Do I Really Need to Permit my Remodel?

Heriette Tiongco

May 20, 2020

PERMITS, DREADED PERMITS! That might just be one of the scarier words to our clients who are about to go through the remodel process, we are here to tell you however, that remodeling permits are not scary and help everyone during a project including the homeowners and we’re happy to do them for you, too! If you’re wondering “when are building permits required for remodeling?” wonder no more, we are here to answer your questions!  

The house permitting process was invented after a horrible hurricane hit Florida and the vast majority of buildings fell or had severe damage. The city was devastated by this storm and wanted a way to make sure all of the buildings were held up to a certain standard to keep everyone safe if a storm were to hit again. Permits might have a horrible connotation connected to them but they are a vital part of the construction process that ensure everyone in the project is protected properly.  

Your contractor should apply for remodeling permits at the beginning of your project, and maybe several depending on the scope of your job. There is a list of projects that don’t require a permit to be pulled which you can find here, on the cities website. The list is broken down by trade and is very specific, almost all remodeling projects we do will require a permit to be pulled, here’s why that is helpful:  

It keeps us (or any contractor) honest  

Other than a portfolio or reviews, some contractors have nothing to guarantee their work and ensure they’re doing work that will last and is to code. The permitting process allows industry professionals to double check that the work being done in your house won’t cause you major headaches down the road, especially with things like plumbing, framing and electrical. This type of work requires a special trade permit to be pulled to guarantee the quality of work being done in your home.

You could be fined and all work could be stopped if you do not

Permits are serious, and they are the law in the remodeling industry. There are permit officers that enforce these rules just like a cop enforces a speed limit. There are major fines and consequences for doing a construction project without pulling the proper permits, and believe us, no one wants this headache.  

It keeps your home insurance valid

If there has been unpermitted work done in your home, it could invalidate your home insurance against things like fire or water damage because there is no way to prove that the damage didn’t happen because of the faulty work in your home! If you’re paying for the insurance, it’s best that it’s valid.  

It is important to have record of when you want to sell your home

When it is discovered that there is work done on a home without permits, it can impact the resale value of your home. The buyer’s realtor / inspector will ask for permits and warranties for recent remodeling work, and if you don’t have them, they can ask for discounts on the already agreed sale price of the house. If you’re asking, “well can i get a permit after remodeling?” unfortunately the answer is no. The city needs to check work as it is being done so that it can comply with codes and regulations applicable at the time and also because most work is hidden away under floors, in cabinets and behind walls.

Luckily, the city of Austin has the remodeling permit process down pretty well and even has a handy website to explain each of the steps.

Obtaining a building permit does require some planning. You'll need:

  • Plans showing in detail what you'll be doing (before and after the project).
  • A site map (land survey) to show the location of the building on the property if you're putting up a new building or altering the footprint of an existing one.
  • Building Permit Application

Once you submit this for reviewal it can take a couple of weeks to get approval from the city. Once you have your permit, work can begin! It’s important to try and schedule inspections as early as possible so that work can continue without interruptions!  

Fees for building permits can range from $50 -$500 depending on the project and types of permits you need to pull. Keep in mind that you're paying for professionals to review your project and for inspectors to come out and examine the work. Remember that we will also handle this entire process for you to make sure your job gets done right and on time.  

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