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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
For all you Do-it-yourselfers, how difficult was it to obtain your building permit? What sort of information did your area require you to present? Do you think the inspector was harder on you because you're not a contractor?
 

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I pulled an Electrical, Structural, HVAC and soon to be Plumbing permits. They weren't that expensive either.


For the electrical permit I was pretty anal in what I gave them, so it looked like I knew what I was doing. I had never wired before so I picked up 2 Black & Deckers electrical books from Home Depot. The Advanced Home Wiring was the best one. Basically, I drew out the layout of my basement and then used the electrical symbols (from the wiring book) to show where everything was going. I wrote up a little description about each circuit and what it was rated for, what wire I was using etc.


I had to pull wire for an extra panel since I didn't have enough room on the main panel. The problem you might run into is whether your city will allow you to put in your own sub-panel. Some cities require an licensed electrician to do this, but my city allowed me to do it.


I was pretty worried about the inspection because I heard some inspectors come in with tape measures and make sure EVERYTHING was to code. ie Your staples above your gang boxes must be less than 8 inches, you must staple every 3 feet on vertical runs, gangs boxes at a certain height, etc. etc.


However, my inspector was easy as pie. He checked one/two outlets and switches, breezed over the panel and that was that. I had mentioned how I had heard some inspectors were really picky. He said, "I can tell you did good work just by looking at a few outlets, so I know you took the time to do it right."


Here's one hint:

I don't have a whole lot of time to work on my basement. It's been a year and two months so far. The problem is your permit (this may vary from city to city) is only good for 6 months from your last inspection. Meaning, after I got the rough-in for my electrical, I had six months for the final inspection. To get around this (remember I said 6 months from your last inspection) I used the following trick.


August, 2000: Pulled electrical/structural permit

September, 2000: 1st rough-in permit (have till March, 2001)

Feburary, 2001: Pulled permit for a gas line to be run

March, 2001: 1st Rough-in permit for gas line (have till Sep., 2001)

Sep., 2001: Requested 90 day extension (free)

Sep., 2001: Pulled HVAC permit for AC

Oct., 2001: 1st Rough-in for HVAC (have until April, 2002)


Needless to say I don't plan on this dragging this on any more, but you get the point. Hope this helps. Let me know if you need any more information.
 

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The inspectors should be considered a resource, and not an obstacle. If you have a question or problem, pick up the phone and ask. They'll appreciate the fact that you want to do the job right, and save them time when they come out. The last thing they want to do is make another trip for reinspection.
 

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I've had very good experiences with building inspectors. They absolutely are NOT there to keep you from doing improvements to your house. Just make sure you try your best to follow any guidelines they give you. Often, you can get a sheet of guidelines for typical projects before ever applying for the permit. This will usually specify things like required ceiling heights, egress windows, insulation and vapor barriers, etc.


The actual details needed for a permit application depend somewhat on what you're planning to do. Anything that would be considered an extension to the existing structure, for example a deck or even an unattached shed or garage, will probably require a site plan. A site plan shows all of the property lines, including any setbacks, easements, and both the existing and proposed structures.


If your project is contained completely within your house, a simple drawing of the new floorplan is usually enough. And as long as you don't plan to breach any of the existing foundation, roof, loadbearing or exterior walls, you probably won't need to specify the construction materials.


In my area, the city has nothing to do with the electrical permit except collect a fee. In fact, they won't even answer any questions or give any advice on electrical issues. They leave that to the state electrical inspectors. On the reverse side, the state electrical inspectors don't give a hoot about what you're doing, why, or whether you have a building permit - as long as you follow the electrical code.
 

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Tim,


I used Punch 5-in-1 Home Design to aid in the drawing. I got it free with a rebate from Staples a while back. I drew out the room and symbols with Home Design and then using colored pencils drew out all of the wires. However, you don't have to do anything fancy. Heck, you could even do a basic drawing with Microsoft Paint or just draw the whole thing out.


For my proposal, I did a current and proposed drawing showing everything that I was going to add. Detailed each run explicity and a short write up on the whole project.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I've got that same program. It's too bad it doesn't allow you to set colors for the walls.


Maybe I'll convert the layout to a picture and then use photoshop to change the colors.


Thanks
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by Tim Smith
I've got that same program. It's too bad it doesn't allow you to set colors for the walls.


Maybe I'll convert the layout to a picture and then use photoshop to change the colors.


Thanks
You may also want to take a look at 3D Home Architect .


I used it to draw up preliminary plans for my HT and it will allow you to set individual colors for each element of the room. (walls, furniture, electrical, etc.)
 

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Tim, may I ask what you are attempting to build?


I built my own Home and I did not have problems with permiting and inspection. I will say that ALL STATES are different. My brother lives in New Orleans and he is having a hard time getting action. Obviously, the work must meet code so just be sure that you know what you are doing and you'll probably be fine.


Also, I second the recomendation for "3D Home Arcitectech" by Broderbund. I deasigned my entire house and did the cost estimating with this software.
 

