Part 7: The Who, What, When, Where & Why of Permits

Most everyone has probably had a bit of experience with permits in their life. If you’re a parent of a teenager, you know the excitement that comes with your child getting their driving learner’s permit. If you’ve ever been in a restaurant or business (and I’m going to go ahead and assume that everyone has), you’ve most likely seen the Certificate (or permit) of Occupancy hanging on the wall. However, there’s one permit that not everyone is familiar with: The Building Permit.

Crucial to (most) remodels, building permits allow you to communicate with your city to let them know what type of work you’re doing, where you’re doing it, and that you plan on doing it in a safe and efficient manner. In short: the permitting and inspection process is there for your safety. No one, especially not your own city, wants you living in a home that will fall apart while you’re in it.

Sometimes, getting a permit can be a real pain in the butt. Spending time in official government offices (like the DMV, post office, etc.) can be long, boring, tedious, annoying, slow… and did I mention boring? You’re probably thinking “wait. Are permits required for every project? How can I avoid this process?” Well, no, they aren’t required for every project. And if you’re sneaky enough, they’re not required for any project (DON’T DO THIS! THIS IS A JOKE!). Here’s a little list of projects that don’t and do need permits:


  • Painting interior or exterior (go nuts)
  • Replacing existing faucets (without moving any existing plumbing)
  • Replacing existing light fixtures (without moving existing electrical wiring)
  • Adding new flooring, like tile, wood, or carpet


  • Changing the layout of your home (removing or erecting walls)
  • Additions to the home (whether you’re adding on up or out)
  • Moving plumbing, electrical wiring, or HVAC venting
  • Repairs in existing foundation, plumbing, etc.

Lastly, here are a few tips for making your trip to your local municipal center (mostly) pain-free:

  • Know what you need. The City of Dallas has helpful checklists that detail everything you will need to get in and out as fast as possible. These are mandatory items and you will be turned away if you don’t have everything you need (speaking from experience on this one).
  • Bring some entertainment. I’m not going to lie, depending on how busy your municipal center is, you may be waiting for a while. Try not to get impatient or cranky – there’s no way to jump in line. Instead, spend your time working or reading or catching up on your favorite show.
  • Don’t forget your ID. If you’re paying by credit card OR check, you must have an ID (at least for the City of Dallas). How annoying would it be to get all the way through the permitting process only to be unable to pay? Hint: really annoying.
  • Bring a smile. Trust me, government employees aren’t trying to make your life difficult by forcing you to apply for a building  permit – it’s not really their choice. Show a little humanity and try to be as kind as you can. You never know, you could just get out of there a little faster.

Oh, and don’t forget to schedule your inspections as your work is complete. Most likely your general contractor will be the one to apply for the permit and call in inspections for you, but should you happen to be a DIY-er, this is a crucial step. After all, the ability to call inspections is the reason you applied for the permit in the first place!

Please continue to our next guide Part 8: Remodeling Contracts and You

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  • Astrid Eldershaw


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