Lesson Learned: DIY vs Permits
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Thread: Lesson Learned: DIY vs Permits

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    RodW's Avatar
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    Lesson Learned: DIY vs Permits

    In my previous house, I added a 50A electrical subpanel for my basement workshop. I tend not to get permits for DIY projects, so I'm very meticulous and have never had any issues. What I failed to consider this time, however, was the wall itself. When we sold 15 years later, the buyer's home inspector looked at other parts of the basement and was able to determine that the wall was not original, and the unpermitted panel in that wall therefore must not be original either. Busted!

    I wasted half a day and spent well over $100 to apply for a permit after-the-fact. Once the county had my check, the rest was easy. Their code inspection lasted only four minutes! I passed.

    Additions and modifications aren't grandfathered like the house itself. If there are suspected issues with an unpermitted change, the inspector can require drastic measures such as tearing open walls, etc. to verify that the entire project is in compliance with current codes, not the ones in force when the work was accomplished. I was lucky. The next time I play this poker game, I'll pay more attention to "tells."
    I hope my experience will make someone else's life easier.
    Last edited by RodW; 03-29-2018 at 05:14 PM.
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    You were very lucky. I've seen some baaaaaad things happen including demoing the effected areas and reconstructing which, in addition to the civil penalities, adds original construction costs, the costs of demo, and the reconstruction. Some jurisdictions have little humor for skirting the rules.
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    Im a hard core DIY'er, as in, if I even THINK I can do it I do. Of course I have yet to come across too much that I cant do, having done demolition, home renovations, helped build homes, wiring, plumbing, or generally anything at all related to a home, auto maintenance and fairly severe repairs as well. I think the list of things I cant do is shorter than the things I can, lol.

    All that said, I always check to see if any permits or inspections are necessary. Ive seen first hand what they can, and sometimes will, make you do to comply.
    Where I live now, there is no inspection for most work done. I can add on to the house, run new electrical (which I did last year) and no permits are necessary. Of course we dont live in town anymore, and that may be why, at least for now, the county doesnt want to mess with it. Im sure it will eventually change.
    I did a minor upgrade in town and had to have it inspected. Took 5 minutes, but the hold up was 6 hours waiting on the inspector.

    At any rate, my old neighbor put up a privacy fence. Went by the old fence line that they tore out. New neighbor moved in next to him and behind me and decided he had to have a property survey. Neighbor 1s fence was 18" on his property at the front and about 3" at the rear.
    He had to tear the whole thing out, concrete and all, and redo the lawn along that area.
    My other neighbor had a guy build a garage partially on an old property they owned. Everyone thought it was ok until a survey proved otherwise. The entire building had to be torn down.
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    My experience mirrors IndianaJimís-when we lived INC town and I wanted to add stairs to a deck a permit, fees, inspections and passing were required. Now out in the country if itís DIy, no permits are necessary for just about everything aside from gas line, which the County doesnít require but the utility does or they can terminate service...
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    I can't begin to tell you about the messes caused by people who do work without permits. Most are caught as mentioned; when someone sells their home and the bank requires a home inspection. We as inspectors are not supposed to do "after the fact" permits and it's makes sense when you can't see what you're inspecting and then sign something, that's your certification you're fooling with and you're livelihood so to speak, screw up and you go find another job.. So, rip it apart and suffer the consequences. I'm not one to make people rip stuff apart unless plumbing and electrical are hidden, and I have no way of seeing anything like insulation and structural, then, oh well you caused the problem not me so fix it.
    Banks are tough and the worst is FHA, they are the pickiest group out there. I can't remember after 25 years being an inspector how many people remodel their basements making them into an apartment with no permits and they do it for a reason, it's probably illegal to do so, so the hell with permits.. As much as I hate zoning and yes I am a zoning enforcement officer also, some areas do not allow an apartment, single family dwellings only and then the code comes into play with fire separation assemblies, egress etc. This action gets the project ripped back to a basement. I know most people hate inspectors and I'm good with that, if I cared I'd be a bag boy at the local supermarket and I do come from the other side of the coin, I had a construction co for 30 years and hated inspectors. Why? because some make up their own codes! I believed if I became an inspector I'd have an "in" with he state and the inspector and I'll tell you what; when some knucklehead inspector would tell me something doesn't pass "his" code I would open my wallet show him my certification and badge and open the code book and say, okay tell me why I failed and I intend to get a complaint into the state on your actions... You try that as a builder and BETTER TO NOT COME BACK TO THE TOWN AND WORK AGAIN because that idiot inspector will make your life miserable. I hate those inspectors with a passion, they give most of us who are great inspectors a bad name. And there are two more commissioners here on GTT that I Know of and speak to.
    We know people don't like to get permits and say I'll suffer the consequences later on if I get Caught.. most don't get caught until something happens or a neighbor complains. I have one right now that I'm dealing with because the neighbor complained about the guy next door doing work without a permit when she paid thousands over the years to build a new home and additions etc.. and she's an attorney. it's not an easy job to go after people in my opinion because it takes a lot of your time and eventually court. And not to many people like court
    So my advice is; if you live in an area where permits are required, apply, it isn't that hard and you will be on the up and up plus you are making our lives much more pleasant too, we are not here to be the masters of the world we want to save your lives and property.. It's best to get along then skirt the laws. It's no hair off my body to fine the bejesus out of you if you want to argue and I don't argue with anyone, the pen is mightier than the sword!!!!
    By the way, I would not go after you for building your wall, the electrical getting inspected would be paramount in your case and my only real concern.. you would be golden in my eyes and I may not have even made you get a building permit for such a small non-structural project. Bank asks questions and I would write a short letter on your behalf. I do this all the time, not everything is about a permit and fees!
    and sorry for such a long dissertation!
    Jeff
    Last edited by tj1; 03-30-2018 at 10:34 AM.
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    "I can't begin to tell you about the messes caused by people who do work without permits..."
    'Glad I could get your adrenaline flowing this morning! I've also seen horror stories and understand why the permitting process exists. When I was doing my research, I found a story on the Houzz electrician's forum about a guy who bonded neutral to ground in his subpanel and had sparks dancing along his aluminum siding at night!

