Your home is your castle, and as such you are entitled to enjoy yourself inside it in any way that suits you. As soon as you want to make renovations on it, however, you may want to appeal to a higher authority than your own to approve your home improvements. The International Building Code, that was adopted by California, requires that homeowners receive a construction permit on many renovations, although local building departments typically make the final decision on a lot of issues.
No Permit Required
If you are planning small do-it-yourself projects, it is probable you won’t need to pull a building permit, as the International Building Code enables homeowners to make finish-level renovations, such as replacing flooring, painting or swapping out existing electric and plumbing fittings for brand new ones, without a license. You can even proceed with the landscaping plans without a license, as a license is not needed to add fencing less than six feet tall, retaining walls shorter than four feet, decks built over a grade that are less than 30 inches from the ground and driveways that aren’t built over basements and built on your lot that are less than 30 inches tall.
Minor Renovations Requiring Permits
Just because you are doing the job yourself, don’t assume your home improvement is small enough as not to require a license. Including a brand new electric fixture or an additional toilet may require you receive an electric or plumbing license beforehand, and merely installing a new water heater takes a plumbing license. Other improvements on existing portions of your home, such as installing new roofing or replacing windows, may also require you to receive a license ahead of time.
The International Building Code requires you to receive a license prior to any renovations that make any significant alteration to a structure. Any time you enlarge or expand your home in the course of a home improvement, you must receive a building license, and may want to submit blueprints for acceptance. Similarly, if you plan to remove an existing part of your home or move a building in your lot, you must receive a license to do so. Seek advice from your city and county building department to find out the particular requirements for your region.
State and local building codes may not be the sole obstacle to your home improvement. If you live in a historic home, you may require advance approval from local or state historic preservation offices to modify your property. While the National Park Service and the California Office of Historic Preservation enable homeowners to modify their historic buildings with their own capital, they may offer financing for renovations that maintain authenticity. Furthermore, many homeowners’ association covenants require exterior renovations to be approved by an architectural control board or comparable committee.