To answer this question out rightly, yes, a permit is required whether you finish a basement from scratch or remodeling a basement that is already in existence. The disadvantages of finishing a basement without a permit far outweigh the advantages (if any).
There are two primary reasons why most homeowners finish their basements without permits. Either the homeowner did the work by themselves and did not realize that they needed a permit to finish the basement or he or she sought the services of a cheap contractor would doesn’t adhere to work ethics to escape costs. The cost to finish a basement can be anywhere from $10 to $40 a square foot. If not done right the first time….It will cost $1000’s more to fix!
Before we look at the implications of finishing a basement without a permit, let us look at the two most common scenarios that happen when home owners are finishing their basements.
Scenario One – A homeowner decides that his or her basement needs to be finished, so he calls the nearest contractor who finishes the basement in couple of days. The contractor does the job without giving so much thought into permitting process. We may say that the work was done in an urgent manner and let little time to seek for a permit, but still it is not good and should not be recommended.
Scenario Two – Any professional contractor should be in a position to get a permit without any hassles. Therefore, if the contractor asks the homeowner to skip the permitting process so as to make some savings, there should be every reason to raise eyebrows. If a contractor acts like this, chances are that they are not licensed, don’t have insurance or both. Also a good contractor should discuss any water proofing issues prior to giving you a quote.
Legal Responsibility… The person or company that allows construction of any project bears the greatest responsibility in case something happens. In other words, if you seek the services of a contractor for your basement and you allow it to happen; you assume the liability for the entire project.
If a framer shoots a nail in to his hand or any of the workers injures themselves while working on your basement, you are responsible for the accidents. It is therefore paramount that the contractor you hire that is not only licensed but also has the liability and workman’s comprehensive insurance.
Safety… The primary reason for building projects is to make sure that all the safety and performance building codes set by the local and national authorities are adhered to. The electrical wiring, plumbing, heating and framing should be done in accordance with the industry standards to avoid problems such as flooding, fire or structural fire. Again if you have the skills you can save some money doing the electrical yourself, but you will need a permit for that too.
As a homeowner it is important to know that skipping the permitting process might cost you anything from $ 300 to $ 900 depending on the project, so you need to look at the contractor you hire permit. You need to allow for that permit cost when planning for your basement work in the basement finishing ideas you’re working on.
Problems When Selling Your Home… You might encounter difficulties when trying to resell your home if the basement was finished without a permit. A reputable real estate broker or title company will ensure that the verification process takes place before the house is bought. In fact almost every real estate broker will ask that the basement finish be permitted and inspected before the transaction takes place. So you see how important it is to take out a permit to finish a basement.
You may think that finishing a basement that has not been permitted a few weeks before selling the house may solve the problem, but chances are that the inspecting agency might find it out, complicating the resale process even further.
Quality… It almost goes without saying that a licensed contractor will hire professional sub-contractors to conduct activities such as plumbing, electrical wiring and other mechanical works. This means that the quality of work will be maintained from start to finish. A contractor who skips the licensing process will conduct a shoddy work and in turn affect the overall quality of your basement.
The permitting process is of utmost importance and its need cannot be overemphasized. Ensure that you check out any contractor you are about to hire to find out if they are properly licensed and insured too. Be sure to go through their references, warranties and price guarantees before making the final decision to hire them. Because as mentioned earlier on, the disadvantages of finishing a basement without a permit far outweigh the advantages.