We are reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.
You’ve saved, possibly for several years, to afford that amazing new project that will take your home from drab to fab. If it’s just a deck, a pool or something minor, you may not know these are minor renovations that need building permits. Sometimes you’re simply upgrading what’s already there — surely that can’t mean you have to go through the whole process?
One couple near Indianapolis at Geist Reservoir discovered the hard way that you sometimes need permits and approval before replacing even something that’s already there. They built a $75,000 deck down by the lake and have been ordered to remove the structure because of potential building code violations and property easement issues.
If forced to remove the deck, not only are they out the $75,000 they saved for the project, but they’ll have the added cost of removal and any fines from the unauthorized structure. The last thing you want is to be caught by surprise, especially with such a hefty price tag. Take the time to research which permits you might need for a building project. The following are relatively minor and sometimes unexpected renovations that need building permits.
If you plan to add a carport, you might not realize you likely need a permit to do so. After all, it isn’t a garage. However, it’s a somewhat permanent structure that changes the aesthetic of your home and potentially the value.
Many municipalities require a permit for someone to install a carport, considering it a new structure. It’s best to check the building codes in your area with the local county courthouse and find out for certain if you need a carport permit or not.
If you’re planning to install or replace a fence, you may need a permit. This rule varies from area to area. Not all areas require you get a permit, but it’s best to check local zoning laws and find out for certain.
You’ll also need to check on any neighborhood requirements before installing a fence. Some neighborhoods have very specific requirements about what can and can’t be installed, including fence height and space from property line. Fences are certainly minor renovations that need building permits in many places, but not always for the same reasons.
If your new deck is going to be over a certain height above the ground, you’ll likely need a permit. Your best course of action is to always check with your local government authority and see when you do and don’t need a permit. Otherwise, you could run into a situation just like the one mentioned at the beginning of this article
4. New Doors or Windows
This category doesn’t include simply replacing what is already there in most cases, such as installing new windows. However, if you have to create a new opening to add a door or window, you’ll likely need a permit in order to complete the project. Again, areas and their rules vary, but as a general rule of thumb, expect that you’ll need a permit to add window or door to your existing home.
5. Storm Shelter
If you live in an area that’s tornado prone, you may decide to invest in a storm shelter. However, you’ll likely need to secure a permit to install the shelter and also get pre-building approval. This process ensures that the structure is FEMA-approved and will actually withstand the beating it will take from a typical storm in your area.
Want to install a fireplace in your home? This shouldn’t surprise you, but you’ll need a building permit, as you’ll have to not only add the insert but also install a flu and chimney. Even a gas insert requires a gas tank and lines that require inspections. The last thing you want is an improper installation that might put your family at risk.
Plan Ahead For Renovations That Need Building Permits
Essentially anything you build outside that could potentially be considered a structure likely needs a permit. To avoid fines or having to remove the structure later, follow all regulations.
While it might be a bit of an annoyance to file for permits and wait for them to come through, it will save you aggravation later when a city official sends you a letter saying you aren’t in compliance with their rules.