Do You Need Permits for Bathroom Remodel? What to Know in 2021

So you are ready to remodel your new bathroom, but your remodel is extensive-you want to double the size, knock down a few walls and install a large window for a better view. So you start making the necessary plans before it hits you-do I need a permit for all this? The short answer is yes, you will need a permit for many aspects of a bathroom remodel. But to prevent it from being overwhelming, we will discuss what projects require a permit, why it needs a permit and what the permit entails.

When Permits will be required for your bathroom renovation 

In general, almost any common project will require a permit to complete. Below are some of these common projects and their complexity. 

Adding a new bathroom to your home

Adding a new bathroom in your home will require restructuring your walls, reinforcing your floor and adding in ventilation. Why a permit is necessary for the entire process is to access the proper height of your bathroom walls and the general size of your bathroom. City codes restrict buildings from achieving a certain height or size, so you must stay within the city standards.

Additionally, your floors need to be inspected to ensure that they are constructed from solid material that can withstand a specific amount of weight. Lastly, ventilation requirements will necessitate the installation of a specific sized window in addition to a ventilation system. This is to ensure that every bathroom can properly be aired out and expel moisture to prevent mold. 

Restructuring your bathroom flooring including tile

Restructuring your bathroom flooring includes handling any existing plumbing systems that have been previously installed. This process also involves repairing any existing part of the floor due to rot or any insect damage. A permit is necessary to make any alterations to the existing plumbing system or to construct an entirely new system. Additionally, you will need building permits to add in a floor or subfloor including the tile.

The permits are necessary as it prevents just anyone from tampering with the existing plumbing system and that whoever has the permits has shown basic understanding of how floor installation works to ensure that the flooring installed will be stable enough to support the additional weight of a full bathroom. 

Installing new plumbing and piping for sinks or bathtubs

To add in a new toilet, bathtub or sink, you will need to make adjustments to the plumbing system in your home. This involves rerouting and reconfiguring different pipes, both requiring you to shorten and extend some pipes in the process. To prevent any mixups and to ensure that your plumbing is up to code, you will need to obtain a permit to install new plumbing and piping for your sinks and bathtubs.

The plumbing permit acts as an initial gatekeeping measure to ensure that your home is up to code. The city will inspect your plumbing job and clear it, allowing either you or a contractor to begin the project. You can choose to ignore the permits, but that is highly inadvisable as your city can be a nightmare down the road. 

Removing any load bearing walls

Load bearing walls, as the name suggests, are walls that hold significant support for the structure of your house or building. If you remove too many, it can result in catastrophic damage to your home, so it is important that you properly research how to safely remove load-bearing walls or better yet-consult a contractor. Due to the high danger in property damage potential and possible injury, this project certainly requires a building permit. The city inspector will need to verify the intent of your project as well as the safety of your operation. Only after all these steps are cleared can you begin removing any load bearing walls.   

Adding or Replacing any HVAC Based System

HVAC refers to any heating, cooling or general ventilation system that runs through a building. Since these systems are quite complicated in operation, permits are required for their installation and removal. If one of these systems is improperly installed or removed, it can lead to both health hazards and the high potential for fire and building damage. It is for this reason that you will need to obtain a permit anytime you want to add or replace any existing HVAC based system.  

Windows, Doors or adding new openings to bathroom

Adding any windows, doors or additional openings will be similar to general bathroom inspection. These openings need to be verified to be structurally sound with the rest of your bathroom. The permit ensures that the city has inspected these new openings and found them to be structurally sound and safe with the rest of the building. 

Parking for workers

Parking can be a mess depending on your location. If you tend to live in a busy neighborhood that sees a large variety of traffic, you will need to obtain a permit so that you can designate an area as a construction area and allow your workers to park so that they can finish the job. Depending on the complexity of the job, workers will need to exit and enter a job site quite frequently so it is much more efficient to obtain this permit.

Changes to the ventilation system

Similar to the HVAC system, ventilation systems affect a large area of your home. The ventilation system, if improperly handled or tampered with, can result in injury and building damage. To prevent anything as disastrous as a fire, the city inspector will need to inspect your ventilation system and give the ok for any changes you plan to make. 

Adding or removing drain lines in the bathroom

Drain lines carry both water and waste from your bathroom to the main line so that it can be properly handled. Since drain lines affect the main line, it will need to be inspected before you add or remove any existing drain lines. This is to ensure that nothing unwanted is connected to the main line, which could affect the whole of the city. As above, you will need to have an inspector review your project intention before you can remove or add any drain lines in your bathroom. 

3d modeling and rendering of a bathroom

Adding new electrical outlets

New electrical outlets can present a host of new dangers if you do not hire an experienced electrician. Every home in a city has a certain limit on how many electrical outlets can be installed to protect the home and the power grid from expending too much power. Before you add any new outlets, you will need a permit to verify that your home is not over the legal limit to prevent any accidental damage that could occur from overloading the power limitations in your home. 

Cost of a project over 5000

Although this isn’t an official requirement, it is safe to say that any project that exceeds 5,000 should be covered by a permit. The permit is to protect your home from any future issues that the city may raise about your construction project. Remember that a permit functions as a signed handshake from the city that they are ok with your construction intentions on your property. If you do not follow through with obtaining this handshake, the city has all rights to destroy or modify your property as they see fit. 

Projects that will not likely require a permit 

While permits are generally essential for a large number of projects, not everything will require a permit. Below are some of the smaller projects that will not require city oversight:

Adding lighting fixtures to existing bathroom

Adding in light fixtures to your bathroom will simply require you to connect lighting to power sockets and keep the lines away from any hazards such as water. The reason why this project will not require a permit is that it’s scale is small and the potential damage to the building and other individuals is minimal. Keeping that in mind, you should consult a professional if you have little to no experience in handling electrical systems. 

Painting your Bathroom

As the title suggests, painting your bathroom entails grabbing your paint of choice and changing the aesthetic of your bathroom. Aside from the potential hazards of paint fumes, painting your bathroom has very few dangers. Permits generally deal with projects that could heavily damage the building itself in addition to potentially harming other individuals. 

Resurfacing countertops

Resurfacing a countertop entails applying a new coat of paint or coating to an existing countertop. Similar to painting your bathroom, there is very little hazard to resurfacing your countertop, other than inhaling the fumes. Simply apply the coat as instructed then proceed to let the area ventilate for at least 12-24 hours or until dry. 

Refinishing fixtures

Similar to resurfacing, refinishing a fixture requires paint, a steel wool and an acid like vinegar. The goal is to clean the fixture of any debris or built up deposit before applying a fresh coat of paint. As with the projects above, refinishing your fixtures is a low-impact project with very little danger, so a permit is not needed.  

How to get started with knowing which permits you need 

It can be difficult to understand which permits you need to get started as every city has different codes and standards for their buildings. The most important aspect to get started is to find out what type of project you want to start on and move from there. In general, a permit is required when you wish to:

  • Add or remove walls
  • Change the use of a room (Converting a garage into a living space or a closet into a bathroom)
  • Making alterations to the piping in your house
  • Demolishing a portion of your house
  • Adding to a portion of your house
  • Any re-roofing or re-tiling

Also, if you hire a contractor, they will generally know which permits you will need as they have experience working with your particular city. If a contractor says you do not need permits, then you consider hiring a different contractor. 

Permits can tend to be a time-consuming and expensive aspect of home renovation, but they are incredibly crucial to any project. They ensure that your project is up to a specific standard while showing that you and the city have reached an agreement. So while it may be tempting to start your project as soon as you can, it is best that you obtain the necessary permits before starting on your project today. 

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