Do You Need Permits to Remodel a Bathroom?

Whether or not you will need permits to remodel a bathroom will depend upon the scope of your project, where you live and other factors. Find out what you need to know about bathroom remodel permits.

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It’s exciting to contemplate a dramatic change to your home, like a glam new bathroom remodel.

But besides cost, one of the big issues to factor into your plans, especially when you are considering a DIY remodel, is what permits may be required and how much it will cost. Some cities charge one percent of the total project budget for permits.

The short answer to whether or not you need a permit to remodel your bathroom is that permitting requirements vary from city to city. There are currently no federal or state standards when it comes to home remodel permits. So it pays to do your homework. However, according to Erik Listou and Louie Delaware, co-founders of the Living in Place Institute and co-authors of a paper on permitting issues, “Most kitchen and bathroom remodels involve changes to the plumbing and electrical behind the walls, which will require a permit.”

If you are doing a DIY bathroom remodel, you should check with your city to see what permits are required. If you are using a licensed contractor for your bathroom remodel, they will know what permits the job will require. Depending upon the project, some permits may be issued immediately while others will require an inspection of plans.

Obtaining the proper permits is a necessity, especially when it comes time to sell your home. According to the National Association of Realtors, failing to obtain the proper permits at the time of construction or demolition may complicate or cancel the sale of your home. Not obtaining the required permits can cause myriad problems, such as work stoppages, extra fees, replacing work already installed and complicating selling the home later.

It is the homeowner’s responsibility to make sure the project holds the proper permits.

Depending upon the scope of your project, there may be inspections along the way. A final inspection, however, is often the most critical say Listou and Delaware. “This 'building final' inspection is to ensure that all the other inspectors have physically been to the project, personally reviewed the work and have initialed compliance on the actual building permit, so the homeowner and the team can follow the inspection progress,” say Listou and Delaware. This final inspection is vital for a number of reasons. “This will be helpful to inform your insurance company of the improvements, appraising when increasing your home’s value, and when selling your home to show that all work on your home met your local codes.”

For some general rules of thumb (again, check with your city government permitting office for the specific requirements in your area), consult this list to see which jobs may require a permit.

Permits Most Likely Required

  • Footprint changes to your home including room additions
  • Installing new or existing plumbing including new hose bibs for the outside of your home
  • Any new electrical service, including installing any new electrical wiring or adding circuits
  • Structural changes, like demolishing a load-bearing wall
  • Parking a dumpster on a public street
  • Doing anything with the sewer line
  • Adding exterior doors, windows and skylights that require a new opening
  • HVAC, such as installing a new furnace or air conditioner
  • Replacing a water heater

Permits May Be Required

  • Changes to the ventilation system
  • Moving a sink, especially when this will mean running new plumbing supply and drain lines
  • Demolishing a non-load bearing wall
  • Some municipalities require a permit if a project costs above a certain amount, like $5,000

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