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Old 08-04-2012, 12:53 AM   #1
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Serious question - permit process / education?

So after intense deliberation between my wife and I, we decided to hold off finishing our garage remodel until next year, when we'll have enough money to pay for permits and inspections and plans. But enough about that - here is the philosophical question:

Why, if permits are so important for
- safety
- increasing value of your home
- insurance
- selling

is there virtually no education whatsoever for new homeowners?

For example, when we purchased our home, the agent was required to give us a brochure about lead paint and the hazards of working with it, etc. Ok, makes sense.

I got a brochure all about earthquakes - ok, that makes sense.

Why don't I have a brochure from the local jurisdiction regarding items that would need / not need permits, and how to go about getting them? It seems like it would be a very simple thing to do. They could just mail it.

So the question isn't whether one should or should not get permits. The question is why isn't there more education and formal processes established for the public?


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Old 08-04-2012, 01:29 AM   #2
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"Lead paint" and "Earthquakes" are specific topics on which - to an extent- information can be given in a leaflet.
However, there are so many things homeowners can do to their houses that the list of what does and does not require approval would be extremely (or should I say -almost infinitely-) long.
To give just one instance; a recent poster wanted to know if he could put drywall on the underside of his garage rafters. This would have added weight to the rafters, with the possibility of the rafters becoming overstressed. This means that technically it becomes a structural alteration, with potential health/safety issues. Approval would therefore be needed for this.
Your frustration is understandable, but many changes to a property could have potential health/safety issues and to itemise them all would be an impossible task.
If you are not sure, the advice is always to speak to an architect/SE/ other adviser.


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Old 08-04-2012, 02:57 AM   #3
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Default's a good question....

I think the best answer is that a majority of home owners never make changes to their home.

The area I live in, all the homes were built in the early 50's.....I would say that at least 50% of them have NEVER had any mods done....just paint and a new roof....

Of the other 50%, I would estimate that at least half of them that have been improved, the work was done by a licensed contractor who did all the permitting for them.

Cyber...your basically in the 1-2% of homeowners who are doing it themselves....Welcome to DIY and all the gotcha's......
Even if you are on the right track, you will still get run over if you just sit there.

My 2-Story Addition Build in Progress Link ... My Garage Build Link and My Jeep Build Link
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Old 08-04-2012, 06:55 AM   #4
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My town actually has a whole set of pamphlets regarding everything from installing a wood stove to building a deck. They do not mail them out when you buy a home, however you can pick them up at the building inspector's office, which is right down the hall from the conservation commission (they handle permitting for work near a wetland), which is down the hall from the planning board (they handle subdivision issues), which is down the hall from the tax collector's office. None of the bodies who issue permits send out brochures, but they usually have something you can pick up that explains what they do. Of course, if you don't know you need a permit, and don't bother to check, you will never find out, but I guess the conclusion is that most people at least know enough to ask first, work second.
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Old 08-04-2012, 07:53 AM   #5
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I have talked with inspectors and building department people I have gotten to know over the years and many would love to provide more of the kind of information you mention in print or at least web or PDF form. At the end of the day, not enough taxpayers are willing to budget for such things so they do the best they can.

In some places I have lived, architectural restoration organizations are good about maintaining up to date databases. They are usually non-profits and supported by donations or in some cases sale of rescued architectural components. Again, printing brochures is generally not a priority.

As suggested, building departments are usually cooperative. Of course you get some crusty and snarly types that answer only the questions you ask knowing they have information beyond that you need but surprisingly not that often.
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