Does Your Garage Project Need a Permit?

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By Ikram Ullah

As it happens with most homeowners, garage space remains under some construction from the moment you enter the house to the eventual passing of the keys. Even when the structure, the electrics, and the plumbing are all set, there’s still work to be done.

Did you know that almost every garage project requires a permit issued by the authorities? 

Contrary to what most of us do, building permits are not taken lightly. They are far from being optional – required by law, these authoritative documents manage personal liability if something goes wrong. However, not every project requires getting one.

So let’s answer some dusty old questions:

Do I Need a Permit to Renovate My Garage?

Now you must be wondering – do I need a permit to renovate my garage? 

Well, it depends.

You’re not getting a straight answer to this question because of multiple factors in creating a policy. First, it depends on what kind of renovation we are talking about. In the eyes of the authorities, projects of various scales receive various treatments. 

And second, it depends on where your garage project will take place. 

Construction codes vary from one state to another and from town to town. Most states leave these decisions to municipalities, so we must consider another group of factors. All construction codes are as unique as fingerprints.

That’s why there is a straightforward way to answer your question – ask your local officials. 

Most cities and municipalities have websites where this kind of information is available. Alternatively, you can make a phone call to your local building department. In any case, don’t skip this step. As we’re going to see, having a building permit is crucial for more reasons than one.

What Does a Building Permit Entail, Anyway?

It’s easy to see why building permits are so widely unpopular. Our last few generations of homeowners are used to having vital information available at our fingertips, while permits require actual phone calls and legwork. More importantly, we’re not sure why we need them.

When building permits are for homeowners’ own good – that, and public safety. 

While having everything on paper is essential as well (we’ll see what happens if you don’t do it later on in the article), what’s even more significant is the process of getting a permit in the first place.

During this process, authorities will review what needs to be done and how you plan to do it. Then, they will send building inspectors to double-check that everything is being conducted following the local construction code. You will proceed, but only if everything’s safe. 

DIY projects, mainly when they include structural changes or require electrical and plumbing work, involve a level of risk for both you and your neighbors. You can easily set something on fire or endanger yourself and others in some other way – permits are there to prevent that. 

A building permit will hold you – a constructor, liable if anything goes wrong. 

What Does It Mean to “Pull” a Building Permit?

Alternatively, you can hire a professional constructor to make the necessary changes to your garage. “Pulling” a permit is just as important in this scenario. The only difference is that the best construction companies will take this part of the job, leaving you nothing to worry about.

The critical thing to note is that the person who pulls the permit is responsible for the work done. In the eventuality of something wrong or unplanned happening during the project, this person is liable in the eyes of the law and answers for potential mistakes. 

Should you leave it to the constructor, then?

Absolutely! Even if the construction company charges extra for pulling a permit, shifting responsibility still pays off. And not only from the legal aspect. Thanks to their experience, constructors generally need to jump through fewer hoops to complete the issuing process. 

What Kind of Building Work Requires a Permit?

Even though there’s no definitive list of construction and renovation jobs that require a permit, you can still get some sense of what you can probably do without informing the authorities. For example, painting jobs and cabinet replacements usually don’t require a permit. 

When it comes to garage renovation projects, most municipalities consider the following jobs risky and therefore ask for a building permit as insurance: 

  • Electrical work
  • Plumbing work
  • Heating, ventilation, and HVAC work
  • Replacing garage doors

Minor changes that fall under the makeover category, such as the wall mentioned earlier painting, can be performed by most nonprofessionals without much risk, which is why they are exempt from needing a permit. However, these structural changes are a whole different thing. 

As for replacing garage doors, this is a common one in countries with lots of hurricanes. 

What Does It Take to Acquire a Building Permit? 

Sometimes, the only thing needed for obtaining a building permit is an application. You can get one either online or in your municipality’s building department. Please fill out the form with precise information, and that’s it. If everything’s okay, you’ll get approved in a week or so.

However, the process of acquiring a building permit can last longer and require more documentation depending on the scale of your garage renovation project. If you’re planning to turn your garage into a living area, for instance, the process may take a couple of months. 

Also, there’s some fee involved. 

Building permit fees range from $20 to $20K, depending on the project scope. For garage renovations that cost around $500, the price is usually not higher than $50. 

What If You Choose Not to Obtain a Permit at All?

With building permits, the math is simple.

The cost of not having a building permit is always greater than obtaining one. 

What happens if you’re caught renovating your garage without an appropriate permit goes anywhere from having to pay for a fine to being denied an insurance policy. Without a building permit, every construction is a liability and a potential risk.

Without a permit, you won’t be able to sell your house.

That being said, there are several excellent reasons for taking building permits seriously. By doing so, you’re acquiring insurance for your work, your assets, and other people impacted by this project – both now and in the future. It’s as simple as that:

Getting a building permit makes you a responsible homeowner.

Author Bio

A content marketing expert, Rebecca Daniel works full-time. She has closely studied travel industry trends for quite some time. Prior to working in the travel and vehicle industries, she held positions in various domains. Her garage has been modified numerous times, and every time she modifies it, she keeps Best Garage Door & Gate Repair in mind for safety purposes. Rebecca likes to play with her dog when she is not working, work out, and try some new foods.

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