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Quite easily one of the most costly mistakes that a person can make when doing any home improvement project is to not obtain a building permit. When you don't get a permit, and it turns out that you needed one, you can be faced with delays that can cost you a huge amount of time and money to over come. That being said there are a few things that anyone can do to avoid this problem.
Generally speaking, the easiest way to know when you need a building permit is to call down to your local building authority and ask them. Like I said this is generally the best way to find out since the building codes can vary widely between cities and regions. For example, in one city you might be required to have a building permit if you making any changes whatsoever to your plumbing, electrical lines or even putting in a new sprinkler system. In another city you might not need it for those instances, but you might need it for such things like building a garage, or a deck.
There are a few times when it is a fairly good bet to know when you are going to need a building permit. Such times include the following:
As you can well imagine, this is just a short list of all the instances where you might need to have a building permit. There is such a wide variance in the different circumstances where it might be required that you have a building permit, that it is literally impossible to list them all.
However, if you have hired a contractor to work on your home they should be at the very least familiar with the process. When you are hiring a contractor, there is going to be a part of the hiring process where you both sign a contract. In that contract you should have it outlined that the contractor is responsible for the obtaining and maintenance of any and all required building permits, and that the failure to do so is going to result in the contract footing the bill when it comes time to pay the fines. Finally, before paying the contract, you should ask for a copy of any required inspection results (which is what the building permit is for in a way). Making sure that everything is up to code is going to save you a huge headache, and added expense, later on when you try to sell your home.