I can tell you that not getting a permit when you need one is costly. Items that are not correctly permitted can lower your property value at the time of sale. What buyer wants to buy something that may or may not have been done correctly?

Take the advice of a real estate agent and pay the little extra that a permit will cost. It will probably pay for itself in the end.

1. Fences
The old saying, “Good fences make good neighbors,” is as true now as ever. Fencing in your yard can be one of the best additions to your property. A well-designed and installed fence can increase privacy, add home value, and give you that nostalgic “White Picket Fence” look. Just make sure the dream does not become a nightmare. You wouldn’t want to build a fence on your neighbor’s property in error, would you? Which would you prefer to do? Make a few calls to the building inspector to check on what size of a fence you can install, have the proper set, pay for a permit, or build it and be told you have to take it down because it is not up to code. Many towns and cities have stringent fence height and material regulations and some homeowner associations. You might even want to double-check surveys.

2. Water Heaters
Sometimes the things that look the simplest are the worst DIY projects. Water heaters fit that example. The job appears simple to do. Turn off the energy source, disconnect the water intake and output, and maybe a flue pipe. However, if done wrong, this can be extremely dangerous. From gas explosions and carbon monoxide poisoning to electrical fires, the hazards of improperly installed water heaters are severe. No one should put themselves or their families at risk to save a few dollars. All water heater installation requires a permit, and it is suggested you use a licensed plumber to perform the work, or at the very least, after installation, have an inspection.

3. Sheds and Outbuildings
You want a shed. You go to one of those big box hardware stores and buy one already made. They come and drop it off on your property. What could be easier? The issue is that many states, cities, and counties don’t see it that way. They have specific specifications regarding sheds. Fines are usually more than permits. It is to your advantage to make sure you are in the clear before you spend your hard-earned money.

4. Garages
With the popularity of Air BNBs and the increasing senior population in our country, the desire to convert a garage into a living space is higher than ever. Maybe you want that extra space as a home office, a spare bedroom, or a home gym; it makes no difference. Even if you have all the skills and tools to DIY, you may have to get permission and a permit from inspectional Services and the local Housing Authority.

5. Decks
Adding a deck or a porch can create a great outdoor living space, adding value to your home. Without checking on a permit, it can also give you a lot of headaches. There are structural and safety codes that must be adhered to. Do you know how high that railing should be? Technical data will probably be included along with your permit. Don’t skip this critical step.

6. Floor Plans
Want to change the layout of your home? Eliminate a wall? Create a new doorway? Expand a closet or get rid of one. If it involves the structure of your home, you need a building permit. It would help if you had a permit regardless, even for the dinky closet in the small room. Many people believe this is only true of a load-bearing wall.

7. Windows and Doors
You walk through one of those big box stores, and the doors and windows are on display. They are ready to install. They look simple enough. Out with the old and in with the new.

There are strict regulations about items such as ventilation and light. These determine code standards regarding window and door frames. They do not tell you in the stores that those doors and windows may or may not conform to your local building codes. Before changing them, check to ascertain if you need a permit and get copies of the building codes.

Checking with your local permit office is a good idea before any DIY on your home starts. The people who work in these offices are not the enemy. They are public servants who work very hard to ensure that you are safe in our dwellings, workplaces, and job sites. If you treat these civil service employees with dignity and respect, you will almost always receive superior service to what you will get elsewhere.


Photo by Sneaky Elbow on Unsplash