Sunday, February 22, 2009

Get That Building Permit!

I hear so many people complain that they have to get a building permit from their town’s code enforcement office for changing something in their house or erecting a deck or a fence, or whatever. I never understood that line of thinking.

Of course, I used to work for our town so I know the code enforcement officer and understand the job he has to do. I wouldn’t think of NOT getting a building permit. Here’s why.

1. The permit keeps everyone (homeowner and contractor) on an honest playing field. There won’t be any shortcuts by the contractor that might affect the owner’s investment or safety. Upon inspection of the work by the code enforcement officer, that kind of issue would be identified.
2. You get free inspections of the work the contractor does. For example, at Hardy House, when the construction portion was completed, the code enforcement officer came out and inspected the work, making sure it was “up to code,” that is, the work was completed as outlined by the rules mandated by the state. Once the code enforcement officer gives the okay, work can continue. That inspection is all covered by the building permit. Our inspection sailed through.
3. When we get to the point of our plumbing and electrical installations, those efforts will also be inspected by the code enforcement officer.
4. The code enforcement officer may make surprise visits to your construction/remodeling site just to check on things. This is a benefit. It keeps everyone honest.
5. Before we can occupy our new space, the code enforcement officer will also give us a certificate of occupancy which equates to all the work being up to code. This also means everything is safe.
6. Another benefit from the building permit is that if anything should happen to the house while under construction (say an electrical malfunction that causes a fire) you will be able to claim insurance easier than if no building permit was issued. This is a huge benefit. As we all know, stuff happens.

Building permits are simple to obtain. You might have to have a drawing of the work but then again, maybe not. Sometimes just a hand sketch is enough. The code enforcement officer is your friend not your enemy. You can call on your town’s code enforcement officer anytime, not just when you are building something. They have the knowledge and expertise to help answer many remodeling questions you might have. And their salary is normally paid through your property taxes so it seems like it’s free advice. Don’t hire an extra consultant. Ask your code enforcement officer first.

The cost of the permit can be very minimal, depending on the work you are having done. For Hardy House, the permit cost us about $100.00 and is often based on the estimated cost of your project.

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