Do You Need Permits To Remodel a Bathroom?


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A bathroom remodeling project is a big decision for any homeowner, and it can be a rewarding endeavor if you play your cards right.

While the idea in itself is exciting, it does beg two questions:

Do you need permits to remodel a bathroom?

And if so, what are the steps you need to take to pull those permits?

As you might have already guessed, the answer to the first question depends on numerous factors. After all, no single project is the same. And we feel that delving into those factors a bit is needed to ensure that you arrive at a more satisfactory answer.

So, let’s dig into these factors one by one.

Factor #1: What city are you based in?

Every city or county has specific requirements for the approval of home remodeling projects.

But before you commit yourself to the process, a bit of research is still in order, even more so when you’re taking on a bathroom remodeling project.

One good way to find out if you’ll need to obtain a permit from your local office is to check their official website. If you prefer calling the local office on the phone, you can always look for their contact number on the website. You can also ask the bathroom contractor you’re hiring for the project, since it’s his responsibility to know which permits will be required.

Factor #2: What’s the scope of your bathroom remodeling project?

It probably goes without saying, but yes, the project’s scope will determine whether you need to pull permits or not.

In most cities, additions involving new doors, new walls, new fixtures, and new windows almost always require a permit. You don’t need to obtain one if the changes to be carried out in the bathroom remodeling project are only cosmetic in nature (e.g., painting the wall,  replacing vanity tables). If your bathroom is in a trailer, figuring out the scope can be much more complicated, which is why in this case it’s recommended to hire a mobile home contractor.

Do you need permits to remodel a bathroom?

Now that we’ve explored in general the two essential factors that determine whether a remodeling project will require you to obtain a permit or not, we’re in a perfect position to get to the heart of the matter.

Do you need permits to remodel your bathroom?

Here’s a breakdown of bathroom remodeling jobs that require you to obtain permits and those that don’t.

What kinds of renovations require a permits?

To help you wrap your head around why some renovations require permits more than others, here’s a breakdown of bathroom remodeling jobs that often require permits.

  • Installing new windows. By “new windows” we mean windows where you need to cut a hole in the wall to make way for installing a new window.
  • Jobs that require structural changes. Any home improvement project that alters and demolishes support structures always requires you to pull a permit. Such support structures include roofs, porches, load-bearing walls, and decks. Do you need a permit to replace your drywall? If it’s load-bearing, then chances are you’ll need a permit to demolish and replace it.
  • Major siding repairs. Siding replacements or major alterations with the siding will almost always require you to obtain a permit. Some minor siding repairs may require a permit depending on the laws in your locale.
  • Sewer line work. If you’re repairing or replacing your bathroom’s sewer line, then you need to pull a permit for that.
  • Water heater replacement. Does your water heater need a replacement? Your  heating contractor needs to obtain a building permit before proceeding. The same goes for any home improvement project that involves changes and alterations in your ventilation system.
  • New installations that cost at least $5,000. Home improvement projects with installations amounting to at least $5,000 require a permit to be carried out. One exception is when the project’s physical jurisdiction falls under 200 square feet. Menial additions such as new carpeting and new wallpapers won’t require you to obtain a new permit as well.
  • Jobs that require electrical, plumbing, HVAC, plumbing work. Any remodeling project that involves electrical work, plumbing, fencing installations, HVAC maintenance will require you to obtain a permit.

What kinds of renovation jobs may not require permit

  • Demolition of a non-load bearing wall.
  • Jobs that costs under $5,000.
  • Jobs that require ventilation work

How long does it take to get a building permit?

How long does it usually take for a local office to issue a permit following an application? Most permits can be obtained in a few days, so you can count yourself lucky if you can get it in a few hours. However, if the application process hits a few snags, which is always a possibility on account of bureaucratic red tape, then you have no choice but to wait for a week or two. Some remodeling projects may require you to submit additional documentation, which can extend the amount of time it takes for the application to be approved.

While there may be circumstances surrounding the application process that may be beyond your control, submitting all the required documents and complying with the requirements can significantly expedite the process.

Tips on getting building permits

So, you have all your requirements on hand and are ready to apply for a building permit? Time to get those building permits!  With that said, just because you have everything ready doesn’t mean that the process will go smoothly. But there are steps you can take to ensure that your permit application pushes through without a hitch.

Here are helpful tips that will make your building permit application go smoothly.

