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Navigating Building Codes and Permits During Renovations

The thought of home renovations can be incredibly exciting—you’re finally committing to that kitchen design you’ve been dreaming of, or maybe increasing your bedroom’s square footage and watching the dreamy new space come to life.

But no matter how excitable you are about finally shifting your abode, one thing has to be taken care of before anything else: navigating building codes and permits.

Understanding Building Codes

Before you can even begin the home renovation process, you need to understand your local municipal building codes.

Building codes are sets of rules and regulations that are used to govern the safety and integrity of your renovations. These codes are put in place to minimize the chance of destructive events, such as fires, and to ensure the long-term durability of structures.

That’s why it’s so important to understand the regulations set in your area before you begin any renovations. Failing to abide by local codes could result in legal repercussions as well as dangerous consequences that could affect you and other members of your community.

General Building Ideas to Keep in Mind

Though the codes vary depending on your location, there are some general ideas that you should keep in mind:

  • Always be mindful of nearby power lines when adding a new roof or building onto an existing structure.
  • Don’t block fire escapes or exits.
  • Be aware of any crumbling or aging infrastructure that may have an effect on your renovations.
  • Never occupy a space before you’ve reached all the standards mandated by your municipality.

Applying for Building Permits

Once you’ve done your research and understand all the applicable building codes, the next step is to file for a permit. Your building department, found in the planning and zoning department for your municipality, is likely the first place you’ll go in order to apply for a permit.

Once there, you’ll submit a completed application along with detailed drawings of the renovations that you plan to make. This helps the department understand your needs and establish the building standards for the project ahead.

Applying for Content-Specific Permits

In addition to building permits, you may need to apply for other permits, depending on your renovations.

  • Electrical permits that would allow wiring changes to your home
  • Mechanical permits for the installation or repair of heating systems, ventilation systems, and air conditioning units.
  • Plumbing permits for any modifications made to the home’s drainage or sewer systems.

After you’ve successfully applied for the necessary permits, you’re now ready to begin the renovation process.

Navigating Municipality Processes

Prior to beginning construction, you must also recognize the roles and regulations that your municipality holds.

Your local government may send an inspector to your property to ensure that you meet all the requirements and safety regulations outlined in your permit. You may also be required to attend neighborhood meetings at city hall in order to inform interested parties of your plans.

Thus, it is extremely important to stay on top of all upcoming meetings as well as any changes that local government entities may have on the codes. Keep your eyes, ears, and mind open for any additional safety requirements!

Damage Prevention

So you’ve done your research, you’re aware of your municipality’s parameters, and you’ve got all the appropriate permits in hand. Now what?

Getting the Necessary Insurance

Before beginning, make sure that you acquire the necessary insurance and/or workers’ compensation should any of your hired workers be injured during the renovation process. This insurance is important, as it helps to cover unexpected costs should the unforeseen occur.

Hiring the Right Workers

If you’re not comfortable taking on the renovation yourself, it’s important to hire the right people to execute the job. When searching for workers, make sure they have a valid license and that they’re adequately bonded as well.

Check to see if they have any pre-existing experience in order to better understand their capabilities. After hearing their proposal, be sure to do your due diligence and ask for thoughtful feedback from previous clients to ensure a satisfactory job.


Navigating the steps for any type of home renovation may not be the most exciting process, but following the right steps is vital in order to ensure the integrity of your home and the safety of your family and community.

Do your research, file for all the necessary permits, get the required insurance, understand the golden rules, and hire the right people. With proper preparation, you’ll get to your dream home in no time!



What types of renovations will require a building permit?

Renovations that typically require building permits include additions, changes to the building’s structure (e.g. moving walls), installing new windows and doors, electrical and plumbing work, installing energy-efficient insulation, and building new decks or patios.

How much will a building permit cost for renovations?

The cost of a building permit for renovations varies greatly depending on the scope and scale of the project. For an accurate estimate, contact your local building department and provide them with details about your project.

What types of renovations typically require a building permit?

• Adding or removing walls

• Installing new windows or doors

• Building new decks or porches

• Structural changes

• Roofing or siding replacement

• Electrical or plumbing work

• Adding a new room or a garage

• Installing or replacing heating and cooling equipment

• Adding a fireplace or wood-burning stove

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