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hubbard53 11-30-2007 12:48 PM

Question on code, inspections, etc
I'm curious about electrical codes, inspections, etc and how they come into play for DIYers.

How much can I do before a permit may be required or inspection, etc.?

For example, If someone finishes their basement, what work can they do themselves before inpseciton or permits are required. I know it varies by location but what's the general rule of thumb?

Stubbie 11-30-2007 01:07 PM


Well I'm not sure a short answer is possible but in general for electrical you as a home owner are allowed to change existing devices and light fixture. Any time you run wire to something new or change the wiring in any way an inspection and permit are required. This of course is subject to local ordinance rules for the electrical codes in your area.
As for remodel any time you make structural change or add living space or build an outbuilding you are required inspection and permit.
Now having said that if you were to go in to obtain a permit for adding one duplex receptacle to a branch circuit you might get an odd look as this type work is rarely permitted by the home owner. Reason....cost of the permit is more than the time and materials and it is a pain in the #%$ for the inspector. but it is revenue for the city ......:)

hubbard53 11-30-2007 01:17 PM

I see.

I did a lot of research on permits when i finished my basement... i think I got lucky b/c I fall into township jurisdiction b/c I didnt see anything for basements... just additions, decks, etc.

spebby 11-30-2007 02:33 PM

I can't add much to what Stubbie said. Remodeling a basement is unlikely to be noticed by an inspector driving by or the tax assessor. I am in the process of building an attached garage and I got a building permit. The fact that it was a garage they assumed I would be adding electrical service so an electrical permit was required (along with a zoning permit). And the tax assessor came by last week to see if the garage would be placed in use in 2007. They measured the garage and took pictures. I wouldn't worry about a basement remodel. I never get a permit when I remodel the interior of my house, since it can't be seen from the street.

hubbard53 11-30-2007 02:51 PM

so it all for tax purposes? I figured there was some safety involved. . .

spebby 11-30-2007 03:36 PM

I wouldn't say it's all for tax purposes. It's just that in my area the tax assessor would certainly notice the garage and might check if there was a permit issued, and they do come by once a year a take a picture and compare the house with last year picture. The permit does require inspection and the inspectors do check to see that the applicable code was met.

Piedmont 11-30-2007 04:29 PM

It depends a lot on where you live. For example, in MA you need a permit for EVERYTHING and the DIY is allowed to: switch a breaker or plumbing valve off and call in a licensed pro. The DIYer in MA is allowed to paint walls and spackle holes that's about it. You can actually do projects in MA as I understand if you take a test EXCEPT plumbing. I think the plumbing special cause frequently MA is very wet and houses can have 2 sewer lines, one drains to a river the other to the treatment plant. They hook their gutters & runoff into the one that drains into the river line, and sewage into the one that hooks into the treatment plant. They've had so many people adding bathrooms and hooking the drainage into the pipe that dumps into the river, and fined so often by the EPA for raw sewage being detected in their rivers they no longer allow any plumbing for homeowners period.

In NH as Stubby says the DIYer can do anything, but permits are required for any project that requires a breaker, structural, renovation, or plumbing.

In VT, you're free to do what you want cause there isn't an inspector for hundreds of miles. Not to say you shouldn't do it safe but in much of VT there isn't an inspector.

Doing a big project where permits are required... if your basement already has a permit and is deemed "finished" you can renovate and update it. If you want to add another breaker, change walls around, that would usually require a permit but far as I know they don't record or take pictures of what your basement looked like previously. However, if your basement is unfinished and you want to make it a finished basement trying to do that without a permit is a really, really bad idea. When you go to sell the house you can't claim the basement is finished. If the inspector notices it's been finished and you didn't get a permit they are free to tell you to bring it back to original state. A guy at work called in the building inspector for some electrical work he did, and the inspector noticed new plumbing was done as well. He told him he can make him remove all his plumbing cause he didn't get a permit. He then required him to fill out a permit for said plumbing, and the inspector came back to his house and plugged up all toilets and faucets and sat with a garden hose pouring water down the vent stack. He said, if there's any leaks you're tearing it out. My coworker sat nervously as the water maintained level in his vent stack. The inspector told him he was lucky... signed off on the work and let him go.

arichard21 12-02-2007 07:59 AM

here in the north country of ny, we are reqiured to have a permit for any electrical work that adds to, removes or modifies any part of a circuit. when we remodeled the kitchen we also had to have plumbing and insulation inspected.

this is one of those things that REALLY comes down to where you live.

nap 12-04-2007 08:55 PM

the need for a permit is dependent on the local requirements as well as if you can actually do the work yourself. As to it getting noticed; many things such as this are not noticed and homeowners often fail to pull a permit for work that is required to have a permit.

While you may be saving a buck now, should you ever sell the house, there is a good possibility the unpermitted work will be discovered and then it is up to the building department to either sell a permit post build (usually includes fines) or actually require it to be removed (yes, it does happen).

greengiant 12-07-2007 08:03 PM


Originally Posted by nap (Post 78466)
While you may be saving a buck now, should you ever sell the house, there is a good possibility the unpermitted work will be discovered and then it is up to the building department to either sell a permit post build (usually includes fines) or actually require it to be removed (yes, it does happen).

Or even worse, if there is a fire your insurance company could refuse your claim if they can 'trace it' to unpermitted electrical work.

In our particular part of CA, anything done outside an existing box requires a permit.

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