Building permit costs vary based on where you live and the size and nature of the project. You may be charged a flat fee or a percentage of the estimated construction costs, including labor and materials, depending on the project. In general, you can expect to pay anywhere from $50 for small projects to $2,000 or more for major renovations or complete construction. In any case, regardless of the cost, you are legally required to obtain the necessary building permits before you begin a construction project.
Home renovation is an exciting endeavor. Maybe you want to build a deck, put in a new roof, or remodel your bathroom. You’ve saved up money or acquired a loan, and now you think you’re ready to start construction — until you find out that your area may require permits for the work you plan to do. What do you do now?
Read on to learn more about building permits, including permit costs and how the permit process works. Let’s start by taking a quick look at why you need a building permit in the first place.
What are building permits for?
Building permits are issued by your local building department to prove that certain types of work on your property have been approved. Permits are meant to enforce local building codes and standards and to protect you and your home, says Mark Buskuhl, founder and CEO of Ninebird Properties, a company that specializes in buying, renovating, and selling dozens of properties a year.
“A building permit is a document issued by a local government or other regulatory body in order to approve the construction of a structure. Building permits are essential for ensuring safety and compliance with applicable building codes and regulations, as well as for obtaining certain types of financing. Without a valid permit, any work done on the project may be considered illegal and subject to fines.”
In any case in which a permit (or multiple permits) is required, you’ll need to complete a building permit application, wait for approval, and prominently display the building permit before construction can begin. You also usually have a specified amount of time to complete the project.
When do you need a building permit?
Not all work on your home will require permits. The basic rule of thumb is that you don’t need permits for repairs or replacement jobs, although that largely depends on the scope of the work. For example, if you’re only replacing a single window, you probably don’t need a permit. However, if you’re replacing several windows, you more than likely need a permit.
You also probably don’t need a permit for jobs like replacing flooring or renovating kitchen cabinets. Of course, because permit requirements vary from state to state and city to city, it’s always a good idea to check with your local building department first to be sure.
In general, you will need a building permit for any type of construction that results in structural changes or alteration of the mechanical systems in the home or building. You’ll also need a permit to construct any detached structures, such as a shed or a guest house.
“Any construction, renovation, alteration, or demolition that affects the structural integrity of a building or structure requires a permit,” says Buskuhl. “This includes projects such as installing new windows and doors, adding an addition to your home, making repairs to existing structures, and more. It’s always best to check with your local municipality for specific details before beginning any project.”
Other types of construction that may require permits include the following:
- New construction
- Attached structures, such as decks, porches, and wheelchair ramps
- Detached structures on your property, such as sheds, garages, pools, and fences
- Kitchen or bath remodels
- Windows and doors
- Plumbing systems
- Electrical systems
Again, when in doubt, check with your local building department to find out if you need to obtain a permit for work on your property. They may also be able to give you an estimate of the permit cost. Some cities, towns, or counties even have permit cost calculators online to help you get a better idea of the permit fee based on estimated construction costs and other factors.
How much is a building permit?
Building permit fees are usually based on the project cost and/or the square footage of the construction, although in some cases, you can expect to pay a flat fee or a minimum permit fee. In general, you’re likely to pay at least $50 for a small project and up to $2,000 or more for larger construction projects, major renovations, or completely new construction.
For example, electrical or plumbing permit fees (for minor work) may be on the lower end of the spectrum, whereas a roofing permit fee for an entire roof replacement may cost up to $500. On the higher end, if you need a basement finishing permit or a permit to make an addition to your home, you could be looking at a permit fee upwards of $1,000.
Every city, state, and municipality has different rules, regulations, building codes, and standards, so you’ll need to check with the building department in your area to find out the exact permit costs for your specific project. For large projects, you will likely need multiple permits, which will can also significantly raise your building permit fees.
Also, keep in mind that some building departments may charge an application fee and other fees that will add to the total building permit cost.
How to get a building permit
If you’re planning on doing the work yourself, then it’s your responsibility to acquire the necessary permits, which means you’ll need to pay the permit fees out of pocket. If you’re hiring a professional contractor to complete the project for you, they may apply for the permits on your behalf and add the building permit fees to the total construction costs.
