it-myself, as I suspect many here do, and frankly probably don't get as many permits as I probably should.

    I think we have a majority, if not universal, opinion in favor of permits and inspections for woodstoves, largely thanks to Elk. But below are a few examples of work that would likely require (although probably seldom get) a permit in my twp. I'm curious which the rest of you would get a permit for? No particular order.

    new electrical switch/outlet.
    new plumbing for washer
    new electrical for dryer
    finishing basement
    Installing a ceiling fan
    replace hot water heater
    replace furnace
    reshingling roof
    replacing windows
    moving/replumbing gas range
    installing range hood/vent
    replacing a bathtub/shower

    If I were a little sharper, I could probably set up a poll, but maybe we can pull this off in a thread.

    Steve

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  2. Mike Wilson

    Mike Wilson New Member

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    Oh, here we go... this should be a fun thread to watch...


    Popcorn! Get your nice hot buttered Popcorn here!


    -- MW
  3. webbie

    webbie Seasoned Moderator Staff Member

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    I think, in theory at least, all of these would require a permit!
    (Of course, I'm a DIY'er and unlike to get one for little jobs)

    Here's my understanding. A BUILDING permit is needed when structural alteration is done to a home (IN NJ anyway), but most of the stuff you mentioned is mechanical in nature, and all of this stuff usually requires permits - then they (in NJ, anyhow) make you get a building permit cause the other ones have to issue "under" the unbrella of the building permit.

    There was actually a book in NJ that clearly explained this and a friendly building official showed it to me. It did use the word "structural", so in theory finishing the basement is not, although the electrical that you are doing along with the walls sets things in motion.

    As Elk has said, it's often an internal fight in the town itself as to who had jurisdiction, etc.

    This is comedy and tragedy, but in my old town we had a building official who was a really nice and understanding guy ...a carpenter on the side like Elk. He was easy to get along with, and pretty much approved anything...I wanted to remodel an old building on my dads property (an industrial one) and the inspector looked and called it "The Issod Hotel", meaning we were allowed to convert the building to pretty much anything we desired!

    Well, this man, Alan Hall, died young of a sudden brain anyurism.

    The guy who took over wsas a toughie, even though he called our shop often for advice. After that, whenever we got caught skirting a permit (or thought we might be caught), we' d laugh among ourselves and plot that we'd tell the new guy "Alan Hall said it was OK" - this actually worked for a couple of years (G_D rest his soul).
  4. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    "I'd love to do it, honey, but I'm waiting on permit approval" is going to replace the old standby, "I'd love to do it honey, but the Great Sheetrock Shortage is still going on."

    The only one on the list I'd ever consider applying for a permit for would be the furnace replacement, and that's only after reading some of Elk's horror stories about insurance.
  5. saichele

    saichele Minister of Fire

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    First, let me be clear about this, I didn't actually say i did any of them (for any local officials out there)

    But second, My impression is the same as Craig's, these would all pechnically require a permit, perhaps including an overall building permit. Which really increases the cost and complexity of adding an electrical outlet. Instead of $10 in parts and a couple hours, it takes 100 in permits, a trip to the twp building, and scheduling an inspection.

    Does technically requiring permits for all these things make us somewhat contemptuous of the permit process in general? Informally, there is obviously a triage that occurs in enforcement. In nearly every [older] house, lots of the plumbing and electrical was probably done w/o a permit, and no one is particularly concerned. But it's all technically in violation. Does this tacit acknowledgement of the basic silliness of the process for minor repairs reduce the significance of the permit process for the couple major things that might matter?

    Steve
  6. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    If in fact you need to pull a permit to install an outlet or even a new circuit, the I would say that it does.
  7. Mo Heat

    Mo Heat Mod Emeritus

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    Does this tacit acknowledgement of the basic silliness of the process for minor repairs reduce the significance of the permit process for the couple major things that might matter?

    IMO anytime laws are created that are overly burdensome or simply cannot be enforced due to an 'average man finds them contemptible' test, it either marginalizes or dooms the success of those laws.

