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Old 08-22-2010, 12:16 PM   #1
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getting a building permit after construction is done


Sorry if this is a double post - I guess I took too long writing it and had been logged out when I tried to post it first time.

About 6 years ago we hired a small time contractor to work on a small project which morphed into a bigger project including electrical & plumbing. We did not pull a permit but we did take some photos of the walls before they were covered. We are now planning to do a new electrical project and some of the cables will go through the old project space. We will be pulling a permit this time and that means an inspector.

Uh-oh.

We have two options:

Option #1 - My SO is of the opinion that we should keep quiet and gamble the inspector will not notice the older work.

My argument against this is that firstly the older work is pretty darn obvious and secondly if we lose the gamble and the inspector starts questioning the old work, we are in a bad position with the building department. In particular I think it looks like we're trying to pull a fast one and I worry that they will be punitive in the inspections of the old project's electrical & plumbing - requiring us to tear apart a lot of the old work.

Option #2 - I think we should go to the Muni building department, confess our sins, and start the process to get a "after the fact" building permit. I don't know, however, how best to approach this with the building department.

What makes this worrisome is that the building department is known for being hard nosed and I've heard that you don't want to get on the wrong side of Mr. XXXX, Chief Code Officer, or he'll make your life hell. I don't want to get hell in any form but I suspect that Option #2 will get us a smaller bit of hell than Option #1.

The guy who worked on our older project is long gone. I'm wondering if it would make sense to hire a contractor to help us with the building department - in particular to uncover the electrical & plumbing with as little destruction as possible. Would a contractor do this?

I looked up fees and see that the fee for pulling a permit after the work is done is double the usual cost (I think it'll be about $300). I didn't see anything about additional fines but I bet if one really cheesed off the Code Officer, he would find some to add.

So has anyone every had to fix this kind of mess? Any advice? What should we not do? Would groveling help when I talk to the code officer?


Last edited by ChrisJJ; 08-22-2010 at 12:20 PM.
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Old 08-22-2010, 12:42 PM   #2
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getting a building permit after construction is done


very situation and location dependent. I have known people that had to raze decks and even small additions and I have known people that were simply allowed to purchase the overpriced permit and have a cursory inspection performed. Which will happen in your situation is going to depend on the locals and what actually was done that should have been inspected.

Does the older project meet code requirements? was there any structural work done? Did it add square footage to the house?

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Old 08-22-2010, 01:36 PM   #3
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getting a building permit after construction is done


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very situation and location dependent. I have known people that had to raze decks and even small additions and I have known people that were simply allowed to purchase the overpriced permit and have a cursory inspection performed. Which will happen in your situation is going to depend on the locals and what actually was done that should have been inspected.

Does the older project meet code requirements? was there any structural work done? Did it add square footage to the house?

Yes, we truly believe the work is to code. Nothing was done that would affect the house's structure and it doesn't add square footage to the house.

The basic run down of our previous project:
Our washer & dryer were located in our unheated garage. Doing laundry was unpleasant in the winter and it was hard to keep the area clean. And so we had the bright idea of putting walls around the W/D to make a laundry room. In time the simple project of walling in the W/D morphed into a bigger project: add a floor, then make the walls and floor thicker for insulation and then the W/D's orientation was turned around meaning we needed to move the electrical outlet & plumbing lines.

We didn't pull a permit at the start because it was just putting in two interior non-load bearing walls and, well, before we knew it the project was done.

The laundry room has, honestly, been a big improvement to our lives and we would hate to lose it. My argument with my SO about whether to play dumb or not is that I can't believe an inspector so blind not to notice a laundry room in a garage.
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Old 08-22-2010, 01:53 PM   #4
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getting a building permit after construction is done


if you access the laundry room from the house (and not having to enter the garage) there are some fire codes that would have had to have been considered. The wall between a garage and the living space is typically required to be fire rated so, does it still meet code?
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Old 08-22-2010, 02:25 PM   #5
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getting a building permit after construction is done


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if you access the laundry room from the house (and not having to enter the garage) there are some fire codes that would have had to have been considered. The wall between a garage and the living space is typically required to be fire rated so, does it still meet code?
We still enter the laundry room from the garage. No penetrations were made between the garage and house when we built the laundry room. The electrical and plumbing penetrations were already in existence (put in when the house was built) and had been caulked with fire stopping caulk at that time. The wall and door between garage and house are fire rated and to code.
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Old 08-22-2010, 03:02 PM   #6
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getting a building permit after construction is done


