Which Home Improvement Projects Require a Permit?

DBI Permit Approval in San Francisco

 

Projects Requiring a Permit

Fencing Installation or Repair 

When you install or repair a fence, it’s important to check with your city to see if there is a height restriction. Some cities and even suburbs have certain heights that fences can’t go past. Be sure to have a fencing contractor check about such restrictions to avoid having to cut the fence or take it down after installation.

Reasons for Permitting Your Projects

  • Re-sale value to new buyers
  • Comply with building codes
  • Avoiding potential fines by the city
  • Fire safety
  • Avoid contractor fraud
  • Conforming use to allow for renting out a portion of your home
  • It will go on record with the city
  • Prevent having to do the work again

Window Installations

When you install new windows that are bigger than your old windows, a permit is required to cut holes for them. This will also include cutting holes for skylights and new doors with windows, so a window professional will need to acquire those permits.

Plumbing and Electrical Work 

When installing or replacing plumbing, you will most likely need a permit. The same rule applies when installing or replacing electrical wiring, whether it’s an outlet, switch, ceiling fan or overhead lighting. The cases where you won’t need a permit include smaller projects like repairs and light fixture installations.

Structural Changes

When you make any kind of structural changes to your home, the contractor will need to get a permit. This may include changes to the load-bearing walls, balconies, decks, porches, roofs or foundation flooring.

Heating Maintenance

Renovating Without a Permit

Other, small projects will not require a contractor to pull permits and obtain approval from the city. These projects include:

  • Painting and wallpapering
  • Installing flooring like hardwood, carpeting, linoleum or vinyl tile
  • Minor electrical repairs
  • Installing new countertops
  • Installing or replacing a faucet
  • Landscaping work

If you replace the water heater, the heating contractor you’ve hired to do the work will need to get a permit. Changes to the ventilation system, gas and wood fireplaces and ducts will also require a permit. This does not include filter changes, motor lubrication or equipment cleaning.

Additions and Remodels

Additions, new construction, remodels, repairs, replacements, upgrades and any other additions and remodeling projects totaling $5,000 or more will require a permit. This will include detached structures like garages, sheds and platforms. Exceptions to this rule include construction that’s less than 200 square feet, as well as painting, carpeting and wallpaper.

DBI

For a more comprehensive guideline and explanation of requirements, I will direct you to the Department of Building Inspection's website, particularly the following: Legalize your Illegal Units Today and Legalization of Existing "Unauthorized" In-Law Dwelling Units