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Old 12-27-2008, 09:39 PM   #1
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Finished Basement / Building Permits


I am preparing to finish my basement and am wondering what sorts of permits i will need to do this.

The scope of the project includes framing, electrical (plugs, switches and recessed lights), and moving some plumbing around (moving the laundry area about 15ft to the right.)

I live in New York, any information would be helpful.

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Old 12-27-2008, 09:47 PM   #2
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Your building inspector will be-able to provide you with this info.

Too bad your doing electrical, i would have personaly said just wing-it so your taxs dont go up, but if electrical is involved you should definitely get a permit.

Different places do different things. Where i live the local inspector does all inspections except electrical. In the next town over the local inspector does all inspections but fire and electrical... next county over, plumbing, fire, structual and electrical all need different inspectors, but are all covered under the same building permit.

Your local building inspectors office would be the first place i would start.

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Old 12-27-2008, 11:06 PM   #3
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You'll need a building permit, an electrical permit, and a plumbing permit.
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Old 12-27-2008, 11:24 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by AtlanticWBConst. View Post
You'll need a building permit, an electrical permit, and a plumbing permit.
This has to be different from state to state.

I work with a guy who built an addition who lives in the next county over. He had one permit but had to use three different inspectors: one for building, one electrical and one for plumbing all under the same permit number.

Myself - im building an addition, have one permit but with have to work with two inspectors, one inspector for building and plumbing and a second inspector for electrical.

A friend in the next town over inclosed a walk-way between his grage and house, one permit two inspectors, building/plumbing and electrical. Later he added a wood burning stove to the permit (of course with an added charge) and had to deal with a completely different inspector for the fire inspection.

This all took place in NY.

DWilde, you local building inspectors office will be able to give you the exact info you will need.

Good luck.


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Old 12-27-2008, 11:54 PM   #5
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The International Residential Code (chapter one) gives the specifics of what requires a permit, as does the NEC. AtlanticWBConst is right. You'll definately need a permit. Some cities issue one building permit to cover all scopes of work, others issue electric, plumbing, and building permits separately. How the inspections are performed and by who is dictated by the city as well. Some cities have inspectors for each different trade.

Personally, I'm a combination inspector and inspect all phases of construction and all trades involved. I like it that way, because the builder or homeowner only has to work with me, not two or three different inspectors.

Either way, you're definately smart to want to get a permit. Don't look at it as a hurdle or an obstacle. Remember that the inspector is there to help and to serve as an advocate for you and any future owners by making sure that everything is done safely. Code is a minimum standard and meeting it usually isn't a major challenge for consciensious people.
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Old 12-28-2008, 03:04 AM   #6
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Finished Basement / Building Permits


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Either way, you're definately smart to want to get a permit. Don't look at it as a hurdle or an obstacle. Remember that the inspector is there to help and to serve as an advocate for you and any future owners by making sure that everything is done safely. Code is a minimum standard and meeting it usually isn't a major challenge for consciensious people.
Agreed - on various projects I have done over the years I have found the inspectors to be a good resource to ensure my work is done properly. It may seem to cost a bit in time and money, but later when you sell you will recoup more money and have no problems. Buyers like additions and remodels that are properly documented.
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Old 12-28-2008, 08:39 AM   #7
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Finished Basement / Building Permits


I can vouch from multiple personal experiences that:

1) Getting to know your local building department and the inspectors will put you in a position of having a valuable resource for information. Get to know them, stop in or make an appointment.

2) They are there to help you. Your taxes pay for their salaries. If you're not sure of something, ask.

3) A properly permitted and documented home improvement will increase the value of your home. If you don't get permits, you risk a buyer saying "I'll only pay you this amount, because this addition wasn't permitted nor was it inspected, so its value can't be included in the assessment, nor will my insurance company cover a claim associated with a problem with any of the work, and since this work wasn't done under a permit nor inspected, now you have to disclose that to all future buyers." I personally have had a buyer do that to me (I produced all 8 permits from the over the years, and got my asking price), and I did it to a seller (he didn't have them all, and I got a screaming deal).

I wish you every success. It's great to read your post. You're doing the right thing for yourself. You'll have to ask your building department, but in NJ, I can self-perform almost everything as a homeowner living in the residence. I might get a couple questions from my code official looking to see if I know what I'm doing, but he knows me well enough that it hasn't happened in a while. The last time I got questioned was in 2007, when I did some asbestos remediation. And yes, a homeowner can do asbestos remediation in NJ (in some cases). I have the permit, the approval stickers, and the waste disposal cert to prove it.

