Remodeling your home is a challenging yet extremely satisfying activity that allows you to utilize your creativity and skills to the fullest extent. Finishing up the work for a room like a basement for instance is a whole new topic as it requires you to follow certain rules and regulations. In this article we will consider whether finishing the basement requires a permit.
Does finishing a basement require a permit? You do have to get a permit for finishing a basement. Not doing so can lead to some serious consequences including not being able to sell the house in the future. However, in most places, there will be exceptions such as no permits required for projects that require less than “x” amount of money and so on.
If you are new to it, then you may have a lot of questions regarding this such as at what point can you say that a basement is finished or what the repercussions are for not getting a permit. In this article, we will be looking at some of the most commonly asked questions and the various solutions for them. Read on to know more.
Do I need a permit to finish an unfinished basement?
Yes, it does but this question is also a bit more complex than it seems. The first thing you need to ask yourself is whether it is a basement that you are seeking to build or if it is a cellar, as both are very different. A cellar is primarily used for storage space but a basement is more versatile and can be remodeled to make it more habitable. As per the set definitions, if the area is 50 percent below the grade of what is considered to be a habitable space, it will be a cellar you are building. If it is above 50 percent, then what you are building is a basement.
If you are planning to finish work on a basement, then you need to get a permit as well as file the architectural plans with the DOB (Department of buildings). This also includes remodeling a basement but there are exceptions to it. In some places, remodeling projects that don’t affect the structural integrity of the building or ones that cost less amount of money may not require you to get a permit. So before you start or complete the work, make sure you contact your local authority and understand the set rules and guidelines for your area.
Can you remodel the basement without a permit?
Yes, you can, but only if certain conditions are met and these conditions may vary based on the area where you live. In some places, if you are only planning to change the flooring, upgrade plumbing, install electrical fixtures, or repaint the walls, then you may not need a permit. In other places, remodeling projects that cost less than a set amount of money will be permitted without you getting any official permission. Generally in most places, if the remodeling work requires you to change any part that is behind the wall, then a permit is usually needed. It is important to note that adding new plumbing or electrical features will need their respective permits and will usually cost you somewhere around $300 or more.
Consequences of finishing a basement without a permit
Several consequences may come with finishing a basement without getting the necessary permit. Some of them are:
- Not being able to sell the house – An overwhelming majority of buyers always checks for all the necessary permits and documentation before buying any property. This is done because no one wants to end up paying a large fine or not being able to flip the house in the future.
- Tax increase – If it is later discovered that you had an entire section of your house done without getting any permits, you will be expected to pay back taxes which can add up to a huge amount. The longer you go without getting permits, the more money you will have to shell out when you are caught.
- Issues with insurance – If anything happens to your property, then having unpermitted work done can have repercussions on your insurance claim. Based on the extent of the damage, this can be a sizable amount of money that will have to go out of your pockets. You can read more about it in the article: “Does Insurance Cover Unpermitted Work?“
When is a basement considered to be finished?
A basement is considered to be finished once all aspects of the room are done and this includes plumbing (if any), electrical fixtures, heat, doors, walls, and so on. If you plan to include a bedroom in the basement, then you must also ensure that a closet is built as well as an egress window. It’s also important that heating and cooling for the basement is sharing the same system used for other rooms in your house. So it should have a permanent heating or cooling unit that is run by a continuous power source such as electricity, heating oil, natural gas and so on.
The basement must also match with the rest of the house in terms of materials used. So if your house uses wood and tiles but your basement used concrete, then it will be considered to be unfinished. Another very important thing to keep in mind is to make sure that the basement can be directly accessible from your house such as permanent stairs. Basements that require ladders to access them are usually not considered to be a habitable space and therefore will be considered to be unfinished.
So in short, continuity and accessibility are very important when it comes to defining the work done on the basement as finished.
Can you finish a basement without permits?
Yes, you can, but it is illegal to do so and can lead to a lot of consequences down the road. From not being able to sell the house, paying a lot of back taxes to even being denied your insurance claim, in the grand scheme of things, several negative repercussions come with it. At first, getting the permits might sound very expensive but when you consider the alternative, the difference can end up being upwards of tens of thousands of dollars. The real question is do you want to risk it in the long term?
Can you sell a house with unpermitted work?
Yes, you can, but it won’t be an easy task. Most buyers will always get an inspector to check if all the legal documentation is in order and this involves permits too. If they flag your property as having unpermitted work done, they won’t be interested in purchasing it. Moreover, when it comes to issues like this, more and more people will get to know this and there is a good chance that it may reach the city officials. This doesn’t mean that it is impossible to sell your house as some may be interested in the property even if you don’t have permits. However, this is an extremely rare scenario and so cannot be considered to be a viable option. You can read more about it in the article: “What Happens When You Remodel House Without a Permit?“
How to avoid getting unpermitted work done at your house?
If you are doing it yourself, then you have full control over it and can contact the local authority in your area about how to go about the entire process. If you are hiring a contractor to do the job, then always hire a reputed one even if it costs you some extra money. A good way to do this is to hire someone who was recommended to you by someone you trust and is very close to you. Avoid hiring unlicensed contractors no matter how lucrative it may seem at the time as that decision will come back to haunt you later on. On top of hiring a good contractor, always educate yourselves on the rules and regulations in your area and keep a check on the work being done at each stage.
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