During the past few months, I have been searching the real estate listings for the perfect home for my family. I think we finally found it! While I was searching, I was surprised at how many homes were described as having possible unpermitted square footage.

Having worked alongside building inspectors for many years, I know that there are some major safety concerns associated with this. With no one inspecting the work, there is no way to ensure that it is code compliant and properly constructed. Not to mention that it could seriously affect one’s ability to sell their house in the future as banks are typically not willing to lend money for homes with unpermitted work. This usually results in permits and inspections being requested before closing the sale. Permits issued after the work has been done are double the normal fee. And what many people don’t realize is that the finished product will have to be torn out to reveal rough-in and framing work, which will have to meet the current code to be approved. This can be a very costly mistake.

While much of the same applies to commercial projects, the focus of this article is on residential permitting. The City of Raleigh requires building, electrical, plumbing, and mechanical permits and inspections for many types of home improvement projects which are categorized as either Permitting Same Day or Permitting Next Day. These project types include:

•    construction, additions, remodeling, repairs, replacements, upgrades or any other project over $5,000;
•    accessory structures such as detached garages and sheds (larger than 12 feet in any dimension) and platforms;
•    any project that involves structural support changes (roof or floor), load-bearing walls, screened porches, decks, and balconies;
•    replacement of a hot water heater, duct running, or ventilation;
•    running of lines or replacement of shower or bath tub enclosures;
•    projects that require electrical wiring, such as installation of ceiling fans, electrical outlets and overhead lighting;
•    landscape irrigation systems;
•    retaining walls over four feet high;
•    interior and exterior fireplaces and fireplace inserts;
•    skylights;
•    exterior siding; and
•    fences.

Some projects don’t require a building permit due to its size or other minimum requirements. Even so, it may require a zoning permit. This would be common for smaller accessory buildings and fences. And if the project is located in a historic district or is a designated Raleigh Historic Landmark, a Certificate of Appropriateness is required.

Once permits have been obtained and construction has begun, the work must be inspected. A final inspection takes place after the project is completed. Inspections ensure that the project is built according to the scope of the permit and all the applicable construction codes. Inspections also help protect property values.

If you would like to know the permit history for your property, visit iMaps, enter the property address, and click on the dollar sign in the lower right quadrant of the screen. This will take you to the web page for Wake County Real Estate records. Click on the “Notes” tab for a listing of all permits issued (in general, the listing includes permits issued since the 1980’s).

Be sure to check out the “When is a Permit Required?” webpage. It includes an informational video, links to important information, and contact information for all related City departments.