Let’s paint you a picture:

It is a fine morning. The sun is out and the wind is slow yet assuring. The birds have already left their homes for a day of adventure. You are, once again, admiring your renovated kitchen. The new wall you added gives a distinct character to the kitchen and…

The doorbell rings.

You have been issued a notice by the Housing Department for violating safety norms, which mention that you must seek a permit before remodeling the kitchen. The day no longer matters and you are caught in a mix of anger, confusion and above all, wonder. Since when did you need a permit to renovate your kitchen? It’s a kitchen, not the Empire State Building!!!

Allow us to explain why some kitchen renovations require a permit.  Yes, some, not all kitchen remodels require permits. It depends entirely on the extent of your remodel.

When Can You Do Without a Permit for Your Kitchen Remodel?

 

The EXACT conditions when you do not need a permit can change from state to state, but you can be assured that the Housing Police won’t knock your door if you change a cabinet door or install a new faucet.

But if you are dealing with gas and electrical appliances, it’s a different story altogether. Take, for example, Fairfax County, Northern Virginia, where installing any electrical components requires you to get a permit. HVAC replacement requires a permit too.

Although the same may not be the case in other regions — it is best to check before you start your remodel. In this case, you would rather be safe than sorry. While the rules vary, one can safely say that basic, cosmetic changes like painting your kitchen, changing a faucet or two and installing a new countertop do not require a permit.

 

But why permits at all?

 

The law mandates that you obtain one because these permits inform the authorities exactly what you are building on your existing property. In most cases, the authorities need you to submit a definite blueprint that you don’t stray away from.

As long as you live in the USA, every construction project you undertake must comply with the health and safety regulations. Think of it: Your neighbor decides to build a coal-fire cookstove in his kitchen. If there are no permit issues, you might wake up to black smoke spewing into your lawn from his house. But since he needs to inform the authorities, chances are that his request will be denied.

Even when it is not a pesky neighbor, your own project must be reviewed by the authorities to ensure your own safety. Think of a permit like a chemistry project — do you want to mess with those dangerous chemicals without someone reviewing its consequences? They tell you if your submission is worth undertaking and if not, what changes can be made.

 

So, Do You Need a Permit?

Remember this: any structural changes in the design of the kitchen, whether it impacts your overall home design or not, must be run through the concerned authorities. For example, home additions such as altering existing walls or building new walls will require a permit in almost all regions. Similarly, installing doors, skylights or adding windows will need review.

Similarly, new plumbing fixtures like changing sink position, changing the water supply routes may require a permit. It is best to check just to be sure in any case.

 

Cost of a Building Permit

As you can guess by now, there are no ‘fixed’ fees for all this work. The final cost depends on several factors like the size of your house and the extent of change you are making during your house renovation.

The price can range anywhere from $300 to $3300 with an average cost of $979. If it’s just a minor project, it can also cost as little as $100. For major projects, expect to pay in the thousands. Because these permits are inevitable expenses, it is best to factor them in before you even start the project to avoid budget overruns. Being mentally prepared and planning your remodel also allows you to allocate funds to different segments adequately.

Related: What is the Most Expensive Part of a Kitchen Remodel?

 

Who to Contact for Obtaining a Permit

You can either contact your local authorities directly with your detailed plans or approach them through a contractor.

The second option can be slightly more expensive, but the contractor will act both as the ‘first approver’ as well as the facilitator. They do this regularly so they know who to approach. They might be able to suggest changes to the blueprint right away to save time and prevent rejections.

As submission does not equate with approval, it is best to until the authorities have confirmed and given you the go-ahead before starting your project.

There are specialized services in this regard and a simple Google Search will help you find local companies that can ease you through this process. This means all application forms in the correct order, submission and keeping track of approval.

A kitchen renovation can cost a lot of money and time. The best way to ensure that your efforts do not go in vain is by checking with the authorities and getting all the necessary permits BEFORE you start your project. If the costs are too high, consider either changing your designs or delaying the project. You would rather have the old kitchen than a new kitchen with illegal construction, right?

Related: When Should You Remodel Your Kitchen?