    For my project, the insides of both panels and the entire pathway between them were visible in the unfinished basement. My concern was that every attached outlet and switch might also be scrutinized. The county inspector was great and did his job well without being overbearing. It was a quick visit because he was able to clearly see what he needed to. I just thought it was funny that when we think we're smart enough to have all the bases completely covered, we tend to get humbled.
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    I pull permits and inspections for my home DIY projects, but it can be SOOO painful. I'll give a good and bad example for my garage build.

    GOOD- Electrical inspection. It was actually a framing re-inspection (BS) and when the (different) inspector came he was appalled as to why I failed in first place. He saw me wiring and asked if I wanted it inspected now. I said no, because I had not completed the upstairs, and he looked at my work, and passed me ahead of completion. (I was about 85% done). Pretty cool.

    BAD- Pre cement inspection. I had all my grades set, wire down, barrier down, drains in, and ready to pour next day. Inspector comes, FAIL. I ask why, and he says no spillage mitigation setup for drains. I call BS, because the code states it was not necessary. He agree's, but states it will be for next year. Long story short, made me follow next years regs today. Real nice, ehhh? Gets worse, after ensuring me I will not win if I fight it, I concede and tell him I will yank the drains. He says fine, but still FAIL! I ask why, and he says my grade is wrong, not enough fall to the front of the garage now. Unreal. I clam up, he leaves, and says he will reinspect tomorrow afternoon. Thanks.... So, I yank the pipes, reshoot grade, move my chalk lines up in the back, order more concrete, all with pics and video of what I did.... and of course... pour on schedule in the am. He shows up at noon the next day for the preinspection pour, but I am all done and sipping on a coldie.... and while surprised, is oddly nice and doesnt give me much flack ( maybe he could tell I was fed up with him).

    My point is, I get the importance of inspections and permitting, and I also get why people do not do it...
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nch209 View Post

    My point is, I get the importance of inspections and permitting, and I also get why people do not do it...
    Years ago in my "city house", I had a new water line put in from the main, into a newly dug meter pit and then into the house. Pulled a permit for it since the plumbing contractor required it (as well as the city). I took the day off and was home when the inspector came by before they filled in the holes, etc. I went into the basement with the inspector - he was there for about 3 seconds and said "it looks good". He gave the plumbers the tag, got in his car and drove off. I joked with the plumbers "Wow! That was on thorough inspection!" They told me that he wouldn't have even bothered getting out of his car if I hadn't been sitting on the front porch when he drove up. Sheesh!!

    Same neighborhood, down the street from me lived a guy that was also some sort of city inspector. For a few months, EVERY DAY around noon a city car would pull up and park in front of his house. Around 3:30 or so he'd get in the car and leave and about 30 or 40 minutes later he'd pull back up in his own car. He was only working half-days!! I finally called the city to ask why this house down the street from me needed so much inspecting. That put an end to it!
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    tj1
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nch209 View Post
    I pull permits and inspections for my home DIY projects, but it can be SOOO painful. I'll give a good and bad example for my garage build.

    GOOD- Electrical inspection. It was actually a framing re-inspection (BS) and when the (different) inspector came he was appalled as to why I failed in first place. He saw me wiring and asked if I wanted it inspected now. I said no, because I had not completed the upstairs, and he looked at my work, and passed me ahead of completion. (I was about 85% done). Pretty cool.

    BAD- Pre cement inspection. I had all my grades set, wire down, barrier down, drains in, and ready to pour next day. Inspector comes, FAIL. I ask why, and he says no spillage mitigation setup for drains. I call BS, because the code states it was not necessary. He agree's, but states it will be for next year. Long story short, made me follow next years regs today. Real nice, ehhh? Gets worse, after ensuring me I will not win if I fight it, I concede and tell him I will yank the drains. He says fine, but still FAIL! I ask why, and he says my grade is wrong, not enough fall to the front of the garage now. Unreal. I clam up, he leaves, and says he will reinspect tomorrow afternoon. Thanks.... So, I yank the pipes, reshoot grade, move my chalk lines up in the back, order more concrete, all with pics and video of what I did.... and of course... pour on schedule in the am. He shows up at noon the next day for the preinspection pour, but I am all done and sipping on a coldie.... and while surprised, is oddly nice and doesnt give me much flack ( maybe he could tell I was fed up with him).

    My point is, I get the importance of inspections and permitting, and I also get why people do not do it...
    That's what I was talking about, the inspectors that think they are God.. around here you would need an oil collection tank for garage drains or grease traps as they may be called in some circle's.. Maybe that's why he told you to take the drain out and you do need to slope the garage floor to mitigate fluids to the garage door opening but I do see your discomfort with the inspector, telling you, you need to comply with next years codes are not acceptable at all.. I would have filed a complaint with his bosses. But that's just me.. I don't put up with that stuff.
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