    I think that definitely occurs if all of the things you listed (or even most) required permits.

    On the other hand, I didn't realize until now that I was such an outlaw! This might just get Mrs. Mo Heat to think of me more as the 'bad boy' type. :)
  8. Rhone

    Rhone Minister of Fire

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    One requires a permit, finishing the basement WHICH unfortunately puts it into a sort of house addition situation. Normally you can add an outlet to your house, do your own plumbing, (not alter structure without a permit) but if it's part of your finished basement plan you need an electrical permit, plumbing permit, and potentially a gas permit as well as the finished basement permit and expect 4 visits by an inspector. The furnace/water heater replacement issue, not something to be done by a homeowner. You might get away if it's electric but your heater is sophisticated. You need to calculate what water pressure as the pressure may be different than your incoming line and can be based on your highest point in your house your heating pipes reach in relation to where your heater is situated. You also may need expansion tanks, bleeder valves, back flow valves, check valves, shut off valves, flow restriction valves, pressure reducers, list goes on & on. With expansion tanks you'd need know how much to charge them, and know how to bleed your systems and purge. It's dangerous to put too much pressure into your heating system. I'm pretty sure you also can't connect it to oil/gas/kerosene yourself and lastly need to realize that just because all the parts of something is made of all U.L. parts individually, together that doesn't mean it's U.L. listed and safe. You also need to know reactions of two metals together like if you want to attach black steel to copper you make a weak battery in presense of fluid and one of the materials will rapidly decay. A die-electric union needs to be used between the two, things like a mixing valve needs to be piped at least 12" below the hot water out of your heater, and the expansion tank positioned at least 18" away from the vertical run off your heater. The list goes on, and on, and on.

    For finishing basements, the first step is the Rough-In. Where, they do things like check that your ceiling is no less than 7' and any habitable room no less than 70 square feet. You need to bring them your plans. There are certain allowances for ceiling heights less than that, say for duct work they allow the ceiling to reduce to 6'6" for it. Foundation needs to be insulated to minimal levels in your plan, and they'll want to know if you're adding bedrooms in the basement they MUST have a window and will want to know what size. It must be used for egress that usually when opened, the opening must be at least 20" wide and open 24" tall and not need anything special to open (no crank, etc). Usually any habitated rooms need 8% of window space compared to floor area. They'll want AC powered U.L. smoke detectors in vicinity of bedroom entrance, inside any bedrooms, and at the bottom of any stairs leading up and interconnected. Clothes dryers last I checked are one of the leading causes of house fires. The must exhaust to the outside and use only metal pipe. Flex metal pipe only allowed directly off the dryer to connect it with the solid sheet metal pipe. No screws are allowed to penetrate any connections in this pipe only clamps and tape to fasten joints. All bathrooms usually must include a 20amp GFCI outlet on its own breaker. You need a wall mounted light switch in every habitable room, bathroom, hallway, stairway, and exterior doors. The one near the stairway needs to be illuminated. You also need to make sure you have at least 1 light in each storage room, or area containing heating/ac equipment.

    Okay, to cut this short with the finished basement after the application and the "rough-in" appointment (before any work is done)

    They come back for the "Building Framing" inspection where they inspect all the electrical, plumbing, and gas work is done but before covering is applied to the walls or insulation.

    They then come back for the "Building insulation inspection" where they check that you properly insulated.

    The last is Final inspection.

    Anyway, that's usually how a finished basement goes. The kicker is usually the ceiling height, you're required to have 7' ceilings last I checked. I'm not an expert on the topic, but have seen a few basement finishing models being done. My basement is finished, and has a permit. Also, there may be some strange laws. For example, I can NOT have a kitchen in my basement. What's considered a kitchen? An oven. I can have a fridge, stove top, microwave, but can't have an oven. Putting one in, sets the flags off my house is a two-family and it's not zoned for it. So, I can have everything in my finished basement except an oven which... is exactly what I have (kitchen sink, fridge, faucets, full bathroom, oven top, microwave... no oven so can't cook turkeys down there).
  9. DavidV

    DavidV New Member

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    The furnace, gas line, and water heater would be hired out. That ain't likely to be done by me. The rest seem like pushing it.
    I pulled a drop in stove once(hard wired) and put an outlet on the wire, then a plug in stove. It never occured to me to get a permit.