Your next steps should be:

Draw a neat floor plan of what you want, of the entire basement, foundation to foundation. Photocopy that and use a hi-lighter pen to hi-light the walls you want to do. Take that to the building department, and simply say "I'd like to do this myself, and this is my first time working with permits, can you walk me through this?" Take a lot of notes. Then say (if you want to attempt it) "can I do the plumbing or electrical as the homeowner, or am I required to hire licensed contractors for that?" Take notes. Then ask them "how do I look up my lot and block numbers?" (you need them for your permit applications). Then take the jacket and the forms and fill them out. If you're required to hire an electrician or a plumber, they'll need to supply their license numbers on the electrical and plumbing permits.

Post back and tell us how you made out. I'd be interested to know what New York requires.
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Old 12-28-2008, 10:26 AM   #8
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I'd be interested to know what New York requires.
Its different from township to township, only thing which is consistent (from what ive seen) is one permit - then it differers with the inspectors and inspections.
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Old 12-29-2008, 12:46 PM   #9
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Ok, so i just called the town....

Issue #1: I'm in the flood zone (sorta). Amherst, NY will not grant any building permits for basement anythings if you are in the flood zone.
Resolution: i can send a LOMA (Letter Of Map Ammendment) to FEMA with an elevation survey and flood proofing certificate. 3 to 4 MONTHS (!!) they will respond with either a yes or a no. Oh, and there is a cost assocaiated with applying for this... Fortantly back in 94 when the house was built, the builder had the flood proofing and survey done. So i dont have to go out and get a survey in addition to this.

At this point, assuming if i get the go ahead from FEMA to modify the map, i will then be granted a permit for storage ONLY. nothing habitable (which includes a rec room). I will have to sign something saying that is all it will be used for.

Issue #2 (if i want habitable space (ofcourse i do)) There is no second means of egress from the basement.
Resolution: looks like i need to punch a hole in one of the walls and put a larger window. But oh, wait, you need to maintain the floodproofiness of the house. so i will have to pour concrete on the other 3 sides of this window, and make a floor that drains into my drain tile. That shouldnt be expensive at all.

Once those are completed i can then apply for a building permit.

I think for the time being i'll go ahead and apply for the FEMA exception to the flood zone. Once granted build everything out how i want (outlets and wiring) and just leave it covered until i can get the approval to hook everything up. No one wants to fish wire when they can just install it the first time with the walls open...
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Old 12-29-2008, 02:13 PM   #10
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You need to go to the library or City Hall and make copies and study up on some code sections that may help you.

These are pertinent sections from the 2003 IRC code, chapter one, but newer versions don't change substantially:

R105.3.1.1 Substantially improved or substantially damaged existing buildings in areas prone to flooding
R112.2.1 Determination of substantial improvement in areas prone to flooding
R112.2.2 Criteria for issuance of a variance for areas prone to flooding

I contend, per code, that you can't necessarily be stopped from getting a permit to do whatever you want, as long as the project doesn't exceed 50% of the home's current (before remodel) value. The floodplain rules are in effect to keep people from renovating doomed houses, doubling their size, or building new homes in the floodplain.

You're also entitled to a board of appeal hearing to look over the proposed project in your home per R112.2.2 to determine if 5 criterion are met.

Personally, I think it is a copout for them to send you to FEMA on a wild goose chase. I'd read the code, then ask for a meeting with the building official, be very friendly, and ask for code-based documentation or ordinance that would prohibit issuance of a permit. If they can't give it in writing but persist, contact your councilman.

Before doing that, check the numbers on the survey and consult with your home insurance agent.
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Old 12-29-2008, 06:02 PM   #11
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i'll have to look into those. Maybe a just asking face to face will have them get a little more creative with other options.

I know i am classified flood zone at the moment (have a pond in the back yard), when i purchased the home (back in sept 08) i was required to get flood insurance in order for the bank to give me the loan. It was either that or go through getting a survey and flood proofing certificate (which the building department admitted they have when i talked to them today.) and jump through more hoops. At the time we were supposed to be closing in May/08, and had already extended our stay at the apartment for 3 1/2ms.
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Old 12-29-2008, 09:18 PM   #12
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Go at them with those code sections, having reviewed them yourself, and see what sort of response that gets. They may be trying to cover their backsides when the code doesn't necessarily give them the right to.
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Old 12-30-2008, 01:40 AM   #13
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Your in a flood zone because of a pond ?
How big is it and how close is it to your home ?
Just wondering, all that stuff is beyond me

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Old 12-08-2009, 06:51 AM   #14
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ya AtlanticWBConst.... if i had a plane where to get all...


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