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Though I'm not advocating breaking the law, if your HT is simply a built-out basement, I would not bother with a permit. Just make sure you follow code and take pictures if the skeleton. That way if a future home buyer questions the install and wants to see permits, you can show an inspertor the interior walls.


What has not been mentioned here yet is the real reason for building permits on residential properties. An HT room, new kitchen or bath increases the value of your property. HELLO, wait until your next tax bill. Why do they always aks the value of the improvement or have pre-set values for commen projects.


The only other drawback is fire insurance. If a fire happens and the cause is determined to be faulty additions without a permit, you could lose your insurance pay off. But thne they have to prove that was the cause.
 

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:)
 

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Strange no one mentioned an owner-builder permit (permit stating that you will be doing the bulk of the work yourself). Typically there are guidelines such as finish electric and plumbing, that need to be done by a licensed contractor. Are these permits limited to the 2 states I have lived in (Mass and Kentucky)? I will add that I currently live "outside of city limits" and there are no permits neccessary if the work is inside an existing structure. A permit to build an addition etc...is a whooping $25... :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Torre,


I'm building an HT in my basement, so my requirements aren't as massive as a house. Just laying out existing walls and new ones. That's amazing that you could actually use one of these home programs to build a house. I always thought people just used them to start the idea and then went to the architect. Guess I underestimated their power.


Ross,


Actually in the town I live in (in MA), you can do the electric but not plumbing.


Tim
 

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Tim, if that is the case then I would not worry about getting a permit.

Just do it.
 

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The tax thing is a big deal. Around here, if you tell the city you've finished your basement with a theater, they'll pump up the value of the house by $30,000, easy. At our local mill rate, that means my property tax will go up by about $400 per year. Over the life of the mortgage, that will add $10,000 to the cost of owning the house.


What really annoys me is that most of that value represents my own labor. The actual cost of materials for my basement is more like $8000. So I'm being taxed for engaging in my own hobby, using my own labor, in my own house. There's something not quite right about that.
 

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I have to agree, in my experience the city building inspectors are a resource, not a hinderance. I haven't yet done a home theater rebuild (I have looked into the permit process though), but I did put in the electrical for an above ground pool and spa.


At first I was going to hire a contractor, but was qouted $1800, and was told I needed a new main breaker box. I went to city hall and an inspector came out to look at my situation, and recommended what to do (add a new sub panel, etc.) Just be sure to do some reading and research into the electrical codes and follow them, and the inspectors will be happy. It ended up only costing me $800 in parts after all.


As far as the tax implications, only report on the permit the cost of the materials for your renovation, not what it is worth! The worth of a renovation is fairly subjective anyway. That way you are only paying additional tax on the value of the materials added to the house.


I am using the Punch Professional Home Design suite to mock up my home theater, and it is very nice for this. You can even edit furniture in a separate editor. I created a screen, bar and even a hi-fi rack and speaker, so I could see the whole effect in 3-D. I would not try to build a whole house with it though! To many missing pieces (no elevation drawings, for example).


Graeme Black
 

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When I applied for my building permit, all I had to submit was a simple sketch of the room and an estimate of the final building cost. I did the room layout in Visio, but I was told I could've just done a rough sketch on a piece of paper. For the estimate I just checked the "Under $3000" box, which was for the most part true since I did all the work myself. If I recall, the fee was $30. For the electrical inspection, I had to call one of the local inspection companies and pay them their fee (~$50).


When it came time for the rough-in inspection, the electrical inspector looked at a couple outlets and left. I did have to have him come back because I needed a light switch at the bottom of the stairs and boards running parallel to my exposed wires (don't ask, it's a stupid code rule). For the building inspection, the inspector walked in, shook one of the walls, said "See you when it's done", and left. No kidding! As a note, the inspection fee is a one-time cost, so if they needed to come back over and over, I didn't have to keep paying them.


For the final inspection, the electrical inspector tested a couple outlets with his handheld testor and that was about it. He didn't even want to see inside the main panel that I wired myself. I think he was more impressed with the whole "home theater" concept than anything. I showed him the equipment closet and where the screen will go and where the projector will hang. He said to send him some movie tickets when its done (funny, the carpet guys said that too :) ). The building inspector just gave a quick look and left. I didn't even have the carpet in yet, or the walls finished, but he said he didn't care about that stuff.


Overall, it was a very pleasant experience. The inspectors were VERY helpful and answered all my questions (over 3 pages of them!). I must have called the building inspector at least 5 different times with numerous code questions that he gladly answered. I even asked if there was a code book I could borrow or purchase and he said to just call him with any questions. There were definately things I would've missed or done wrong if I wouldn't have called him, such as where to use PT wood, and ceiling heights, and even which way doors should swing. I'm glad I did it and now have the piece of mind that everything is done correctly.


Oh and when it was done, I got a nice letter in the mail telling me that my property value has increased (and probably my taxes as well).
 

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Did they increase the value of your property by the cost amount, or did they use a new appraised value?


Around here, they'll do an appraisal based on what they think the new value of your home is. You can challenge it, but then they'll just send another appraiser. So if you spend a year laboriously carving a wooden stair rail or something, they'll crank up the value of the house even if there was no material cost at all.
 
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