    Get a permit for a ceiling fan? I don't think that's required here.

    David
  10. michael

    michael New Member

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    None! I have done all of the above and considerably more without a second thought.

    Besides, most of the items you have listed are simply replacing what is already there.

    You do not need a permit unless you are SUBSTANTIALLY CHANGING your home. A room addition, a detached garage or adding a second floor, yes. Finishing a basement that already exists, no. A homeowner is generally allowed to make any improvement he wants to his abode as long as he's not "adding on".

    Thankfully I live in an area where I'm not burdened by such heavy handed regulation and enforcement. Always check around though. Some places are permit and regulation happy.
  11. saichele

    saichele Minister of Fire

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    Part of the distinction I'm trying to get at is what's typically enforeced (externally visible changes, i.e. structural) and what's technically required.

    If you browse Annette's post about trying to get her permit, peruse the bit that Elk posted (cut and pasted here):

    *******************
    International Mechanical Codes

    Chapter 1 Administration

    Section 106 Permits

    106.1 An owner, authorized agent or contractor who desires to erect, install. enlarge, alter, repair, remove, convert or replace a mechanical system, the installation of which is regulated by this code, or to cause such work to be done, shall first make application to the code official and obtain the required permit for the work.

    ****************

    So the furnace repair guy is [technically] supposed to pull a permit on the way out for a 'no-heat' call, certainly to replace a cracked heat exchanger. This is obviously mechanical, but similar for electrical and plumbing. In a by the letter sense, if it requires a new junction box, you probably need a permit. So replacing a faulty outlet is OK, but running a new line for a new outlet needs a permit. In an operational sense, I doubt anyone ever enforces that, for lack of manpower if nothing else. And most homecenters would go under. I can imagine the uproar if there were roving inspections, basically searching houses for unpermitted work and issuing fines.

    But again, there's a distinct difference between what's written and what's enforced. For the most part, I believe that's good, because our system would grind to a halt if it were fully enforced. Based on the responses thus far, it would appear as though we're all sinners to one degree or another. But all of these codes exist ostensibly because there is some plasuible risk of property damage or loss of life if the work isn't done correctly.

    So is there something substantially different between installing a woodstove and, say, replacing a gas hot water heater? Maybe worse, an LP hot water heater?

    Steve
  12. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    What are the typical consequences of not obtaining a permit for work that by law requires one?
  13. saichele

    saichele Minister of Fire

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    Again, I think it varies based on circumstance. I've never heard of anyone here getting more than a fine for a one-off infraction. I suspect if you were a builder routinely circumventing the rules, that might be different.

    Elk posted some penalties on the old forum, and jail time was in there. I think it was along with the blurb about being able to enter a property for inspection given probably cause (like smoke). But again, I suspect most of the time it's fines and stop use until permitted and inspected.

    Steve
  14. Rhone

    Rhone Minister of Fire

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    I think the normal consequences of doing work that you didn't get a permit for is that you fill out a permit and they come out and inspect. Worse case is to restore the area back to its original condition, jail time is possible but I think only if you're an idiot and do something like install a gas furnace yourself in a three-family property you rent and have no experience. Not getting a permit and inspected by a gas inspector, and deciding you'd rather risk the lives of others and their belongings I think I'd attempt to put someone in jail if I were an inspector and saw that.

