Do You Need a Building Permit for That?

St Louis Home Inspectors Gerry LoeschWhen are building permits needed?
That is the $64,000 question. First it may be good to discuss the reason for building permits.  Building codes list their intent as “ to insure public safety, health and welfare insofar as they are affected by building construction,…..” The major reason for permits is to therefore, provide safe and sanitary buildings. We have all seen where “Tommy Homeowner” thinks he can do anything and in turn creates problems for himself and any future home owner that may occupy the premises. The building permit process allows the local authority to review what work is planned, check the work is in progress before all the changes are completed to be sure that safe, sanitary and proper procedures are performed in the building/remodeling process. The second reason, albeit less important, is that it allows the governing authority to adjust you property values to be current with the value including any improvements.


Everyone knows that a building permit is required when we construct a new home. The confusion seems to be over when we need a permit when doing remodeling, improvements or changes to your home. While the requirements vary some what from jurisdiction to jurisdiction the general consensus would be that any major improvement or change would require a permit. This obviously would include basement finishes, kitchen and bath remodeling, adding a deck, replacement of an electric service or panel, removal of walls and adding a room. Some other jurisdictions may require
permits for changing a water heater, dishwasher, roofing, siding, driveway replacement, furnace and air conditioner replacement, etc. This may seem like it is uncertain and actually it is. When in doubt inquire of the local jurisdiction to determine if a permit is required. Many have a list of when a permit is needed and in some cases this list is quite
long and extensive. When hiring contractors to update, upgrade or make modifications to your home be sure to make it the contractor’s responsibility to obtain any permits required. No matter if they tell you no permit is required, make it their contract responsibility to obtain any and all necessary permits. If there is a question later, it falls
back on the contractor.

When hiring contractors, include language in the contract, that makes the contractor responsible for the safety and insurance of their employees and equipment. Ask for verification.

About the author:

Gerry is a licensed Professional Engineer in four states; Missouri, Illinois, Colorado and Kansas. He first began his home inspection career in 1976 and has been active in ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors) since 1978. In fact, Gerry’s membership number in ASHI is 87 compared with most of the memberships numbers which are in the 1,000’s. Gerry has performed over 16,000 inspections. Gerry can be reached by email at, by phone 314-249-8370 or visit his website.

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