How To Pull Your Own Building Permits As A Homeowner

  • 4 min read

Embarking on a home improvement project is an exciting endeavor, but it often comes with a maze of regulations and paperwork. One of the most common questions we receive from property owners is about the process of filing for a building permit. Whether you’re planning substantial remodeling, additions, or even smaller projects like fences and decks, understanding the nuances of building permits is crucial. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore when a building permit is required, when it might not be necessary, and the allowances homeowners may have when undertaking construction projects.

Demystifying Building Permits: A Closer Look

Understanding Permit Requirements

While opinions may vary on the necessity of building permits, most jurisdictions mandate obtaining them for various types of property work. Before delving into specific examples, it’s important to note that permit requirements often derive from national building code guidelines, shaping the policies of counties across the United States.

Homeowner’s Permit: A Special Consideration

Many counties, including a typical example from Oregon, allow homeowners to apply for a homeowner’s permit, distinct from a contractor’s permit. This special provision enables property owners to take charge of construction projects, but it comes with significant responsibilities.

Responsibilities of Homeowners as Permit Holders

  1. Employment Considerations: If homeowners hire non-licensed workers, they may be considered employers and could be required to adhere to tax withholding, unemployment insurance, and workers’ compensation regulations. Lack of workers’ comp insurance might leave homeowners liable for on-site injuries.
  2. Code Compliance: Permit holders (homeowners, in this context) are responsible for ensuring compliance with local building codes. If an issue arises during inspection, the homeowner must rectify it to meet the required standards.
  3. Insurance Awareness: Homeowners need to inform their insurance providers about ongoing construction. Property improvements can increase the property’s value, and specific activities may not be covered under standard insurance policies.
  4. Skill Set Evaluation: Homeowners acting as their own contractors must possess the necessary skills to coordinate various trades effectively. This involves managing the different aspects of construction to ensure a smooth and compliant process.

Permit Application Process: A Step-by-Step Guide

To demystify the permit application process, let’s use an example from Oregon. The application involves creating a site plan, detailing the property’s features, and submitting information about the proposed construction. The valuation of the project determines the associated fees, with specific triggers requiring safety plans and additional reviews.

Who Can Perform the Work?

A critical consideration for homeowners is understanding what aspects of the construction they can undertake themselves. If you are the property owner and don’t intend to sell or lease the property immediately, you can generally perform structural, mechanical, plumbing, and electrical work. However, adherence to relevant codes remains paramount.

Key Tips for a Successful Permitting Process

  1. Thorough Site Plan: Ensure your site plan accurately represents property lines, setbacks, easements, and other features. This is crucial for avoiding conflicts with existing structures and utilities.
  2. Permit Application Accuracy: Complete the permit application diligently, specifying the correct category of construction and providing accurate information. Valuation plays a significant role in determining fees.
  3. Insurance Coordination: Notify your insurance provider about the ongoing construction. Obtain additional coverage if necessary, especially if engaging in activities like demolition or material storage not covered by standard policies.
  4. Revision Documentation: If modifications are needed during construction, submit revisions promptly. Keeping the plans and permits updated ensures a smooth inspection process.
  5. Compliance with Codes: Understand and adhere to relevant codes for each aspect of the construction. Failure to meet code requirements may lead to complications during inspections.

Navigating the building permit process can be complex, but with a thorough understanding of the requirements and responsibilities, homeowners can embark on construction projects with confidence. Always consult local building authorities, and if in doubt, seek professional advice to ensure compliance and a successful outcome for your project.

For more insights and guidance on building permits and construction processes, visit our website at We welcome your comments and questions—share your experiences and let us know how we can assist you in navigating the intricacies of the permit maze.

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