    Here's a true story, just asked the guy to refresh me on his story a minute ago. A guy at work bought an old house with failing plumbing and failing boiler and replaced it all himself without pulling a permit. The boiler he didn't want to hook it up to gas himself, so got a buddy of his to pull the gas permit and hook it up. When the gas inspector came he looked at the boiler but also noticed hmm... all new pipes everywhere not just near the boiler. He asked, "Looks like you put all new pipes in", the guy here said "yup". Next week he gets a notice from the plumbing inspector saying a permit wasn't pulled. My buddy new the gas inspector ratted him out, wasn't a fine the plumbing inspector wanted a permit filed. So my buddy gets it. The plumbing inspector sets a date to inspect the work. When there he says, "You know I can have you take all this out, pull a permit, and then have you put it all back". My buddy nearly pooped his pants as all the walls and stuff were already put in place. Then the inspector said, "I'm not a jerk but I could do that. I do have to test you did it right". He had him plug up all his toilets, tubs, sinks, drains, you name it and took a hose and poured water down the vent on his roof until it was full. Then, sat and watched. If the water didn't remain the same, the guy in work was in trouble. It did, he gave him his permit and said have a nice day. So, it does and can happen and it did happen to someone I know. Some cities are more lax than others. In most cases, I think they send you a notice to get a permit without dealing with fines & such, Elkimmeg I recall said that's what he does. I haven't heard of anyone actually being fined unless it's a repeated offense, and Elkimmeg I believe also stated after HD had repeatedly failed to pull permits they fined them.
  15. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    I guess it's like anything else: once you break the law, you open yourself up to all kinds of possibilities, including being at the mercy of sadistic local officials.
  16. 343amc

    343amc Feeling the Heat

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    I think I've done all of those without a permit, except for replacing windows, as I haven't done that yet. I got permits for an electrical service upgrade and a building permit when I built a pole building.

    A few years ago, my neighbor wanted to tear down an old shed and build a new one. Township wouldn't let him, as the building size was too big, since the shed had been there for at least 30 years. He built new outside walls around the existing shed, roofed it, tore down the old building, and carried it out of the new shell. But, as far as the township was concerned that was OK as it was a "cosmetic upgrade to an existing building".

    Unbelievable....
  17. CrazyAboutOrchids

    CrazyAboutOrchids New Member

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    In my town, I wouldn't do any major changes to my home without a permit. We've had two instances - one neighbor enclosed their deck with screening. When it went to sell, wasn't what the town had on record. They had to tear it all down, including a great deal of the deck since the town made them repair the deck at current building code. They had to drop the price of their house since the folks who had put the offer in on the house and had it accepted bought the house as described with screened in deck. They lost big time.

    Second instance - aquaintance who lived in a nearby town. They finished off their basement without a permit. Went to sell the house - no finished basement on record. They had to tear out walls to prove the electrical work was done properly.

    For home repairs, I think doing it yourself is fine. Anything bigger, go the right route the first time to save yourselves grief. When we purchased our storage shed, we pulled a permit for it. Many may have not, but it was above the 10 x 10 that is fine without a permit. We did it more in case some neighbor fussed over the addition of the shed. We live in a small neighborhood, woodsy, natural, we didn't take any chances. However, when we installed our insert, town could have cared less since we already had a fireplace and exterior chimney. They told me their suggestions for safe burning which was to have the full liner installed, but didn't require anything.
  18. fbelec

    fbelec Minister of Fire

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    in the electrical biz you have to pull a permit for almost anything you do here in mass. but if you do pull a permit for something small like changing like fixtures you get the evil eye from the inspector and the why did you pull a permit for this. but if your caught not pulling a permit for something that needed a permit you'll have to pay a fine + triple fee for the permit and if the state board thinks your worthy they'll pull your license.
  19. lime4x4

    lime4x4 Member

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    yeah but there also has to be a limit..For major work i will pull a permit.My town requires you to also pull a permit if u just want to paint a single wall inside your house.Now to me that's just plain greed and gives them another reason why they should increase your tax burden every year.Oh you painted a wall that increases the value of your house so now u get to pay more in taxes.And i checked on there website the cost of the permit to paint the inside of your house is 40 bucks for the first 500 square feet then 5 bucks for every 100 sq feet
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