One of our most popular blog posts last year was on the subject of permits – specifically, the importance of getting them. I can't stress enough how important it is – from both a safety and financial perspective – to obtain permits before beginning a home improvement project.

Last year, while researching for the blog, I learned that many homes are described in real estate listings as having possible “unpermitted” square footage. Having worked alongside building inspectors for many years, the first issue that crosses my mind with regard to unpermitted work is safety (no permits = no safety inspections). The City of Raleigh has adopted building codes and hired qualified code enforcement officials to keep our citizens safe. Obtaining a permit and following through with all required inspections ensures that the project is built according to the scope of the permit, is safe, and code-compliant.

Another reason to obtain permits is that [not doing so] could seriously affect one’s ability to sell their house in the future. This is because many banks are typically not willing to lend money for homes with unpermitted work. This usually results in permits and inspections being requested right before closing the sale, a time that is already stressful enough. The tight timeline is not the only thing adding stress in this situation - permit fees are doubled when work was initially done without a permit. And to add to the financial woes, drywall often has 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 blog is on residential permitting. Here are some examples of the types of projects the City typically requires permits and inspections for:

• construction, additions, remodeling, repairs, replacements, upgrades or any other project over $15,000;
• 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.

Most home improvement projects fall into one of two categories: Same Day or Next Day permits. 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.

For more information, view our “When is a permit required?” web page and video. If you still have questions, please comment here and I will get them answered for you.

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