Tips & Tricks


When Do You Need a Permit for Your Remodeling Project?

How to

Determining if you need a building permit for your home remodeling project can be difficult, because permitting departments often frustrate homeowners' attempts to sort out rules. Departments traditionally have prioritized commercial interests over those of homeowners doing their own work. Often it is a bias borne from necessity: contractors, builders, and the trades represent an overwhelmingly large majority of applicants.

While all cities and counties are different, certain themes do emerge to clarify permitting requirements. These themes can be generalized as public and personal safety, plumbing, electrical, and natural gas. Projects touching on those areas will require permits. With changing safety codes and a need for greater revenue, cities and counties shift more projects to the "Permit Required" list.

Permit Usually Required

Most localities will require a permit for these home projects:

Walls-Demolishing a load-bearing wall
Roof-Changing house's roofline
Layout-Whenever you expand the house in any way or alter the house's envelope, you will need a permit.
Electrical-Installing any new electrical wiring or adding circuits
Fences-Installing a fence over a certain height, such as 6 feet, triggers a permit. Most municipalities will consider an add-on such as shrubbery to be part of the fence.
Demolition-Parking your roll-off dumpster on a public street will require a permit. This is one of the rare permitting instances where your own property is not involved.
Decks-Building decks over a certain height, such as 30 inches above grade.
Sewer-Doing anything with a sewer line typically requires a permit. This permit action concerns not just your personal safety, but the health of those serviced by the main sewer line down from your house.
Addition-Building an addition will always require a permit.
Driveway or Garage-Building a garage or even a carport
Windows and Doors-Exterior doors, windows, and skylights that require a new opening
Fireplace and Chimney-Fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, and inserts nearly always require a permit because of the potential for fires. Chimney cleaning will be an exception, though.
Garages-Garage conversions
HVAC-Installing a new furnace or air conditioner
Water Heaters-Installation of a new water heater
Plumbing-New hose bibs for the outside of your house
Roofing-Re-roofing involving structural elements, including but not limited to sheathing, skylights, change of roof pitch and change of roof material where the total weight exceeds 10 pounds per square foot.
Swimming Pool-Installing either an in-ground or an above-ground pool requires multiple permits.
Permit Might Be Required

Plumbing-Moving a sink, as this entails running new plumbing supply and drain lines
Walls-Demolishing a non-load-bearing wall usually requires a permit. Even though this type of work does not structurally compromise your home, some permitting agencies want to be overly cautious and make certain that do-it-yourself homeowners do not undertake dangerous repairs.

Doors and Windows-Replacing doors or windows on a one-for-one basis
Landscaping-Cutting down a tree on your property
Landscaping-Retaining walls more than 4 feet tall tend to require permits, as retaining walls have a tendency to topple above this height.
Permit Often Not Required

As time goes by, more non-permitted actions become permit-required. In some municipalities, the following actions may still steer clear of permit requirements.

Roof-Laying in a new roof of similar materials.
Demolition-Parking your roll-off dumpster on your own property. However, if you happen to live in an association-controlled neighborhood, make sure you do not run afoul of your own housing association's rules.
Flooring-Putting in any kind of hard flooring (wood, laminate, vinyl, etc.) or carpeting
Plumbing-Replacing an existing sink
Painting-Interior or exterior painting
Kitchen-Replacing your countertops
Siding-Freshening up the exterior with new siding, as long as it is non-structural
Electrical-Minor electrical work, such as replacing a light fixture or an electrical outlet, often does not require a permit. Replacing a circuit breaker in-kind will not require a permit either.
Decks-Decks below a certain height (such as 30 inches) are not considered to be a safety hazard and therefore do not require permits.
Exteriors-One-story detached buildings like workshops and storage sheds as long as they do not receive electrical or plumbing services
Landscaping-Building tree houses under a certain size and height may not require a permit. However, habitable or live-in tree houses will need a permit.
Fences-Fences below a certain height, such as 6 feet
Property Boundaries-Permitting departments are not concerned with matters involving your boundary with your neighbor. Disputes are civil matters for the courts.
Landscaping-Retaining walls below 4 feet tall
Decks-Decking surface replacement, as long as you are not replacing structural materials
Bathrooms and Kitchens-Bathroom and kitchen fixture replacements without plumbing line modifications such as sinks and toilets
Appliances-Appliance replacement in the same location as long as you are not modifying gas, plumbing lines, or electrical circuits such as dishwashers, ranges, ovens, gas logs, washers, and dryers.
For Definitive Answers
A phone call to your local permitting office is the best way to determine if you need a permit. Many permit officers are happy to discuss permitting issues with anonymous callers as a way to avoid future code violations. Even then, the only definitive way to know if a permit is required is often to apply for a permit.

