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By Dave Robert

For some bathroom remodeling projects, you need more than just the right skills and a well thought-out planyou need your towns permission to start and complete the renovation. Often, a permit is required to ensure that any changes will meet current building, electrical, plumbing, and fire codes. This helps protect the homeowner from unscrupulous contractors, or violations of safety regulations that may result in accidental property damage or injury, or liability when the house is sold.

The building permit is obtained from your local municipal planning department and works in two stages: (1) approval of the initial remodeling plan; and (2) certification that all work has been done satisfactorily.

How do I know if I need a permit in the first place?

This is the major question most people have when it comes to bathroom remodeling. If you’re making minor changes that can be easily reversed, or if the buildings infrastructure and systems are not significantly altered, a permit probably isnt necessary. Major improvements, however, such as re-wiring, new plumbing, construction or demolition, generally require official permission before work begins. If in doubt, talk to the planning department first: in many municipalities, the building inspectors are more than willing to explain whats needed to do the job correctly.


To obtain a permit, you or your contractor will be asked to complete some forms, and supply sketches or architectural drawings, that detail the work to be done and materials used. This plan will then be reviewed by the planning department to see if it’s structurally sound and up to code. If not, you will be asked to revise it. Permit fees vary according to the projects size and projected cost.

How to create a plan that will pass inspection

If youre a relative novice doing the work yourself, discuss your ideas first with a bathroom-remodeling professional, or someone at the planning department, or a knowledgeable neighbor whos already been through the process. Once youve worked out the details, get cost estimates for your materials and any needed tools by checking out prices with local or online merchants. Any cost cutting your budget requires should not be at the expense of satisfying code requirements. Otherwise, your permit will not be issued.

If you hire a licensed contractor to do the work, he or she can help you fill out the permit application, or on large renovations, file it for you as part of the job.

The second stage of the approval process comes before the finishing work begins: the major alterations are complete but still exposed to view. An inspector comes to the site to see if everything has been done according to plan. If not, further modifications will be necessary before the project is approved.

At the end of your project, youll hopefully have added beauty, convenience, and value to your home. Youll also have the security, obtained through the permit-approval process, of knowing that the safety of your loved ones and possessions has been assured as well.

About the Author: Dave Robert is a district sales manager at Discount Bathroom Vanities Publishing, and an avid fixer-upper whos been restoring old houses for more than twenty years. Readers can tap into Daves knowledge about home remodeling, and kitchen and bathroom design, at:


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