When thinking about building a house (or making renovations to a current home), one thing that many prospective or current home owners fail to consider is whether or not they will need building permits from their county or city before embarking on a project. For starters, what exactly is a building permit? A building permit is essentially a document from the city or county where the home resides that gives authorization, or permission, for the project's initiation. It ensures that homeowners and/or contractors comply with local building, construction, and zoning codes while completing the work in the safest manner possible.
Each county and/or city across the country has its own local building code, and this code regulates permit requirements for the area. For example, the local building codes in California are likely much different from those in Wisconsin and reflect the safety considerations resulting from differing climates and regional issues. While not all construction or renovation projects require building permits, those that almost always do are projects that pose major safety concerns and that change the structure or function of a house or building. The following chart from The Spruce gives specific examples of projects that likely do (and likely don't!) require a building permit.
In addition to the aforementioned items, you will likely need a building permit when installing a new HVAC system, new water heater, creating a new opening for exterior doors or windows, installing a new fireplace or wood-burning stove, or a swimming pool (above or below ground). Certain landscaping projects, such as cutting down trees or installing tall retaining walls, sometimes require building permits. Other DIY projects that involve replacing existing doors or windows and tearing down non-load-bearing-walls may also require a permit.
So, for the next obvious question -- how can you find out whether or not your project requires a permit? The best way to find out whether or not you need a permit is to contact your city's local building and permit office. This office should be able to give you a definitive answer and direct you to the proper forms/applications to apply for a permit. Generally speaking, the builder(s) and/or contractor(s) doing the work on your home will take care of filing for and obtaining all necessary permits; however, if doing a project yourself, you will need to take care of all permits on your own. As always, it's best to err on the side of caution and ensure that all necessary permits are taken care of up front before starting a project so that you are able to complete your project without unnecessary bumps and delays down the road!
If you live in Bloomington, Indiana, visit the Monroe County Building Department website for more information.