To Permit or Not to Permit…

That is the question. Here at Custom Dwellings we’ve had clients ask us both to permit projects and not to permit projects, but more often than not, the questions are whether we permit jobs or whether we should permit theirs.

Permitting itself is an extra expense, but in the grand scheme of things, it is only a small fraction of the job cost. It is true, especially on larger remodeling jobs that inspectors can require upgrades and changes that can add significantly to a project’s cost. However, there are rules in place to limit what they can require. Granted, if you are altering a significant portion of your home, all bets are off. The one thing that we’ve found inspectors in every municipality consistently require, is upgrading the homes smoke detectors to meet current code. This has become so common place, that we include the additional cost in our pricing for any job, so that there are no cost surprises for the client. Yes, it costs more, but not as costly as losing your house or worse, a loved one, to a fire.

Another often cited objection to permitting is that it adds costs and delays to have projects inspected. There is no arguing this one. Waiting on inspections does, without a doubt, slow down the construction process. Depending on the project and municipality, this could add a week or two to the project, or even a month. On the other hand, one might argue it is worth it to slow down and have another set of eyes on the project someone is spending their hard earned money on. The cost of being caught and having to stop work, and possibly tear out work already performed, will far outweigh the cost of pulling a proper permit in the first place.

If a job is permitted, by default, the electricians, plumbers, and HVAC contractors used have to be licensed and insured. This requirement helps to ensure that those performing work on your home are qualified to do so safely and have their work be up to current building code. Even these licensed and insured contractors can be tempted to take short cuts if the job is not permitted. Every so often one of our trades will ask if the job is permitted. Our standard answer, whether it is or not, is to do the work as if it is. This helps hold everyone to a higher standard. We don’t want anyone to be able to raise any questions with regards to quality of work.

Along the same lines as the mechanical trades needing to be licensed to pull a permit or work on permitted jobs, contractors need to be licensed to pull a permit. This helps to ensure a certain level of qualification for the chosen contractor. While having a licensed contractor by no means guarantees a flawless job, it does guarantee they at least have a certain level of knowledge and experience as well as sound financial standing and insurance coverage. Any time we hear of a contractor trying to talk a client out of not pulling a permit, it raises a red flag that they may not be able to pull a permit and the question should be raised. If a contractor doesn’t have a license, or is unwilling to pull a permit, it may be best to keep looking for another contractor.

Ultimately, permitting a job and having it inspected along the way, helps to ensure that the project is being built to minimum code requirements for health safety and welfare. Meeting these minimum code requirements is something clients should be demanding on a project and should never accept excuses for why they can’t or shouldn’t pull a permit.

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