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Home improvements that require a permit

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A professional contractor holding a piece of paper.

There is hardly a homeowner out there that hasn't dealt with home improvements. Sooner or later, you'll want to alter your home. And, once you do, you'd be a fool to go at it without getting the necessary permits, especially if you plan on selling your home. So, do all home improvements require permits? Well, no. But, as you will soon learn, it can be hard to differentiate between those that do and those that don't.

Can you improve your home without a permit?

Theoretically, yes. You can address most home improvements without getting the necessary permits. But this is often a bad idea, especially in the long run. Even though permits can be notoriously difficult to obtain, you are going to need them when you sell your home. Any home inspector will ask for permits, especially for any large improvements that you installed. And, while you can fairly easily deal with moving out of your home with a moving company (like, for example), you are going to have a hard time getting those permits after the improvements have been installed.

A house for sale
In order to sell your home, you will need to have all the necessary paperwork, including home improvement permits.

Furthermore, if you plan on expanding your home and you wish to hire a contractor, expect them to require a permit before they start work. Depending on how you plan on improving your home and where you are situated, permits can vary. So, do yourself a favor and learn more from your local municipality before you start planning your home renovation.

Notable home improvements that require a permit

Each of these home improvements is a complicated project in their own right, which is why we are not going to go into much depth about them. Instead, we are going to go over the most important points for you to keep in mind while you tackle them. Know that each of these projects requires far more research than could possibly fit in a single article. So, keep on researching and learn as much as you can about the home improvement at hand before you start tackling it.

Fence installation

To be fair, not all fence installations require permits. But if you are to avoid hassle with your neighbors or with the government, you need to figure out what kind of a permit you'll need. Certain municipalities impose height or width restrictions on permits.

For the actual installation, there is not much that you need to tackle. Most fences can be handled with basic tools and DIY manuals. However, you need to know what you are doing before you start.

Plumbing and electrical work

If you are fixing something regarding plumbing and electrical work, you probably won't need a permit. For most maintenance works, even more robust ones, you can simply go at it without any permits. But if you are making any alterations, you will need a permit.

A electrician changing the position of a power outlet, showing one of the home improvements that require a permit.
You may be surprised to know that even changing the position of your outlet is one of the home improvements that require a permit.

Both plumbing and electrical work are best left to the professionals. You can fix smaller issues like a blown fuse or a clogged drain. But, for anything more serious than that, call a reliable professional. A small mistake or oversight can easily cause a substantial issue, which is why you shouldn't take any chances.

Structural improvements

Any structural improvement to your home will require a permit. Even if it’s something relatively small like changing your window frames. You will also need to get permits for improving your shed or garage.

Structural improvements are, arguably, the biggest home improvements that require a permit. So it should go without saying that you need to start undergoing them on time. There will a ton of things you will have to deal with that you haven't even considered yet. For instance, you may have to vacate your home for a while. And, while NYC has amazing movers to help you, smaller city movers can struggle with last-minute moving. So, do yourself a huge favor and give yourself enough time to handle structural improvements.

HVAC maintenance

HVAC maintenance and installation, as a rule, requires permits. Your contractor can easily lose their license if they install you an HVAC system without one.

HVAC systems often have a bad reputation in terms of energy consumption. But what a lot of people don't realize is that a lot of HVAC systems waste energy. If you do not install your HVAC system properly, you can easily waste a ton of energy due to improper function. This is why it is universally a good idea to hire top HVAC installers to help you out. That said, working with ones that offer to help you even without a permit is not a smart thing to do.

Smart home improvements

Smart home improvements encapsulate a large number of various home modifications, ranging from quite small to quite big. So, while getting a smart lock for your home may not require a permit, you will need to get one for solar panels. Furthermore, these permits can vary on the complexity of your home. So, all in all, you'd be smart to first outline what precisely you want to install and then see what kind of permits you need.

A smart home with various features
Not all smart home improvements require permits.

While smart home improvements are among the most sought after in the real estate industry, you need to be careful when installing them, especially if you are doing so to sell your home at an increased price. Some of them are simply passing trends that are not going to actually increase the value of your home.

Final thoughts

Most home improvements that require a permit are not DIY projects. With this in mind, we again advise you to do your best to find the most credible, reliable company to help you out. One sign that the company is reliable is that they will require you to have a permit for your improvement. This is another reason why you should always check in with your local municipality and get the necessary permits. That way, you can safely improve your home without worrying about legal repercussions of doing so.