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You Got a Permit for That? Construction 101 [Infographic]

by: | 06/07/2013 Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

Have you ever had a surprise knock at your door while working on a remodeling project? It happened to me when my crazy neighbor tried to “catch” me working on my house without a building permit.

Fortunately, when the city building inspector made his unannounced visit, I was able to show him the permit and plan for rebuilding our dilapidated deck. Me: 1. Neighbor: 0.

(Side note: That same neighbor put a note in my mailbox while I was pregnant asking me to stop using perfumed dryer sheets because they allegedly cause Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. And her dog bit my husband. Lovely.)

The point is, if you have plans to do an addition or renovation, it’s important to understand what you can do legally before you finalize plans with an architect, interior designer, and/or contractor. In our latest data graphic below, learn the basics before you contact your local city permit center (such as this one in Oakland, Calif).

And for those of you who are professional builders or designers and want to educate your clients, this data graphic can also serve to help set expectations about permits before you start a project.

Do you have a nightmare story to share about dealing with building permits or construction codes? Do tell in a comment below!


Kylee Swenson Gordon

Kylee Swenson Gordon is a writer, musician, admirer of great design, editor in chief of Line//Shape//Space, and content marketing manager at Autodesk.

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I have to pay for permission to improve my house and then the rest of the house is in play for the building inspector to extort more money because it doesn't matter what prior C/Os you have. It's a big money cow for the towns. Rational people don't get permits or make improvements.

LineShapeSpace moderator

@22dixie I totally feel your pain. I did a bathroom remodel recently, and I decided to make my life harder by getting the permit again. I was thinking about the resale value of the house, and also, I'm kind of afraid of "the man." At least it was relatively painless this time. Yeah, they took a big chunk of money from me, but the inspections went without incident, and I was relatively unscathed by the whole thing. There were other problems during the construction, but the city left me well enough alone. So it's not always the worst-case scenario.