    1. Get a quote. Before anything else, get a quote. Why? Because getting a quote formalizes the scope of the project. Moreover, it sets the expectations for the project, giving you ideas on what to expect while it’s still ongoing.
  • Always check back on the status of your application. You just don’t send an application and hope for the best. Once you’ve submitted it, make sure that checks and approvals are being made at every stage. Some local offices have an online application that allows applicants to track the application in real-time, so make sure to ask if they can give you a tracking link.
  • Get copies of every document.

Lastly, make sure that every piece of documentation is kept safe. Having those in your possession ensures that all bases are covered by the time you sell your home. Once you get to that point, having all important documentation on hand assures future potential buyers that all renovations and remodeling have been done correctly and were approved by a local inspector.

Whose responsibility is it to get a building permit?

Most homeowners take on the responsibility of getting the building permits themselves when they don’t have to. The truth is that the responsibility doesn’t fall on them, but on the contractor they hired. After all, it’s the contractor’s responsibility to ensure that the bathroom remodeling project is performed in a way that meets professional standards.

If a contractor insists that you pull the permits yourself, be wary. Better yet, hire another general contractor. For one thing, a contractor who refuses to pull permits for their clients are likely to have questionable credentials. Why would they shirk their duty to pull the building permits themselves unless they don’t have the licensing credentials to secure them?

Can I sue a contractor for not getting permits?

Most homeowners have a natural tendency to trust that the contractor they’re hiring will cover all the bases, only for them to find out by the end that they don’t have the proper building permits.

This is why you need to make it clear to your contractor that you want to get a permit for the remodeling job.

But what happens if your contractor still doesn’t comply?

More importantly, can you sue a contractor for not getting permits?

I’ll cut to the chase: The answer is yes.

That said, it’s not going to be easy.

Because while you’re well within your right to file a lawsuit against the offending party (the contractor), the litigation process is one giant cauldron of bureaucratic red tape.

It’s a messy situation, and if you want to get what’s rightfully yours, you’d do well to tread carefully.

It bears noting that there are many types of legal claims a homeowner can file against  a contractor. To navigate the litigation process, you need to be aware of the circumstances surrounding the project, understand why obtaining building permits is indispensable to its completion, and why the responsibility of obtaining the said permits falls on the contractor. In most cases where the contractor is to blame for the non-issuance of permits, a homeowner can sue a contractor for material or fundamental breach of contract.

Before you proceed with the litigation process, make sure that you review the terms of the contract, and keep an eye on every detail that may impact the case down the line.

More importantly, hire a skilled and experienced attorney who will be able to represent you well in court as well as help you receive the compensation you deserve.

In the end, you and your lawyer will have to talk to your local office. By then, you want to make sure that you have all the right cards on the table. Don’t leave anything to chance and always keep everything on record.

If everything goes well, the contractor who failed to pull the permits will be forced by law to pay for the damages.  Moreover, your local office will take the steps needed to properly inspect the remodeling work and get it certified.

What happens if you don’t obtain a building permit even if the project requires it?

Let’s face it. It can be tempting for most homeowners to go DIY when doing a bathroom remodeling project, or any home remodeling project for that matter. It’s not surprising when everything, including this guide you’re reading right now, is available on the internet. Some homeowners become too eager to start working on the project that they neglect their duty to obtain the required permits. Some proceed with the remodeling project just because they can get away with it.

Whatever your reason is for not obtaining a building permit, the consequences won’t be pleasant.

Here’s a breakdown of what’s going to happen if you don’t pull the required permits for your bathroom remodeling project.

Your home’s resale value will go down.

You’re bound to experience some of your assets when you decide to resell your home without the necessary permits. There’s no way out of this. For one, you can’t sell your home legally without an appraisal from a loan officer. When having your property appraised, the loan officer has to acquire some information about your property from the city or county. The officer is also required to check if your renovated bathroom has undergone proper inspection. If there are changes that haven’t been accounted for in the records, your bathroom will depreciate in value as a result.

It makes you vulnerable to abuse from unscrupulous contractors.

Some contractors won’t hesitate to give you the raw deal if they can get away with it. They can screw you over by cutting corners and using substandard materials, which could endanger you down the line. By obtaining a permit, a knowledgeable third party will be there to review your bathroom remodeling plans and help spot any inconsistencies with the project.

You’ll get substantial fines

By skipping the pulling of the required permits before a remodeling project, you’re actually breaking the law. Breaking the law has consequences. If you think pulling the required permits is a hassle, wait till you get caught and the city court issues an SWO (stop work order) and orders you to pay fines.