Play It Safe
It is always best to check (and double-check) whether you need a permit. If inspectors find out that a project was done without a permit, they could require the removal of drywall or other surfaces to inspect the newly installed wiring or plumbing, for example. They could then require that the project be permitted, which could include a fine.

Also consider whether you'll be selling your home in the future. Home real estate inspectors often check public records to make sure new work has been permitted, and if you did work on your home without any necessary permits, it could hurt your prospects.


Tips  Tricks
If you maintain a high level of humidity within the house, then surface condensation may occur when outside temperatures are low. Watch this video for tips on managing condensation.

Facts and Tips for Controlling Humidity from our friends at All Weather Windows

A new home will typically expel 500 to 600 gallons of water in the first year and a half, so it is difficult to reduce condensation during this time.
It is normal to have about 1″ of moisture on a sealed unit.
Sliders will typically have more condensation on the fixed portion due to the glass being positioned further toward the exterior than the interior.
Ventilation is the most effective means to remove moisture from your home. By exchanging some of the drier outdoor winter air for warm humid interior air, the moisture level inside the house will be reduced.
Open a door or window for short periods to allow moisture to escape.
Gas appliances produce moisture from combustion. Cooking adds even more moisture, so be sure to run your kitchen fan while cooking. Vent the kitchen fan directly to the outside to achieve the desired effect.
Showers are a high source of moisture. Keep bathroom doors shut and run the exhaust fan to eliminate moisture. Ensure you leave your fan on for a minimum of 15 minutes after you shower to allow the humid air to be removed to the outside.
Clothes dryers should be vented to the outside. Hanging up wet clothes to dry inside your home can add significant moisture to your home.
Shut off the furnace humidifier and any other humidifying device in the home, particularly in winter months.
If you have a fireplace, open the damper occasionally to allow moisture to escape.
Free air circulation is important. Do not cover hot or cold air registers with furniture or appliances. Leave bedroom and bathroom doors open.
Keep the temperature of all rooms at a minimum of 10ºC (50ºF) even if unoccupied. Condensation will occur in an unheated room.
Condensation will typically be greater on the second floor due to the fact that warm air rises and the upper floors are exposed to greater winds, cooling the glass.
Wipe up any tracked-in snow before it melts and evaporates.Floors wet from mopping can add large amounts of moisture. Run exhaust fans (bathroom and kitchens) while floors are wet. Avoid washing floors on extremely cold days.
Most builders install a fresh air intake into the cold air return duct of the heating system. Make sure that the intake damper is open and that there are no obstructions to prevent airflow. If you do not have a fresh air intake, have one installed.
Drapes and blinds should be left open during the daytime. At night, raise blinds at least 4” up (preferably 6-8″) off the frame to allow air to flow against the glass.
Certain fabric blinds that are designed to fit from jamb to jamb must be left partially open to ventilate the window cavity. Failure to do this can cause extreme temperatures between the blinds and the glass. Glass breakage or warping of PVC can occur, which can void warranties.
Remove casement screens to increase airflow.
Tips  Tricks
How to Plan a Deck:
Step 1: Decide if You’ll DIY or Work With a Contractor
Step 2: Consider Cost Factors
Step 3: Determine Deck Shape & Size
Step 4: Acquire Your Residential Building Permit
Step 5: Decide on Deck Material
Step 6: Collect the Tools You’ll Need
Step 7: Get Familiar With Deck Building Best Practices
Time to Bring Your Vision to Life!
Click on the link below for a complete series of deck building tutorials.
Build your own Adirondack Chair
Tips  Tricks
Choose one of these free Adirondack chair plans to make a beautiful chair for your patio, porch, deck, or garden, that will look great and be a comfortable place to sit and enjoy the outdoors.

Building an Adirondack chair is a fairly simple project. It doesn't demand a lot of time and is easy on the budget. You'll have such a good time building one that you'll feel compelled to make a pair.

Visit the link below for free Adirondack chair plans including everything you need to build your very own. You'll find diagrams, color photos, videos, step-by-step directions, and helpful tips for building a beautiful and sturdy chair.
6 Free Pergola Plans (Plus: Pavilions, Patios and Arbors)
Tips  Tricks
Start planning your backyard oasis with free pergola plans by Simpson Strong-Tie. Plan and build early so you can spend the summer realxing and enjoying your new Pergola!  

These pergola designs were developed by Simpson Strong-Tie engineers, so you can be confident that not only will they look great but they’ll be safe, strong structures. We’ve set out to create a diverse selection of architectural styles to make it easier for you to find the structure that best enhances your outdoor space. 
Visit the following link to choose the best plan for you. FTL can help you with the rest!