Getting Building Permits for Remodeling Projects

building permit, remodeling project, contractor

Getting building permits for your remodeling project can be the trickiest and most overlooked part of the remodeling process.  But beware: if a contractor asks you to get building permits yourself, consider it a red flag, according to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI). As a homeowner, you should be able to rely on contractor who is confident in getting building permits, and save you  time, money and stress.

“A reputable contractor should object to a homeowner pulling his or her own permits,” says Darius Baker, CKBR, owner of D & J Kitchens & Baths, Inc. in Sacramento, Calif., and a certified member of NARI. “It’s part of the service that a consumer should expect when they hire a contractor.”

Building permits are the way cities regulate construction and help ensure that all construction is safe. The safety of the occupants of buildings is the primary reason for having construction codes, and the permits are an agreement that whatever work is being done to a home complies with those codes.  Most government bodies adopt codes for construction, mechanical, plumbing and electrical, and in addition, there are federal, state and local laws that govern construction, such as those covering energy conservation.


Most home projects require a building permit, and the building permit and inspection process can be a tedious process. Although homeowners are allowed to get their own building permits, it is in their best interest to have the remodeler they hired do it instead. The first reason is the process of getting the building permit will generate a flurry of questions from the local building department that the homeowner is most likely not qualified or prepared to answer. “The homeowner then has to run back and forth between their designer, contractor or architect to answer the questions, and that’s not an efficient way to spend time,” Baker says. Having the remodeler talk to the building department when he or she pulls the permit will help speed up the approval process.

Second, if homeowners get their own building permits, they-instead of the remodeler-will be responsible for the project and have to answer to local building inspectors during home inspections. Inspectors are going to look at details that the homeowner might not know how to address. The homeowner will then need to consult with their remodeler to sort out any problems the inspector finds. “In our experience, the remodeler can often correct those issues on the spot and get approvals,” Baker says. “By not being responsible for the inspection, there could be several days or a week of delays.”

Having a remodeler get building permits can also help the homeowner save money. A contractor may charge his client for three hours to get permits, but that charge includes all the back and forth discussion with the local building department and inspectors. “A homeowner who takes time off of work to get these permits will have to ask themselves, ‘how valuable is my time?'” Baker said.

The contractor can also save money by negotiating fees. Permit fees are usually calculated by the value and scope of a project. If you have a good contractor, the contractor will know how to get the permits for the least amount of money. “A homeowner goes down there and says they are doing a $100,000 kitchen project, but if I go down there, I will tell the building department that they are only inspecting plumbing, electrical, structural or mechanical elements. It’s not their business to know how much the homeowner is spending on cabinetry or sheetrock,” Baker says.

Overall, it’s always a good practice to rely on a certified remodeler to get building permits. “In my personal opinion, a contractor who wants to shovel off the responsibility of pulling permits on his client is a contractor who is being less than professional,” Baker added.

If you are planning a home remodel, NARI Remodelers can help homeowners find contractors who will take care of the entire remodeling process, including getting building permits for the remodeling project.

0 thoughts on “Getting Building Permits for Remodeling Projects

  1. Legislation’s actually vary depending where you live. This needs to be factored in when considering your building permit or permits. Often as a contractor, he or she may be only doing part of the whole project and therefore the permit is actually for the whole project and not just the section that a specific contractor may be involved in. In these instances, the owner, as the owner builder, in my opinion would be expected to obtain the building permits.

    Seane Threeks

  2. My interior designer did not get building permits or subcontractors she did not have anyone working in our home who was licensed no proof of insurance and working illegals no proof of I.d. She spent 85000, oo on our kitchen

  3. A Licensed Architect or Home Designer (requirements vary by the state and type of project) is also an important piece of the puzzle. A good set of plans and specifications provide the basis for competitively bidding the construction. Contractors will sharpen their pencils when they know there are other people bidding against them. The plans and specifications can also be used as a guide to help resolve disputes that often occur during construction.

    There are benefits to separating the designer and the builder. Builders will often make decisions based on profit instead of quality. The building owner can chose to hire their design professional to work as their advocate during the construction. The building department only checks for “Code Minimum” construction and that may not be the level of quality that is expected.

  4. To my knowledge, there is no requirement for installing tile on floors, showers, and shower/tubs. Please correct me if I am wrong. Many years ago, I checked the contractors code books in our state capital and found no such requirments.

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