Bathroom Remodeling Mistakes to Avoid

Home remodeling projects can be scary for most homeowners. No surprise there. After all, there are so many things that could go wrong in a remodeling project, so much so that it becomes difficult for most homeowners to get started.

Don’t let analysis paralysis cripple you. If you know beforehand the most common bathroom remodeling mistakes homeowners make, then you’ll have better chances of avoiding them. As the popular adage goes, knowing is half the battle.

So without further ado, here are the most common mistakes to avoid when remodeling your bathroom.

1. Winging it

If you want your bathroom remodeling project, to become a success, you need to have a plan in place. Define your goals and write down specific tasks that will help you achieve them. You also need to make sure that  your goals are specific, measurable, achievable, and realistic. Make sure that there’s a set schedule. That way, you can rest assured that the project will run smoothly and that it stays on course even amid complications and setbacks.

2. Not creating a layout

One of the worst things you can do in remodeling your bathroom is to try to make changes without considering how those changes will affect the entire room. To improve your bathroom’s functionality, you must include room flow and traffic patterns into the equation. If you’re going to install a towel rack in your bathroom, for instance, make sure that it doesn’t impede foot traffic and won’t make your bathroom feel congested. To plan your bathroom’s layout, draw your floor plan first and then choose your furnishings. If you’re having problems visualizing it, you can see your bathroom in 3D. Speaking of 3D, you can create a layout for your bathroom by

3. Not “hiding” your toilet

Your toilet isn’t exactly the most luxurious item in your bathroom, for obvious reasons. This is why it’s a bad idea to remodel your bathroom where the toilet is the first thing you see the moment you enter it. You can’t exactly “hide” it. After all, a toilet is integral to the bathroom’s overall design, but remodeling your bathroom in a way where its presence is minimized can improve your bathroom’s overall appearance in more ways than one.

4. Not including ventilation into your plans

Proper ventilation is essential to bathrooms. After all, bathrooms produce moisture regularly Without sufficient ventilation, the excess moisture can contribute to the buildup of mold and mildew, as well as cause water damage to your subfloor and walls.

5. Not adding sufficient storage

Storage space is critical to a functional bathroom for one simple reason: the bathroom is a good place for storing your stuff. So make sure that you save enough space for closets, cabinets, shelves, towel racks, and more. There are many brilliant bathroom storage ideas that can help you let loose.

6. Not letting in natural light

For many, the bathroom is a place of sanctuary and comfort. However, it becomes less so if it doesn’t allow natural light to enter. Natural light not only elevates the atmosphere of your bathroom, but it also allows you to conserve energy. To top it off, natural light also has major health benefits. Wouldn’t it be nice to take a shower or take a dip in the tub knowing that you’re receiving those same benefits as well?

7. Buying into trends

Trends come and go. But your bathroom is meant to last a lifetime, perhaps more. If you go for design elements that are “trendy,” then chances are they’re going to go out of style in a few years. Remodeling your bathroom every few years or so won’t only stress you out, but they’re going to put a large dent in  your wallets.

So go for classic designs instead, such as clean lines, glossy layers, or relaxed industrial Something that you think you’ll never get tired of decades down the line.

8. Putting the drain in the wrong spot

The placement of your drain is critical to a good drainage system in the bathroom. If your bathroom remodeling project involves drain placement, make sure that the hole for the drain is aligned with the plumbing on the floor. You may need a professional plumber or a shower tile repair contractor to do that for you.

9. Skimping on materials

It can be tempting to use cheap materials in any remodeling project when youyou’re mindful of your budget. This is a disaster waiting to happen. After all, your bathroom’s materials are your bathroom’s building blocks. The extra money you save after the remodeling project may be nice, but you’ll end up losing more money if you find out that your bathroom walls or floor are getting warped by water damage. If you want your bathroom to last you a lifetime, only use materials that are water-resistant and durable.

10. DIY-ing jobs that require professional help

DIY is on the rise, especially in the realm of crafting, remodeling, and home decors. Considering how nearly everything can be accessed on the internet these days, it can be incredibly tempting for many to do the dirty work themselves.

With that said, some tasks require more than what you can learn from the internet, especially with bathroom remodeling jobs. You need someone with extensive experience and who can formally train you to ensure that the job is performed at the professional level. Hiring a professional may require you to spend some money from the get-go, but the assurance that you won’t experience any issues down the line will more than make up for it.

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