Some contractors may also ask you to obtain the building permit before they begin construction. If you’re applying for the permits yourself, you’ll need to do a little research to determine how to apply in your area.
“The process for obtaining a building permit varies from location to location. In many cases, you can apply online through your municipality’s website. Alternatively, you may need to submit a paper application and required supporting documents in person or by mail,” says Buskuhl.
Supporting documentation may include official plans or drawings for the project or other details required by the building department. In general, though, the process to obtain a building permit involves the following steps:
How to get a building permit
- Research how to apply for a building permit in your area.
- Fill out the building permit application.
- Submit your application online, in person, or by mail, and be sure to include any supporting documentation as required.
- If approved, pay the permit fee and receive your building permit.
- Post the building permit in accordance with the requirements of your city, town, or county.
- Schedule or comply with any inspections that may be required as your construction continues or is completed.
How long does it take to get a building permit?
Because there are so many variables, similar to how difficult it can be to pin down the exact cost of a building permit, it can also be difficult to determine how long it will take to acquire the permit. For simple projects, if you have all the required documentation, you may be able to get a permit on the same day you apply for it.
However, if your construction project is more complex, it may take a lot longer to get your building permit. This is especially true if you need to acquire multiple permits, which is common for larger projects. Either way, you should plan ahead to make sure your construction project remains on schedule.
“The length of time it takes to get a building permit depends on the complexity and scope of your project. Generally, it’s best to plan for at least six weeks for the entire process — from submitting an application to receiving approval. However, some municipalities may take longer or require extra paperwork for certain projects,” explains Buskuhl.
What happens if you don’t get a building permit?
As mentioned previously, there are some types of work you can do on your house that won’t require any building permits. However, if a building permit is required and you don’t get one, you’re taking a pretty big risk, says Buskuhl.
“If you don’t obtain the required building permits before starting a project, you could face serious consequences. Your municipality may issue fines or even order that the work be stopped. You may also lose eligibility for certain types of financing, such as grants and loans. In some cases, your municipality can even require that any unpermitted work be undone at your own expense.”
Add to that the cost of redoing the work up to code and with a building permit, and you may end up spending thousands of dollars more on a project that could have been done for much less. In short, it’s best to save yourself time, money, and hassle by getting the necessary permits before you begin your construction project.
What if the building department doesn’t notice work done without a permit?
Even if the local building department doesn’t find out you’ve done construction work without a building permit, you could still run into other issues. For example, you could be sued if the work being done damages a neighbor’s property, or you could be held liable if anyone suffers an injury.
You could also face problems down the road when you try to sell your house. Before agreeing to purchase a home, most prospective homebuyers will conduct a home inspection, during which the home inspector will thoroughly scrutinize the house from top to bottom. If they find any work you’ve done that isn’t up to code, you may need to rectify the issue — at your own expense — before the sale can go through, or you could lose the sale altogether.
Finally, if a disaster happens, such as water damage or a fire, as a result of work you did without a building permit, your insurance company may not cover the cost of damages to the home. If the damage to your house results in a total loss, you could wind up making mortgage payments on a home you can’t even live in!
- Building permit fees vary based on location, construction costs, and other variables, but in general, a permit can cost anywhere from $50 to $2,000 or more.
- The permit cost may also include an application fee and additional fees depending on where you live.
- For a small project, you may be able to get a building permit in as little as one day. Conversely, acquiring building permits for a more complex project can take several weeks depending on the scope of the work and any supporting documentation you need to supply.
- You typically need to obtain a building permit if you are making structural changes, altering the mechanical systems of the building, or adding or demolishing other structures on the property.
- If you’re making small repairs or replacing certain items within your property, such as kitchen cabinets or fixtures, you may not need a building permit at all. Consult with your local building department to find out the requirements for your specific case.
View Article Sources
- When Homeowners Must Obtain Permits for Home Projects – NOLO
- Calculate the Cost of a Building Permit – City of Chicago
- Building Permits – Lake County, IL
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- What is a Spec House in Real Estate? – SuperMoney
- How Much Does It Cost To Build a Shed? – SuperMoney
- Can I Remove My Neighbor’s Fence From My Property? – SuperMoney
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- How to Use Home Equity to Fund a Home Renovation – SuperMoney
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