How long have you lived at the house? Tell them it was done before you moved it.
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Old 08-22-2010, 03:45 PM   #7
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getting a building permit after construction is done


the guys trying to come clean not lie..i know it may be hard for you to believe but some people are actually honest
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Old 08-22-2010, 04:30 PM   #8
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getting a building permit after construction is done


Roll the whole thing into the current project and let them inspect now, even if it meant taking part of it down and redoing it.
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Old 08-22-2010, 06:34 PM   #9
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getting a building permit after construction is done


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the guys trying to come clean not lie..i know it may be hard for you to believe but some people are actually honest
Yeah, I understand that. But if you know that it is down right, then why bother giving more of your hard earned money to the government scam artists?

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Old 08-22-2010, 11:45 PM   #10
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getting a building permit after construction is done


cause it will come back to bite you when you try to sell your house
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Old 08-23-2010, 06:58 AM   #11
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getting a building permit after construction is done


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Roll the whole thing into the current project and let them inspect now, even if it meant taking part of it down and redoing it.
Whoa . . . really? That sounds in some ways like an easy solution but I'm trying to wrap my mind around how one would do this. It would mean taking all the drywall down and removing the W/D from the room? Otherwise, wouldn't it be obvious that this isn't new work?

I thought that since I have the construction progress photos and know exactly where everything is behind the drywall I could use my multi-max and cut out tidy windows to expose wires & plumbing, save the cut-outs and use them to patch up the holes after inspection. But I would think that would be a strong clue to an inspector that it wasn't new work, right? Dang because I'm great at fiddling detail work like cutting out drywall and patching but would have to hire someone to hang drywall if I would want it done in any sort of reasonable time frame. Normally not a big deal except that we would have to have the drywall done before we could hook up the W/D again.

Sorry if my replies seem to wander into details, I'm thinking things through as I write.
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Old 08-23-2010, 08:12 AM   #12
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getting a building permit after construction is done


Considering some the incredible lack of common sense I've seen in the common man throughout my years, I completely understand why we need codes. I believe the old project was done right and so part of me thinks why bother with the hassle of getting it approved. But the new electrical work involves creating new circuits and messing with the breaker box and I, absolutely, want that inspected which means the inspector will be in the laundry room. I see it as we either fess up now or risk getting caught later.

My SO suggested we avoid the whole laundry room permit issue by having the new electrical work done without permit (my SO has a devious mind). I don't agree mostly because I want all major electrical work inspected but also if we did it without permit, it'll mean we'd be in even bigger pile of crap if we get caught. If we come clean now it would mean we would have to remove drywall to expose the wires & plumbing in a dinky 6' x 8' laundry room. Not great but if we got caught later we would have to not only take down drywall in the laundry room but in a 25' x 25' with 10' tall ceiling garage as well. From checking the muni building department, the electrical inspection fees go by square foot which means it'll be a goodly sum to get a normal permit for the garage. If we did it without permit and got caught, the fee would be doubled plus we would have the cost of replacing the drywall. Oh and let's not forget double the wrath of the notoriously crabby code enforcement officer.

I thought about about this issue last night and it also occurred to me that if anything goes wrong in the laundry room or garage, even if it's has no relationship to the quality of the original work, the lack of permit might give our insurance company an easy way to deny a claim, up our premiums or drop us.

Am I over thinking this?
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Old 08-23-2010, 08:28 AM   #13
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getting a building permit after construction is done


You’re right about the insurance company. If you’re going to come clean and do the right thing, then do it.

Go down to the BD “in person” talk to the inspector and confess your sins. Just be honest, sincere, and respectful. Take your lumps if any and move on. If it means removing some sheetrock then so be it.

That’s better than the insurance company denying your claim when the house burns down.
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Old 08-23-2010, 09:14 AM   #14
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getting a building permit after construction is done


Ok I have seen this time and time again. I would do one of two things here.

1) Go to a local architect and tell him your situation, hand him your photo’s and any other documentation of the work that was done and have him draw up the plans for your new electrical project which he will tie into the existing laundry room showing all existing wiring, plumbing and work which was done by the previous contractor and hand the plans for permit.

2) You can open up the wall one side only exposing all the new plumbing and electrical work which was done by the pervious contractor and still have the architect draw up plans for your new work. This way the inspector will see all wiring, plumbing and construction and wont second guess and give you a hard time.
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Old 08-23-2010, 10:09 AM   #15
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getting a building permit after construction is done


The cost of the penalties might more than tearing down part or all of the room for inspection as part of the new work.

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