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June 20, 2019

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5-MINUTE EXPERT:

Before you start that DIY project, make sure you know the rules

home improvement

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Have an HOA?

If you live somewhere with a homeowner’s or neighborhood association, your projects may be subject to additional rules or regulations. So don’t forget to check them!

Do I need a permit to do this?

If you are a homeowner with a hankering for do-it-yourself upgrades, you should be asking that question anytime you think about picking up a sledgehammer. Most people know the answer is yes when it comes to installing a massive swimming pool, but even projects that seem simple and small-scale might be on a municipality's list of jobs that require approval and inspection.

Here are a few examples of common home additions that do and don’t demand permits.

FENCES AND WALLS

No permit needed for:

• Fencing not over 6 feet high and not part of a pool barrier

• Walls including retaining walls not over 24 inches in height at any location

• Repair of block walls 6 feet in height or less and the repair is no greater than 20 linear feet

Permit required for:

Everything else

PATIO PROJECTS

No permit needed for:

• Window awnings supported by an exterior wall that do not project more than 54 inches

• Detached trellises or other similar structures not exceeding 120 square feet

• Painting, refinishing or other cosmetic changes to decks

Permit required for:

• All new porches, decks, patios or patio covers

• Alterations to existing porches, decks, patios or patio covers

• Carports and RV covers fall under the same permitting rules

SHEDS, PLAYHOUSES, ETC., THAT REQUIRE A PERMIT

• One-story detached accessory buildings in conjunction with a single-family dwelling used as tool and storage sheds, playhouses and similar non-occupiable spaces, provided that the floor area exceeds 200 square feet

• If the structure has plumbing, mechanical or electrical features, you need a permit regardless of size

OTHER CASES WHERE A PERMIT IS NEEDED

• Modifications that are structural or electrical ­— meaning they have a higher capacity to potentially harm people if done improperly — typically do require a permit.

• Patio covers

• Garage conversion

• Installing water heaters and softeners

• Attic conversion

NO PERMIT REQUIRED

• Cosmetic changes typically don’t need a permit. Examples include painting or wallpapering and changing out carpets.

• Changing out fixtures

• Replacing a window

• Replacing your front door

Q: WHY DO I EVEN NEED A PERMIT?

• Depending on the scale and complexity of a project and its potential to affect water, gas or power lines, doing the work without enough know-how could put you or others in danger.

• Homeowners who violated code with repairs and improvements might run into issues when they try to sell their homes, as inspectors will look for signs of any work that isn’t up to code.

• Even professionals miss the mark sometimes when they’re building houses. According to a 2013 report from the International Code Council, about 45 percent of field inspections on residential construction result in a code violation.

Q: OOPS … I ALREADY COMPLETED SOMETHING WITHOUT A PERMIT. WHAT DO I DO?

May is Building Safety Month, and Henderson and Clark County are running amnesty programs that waive late fees and penalties for residential homeowners who self-disclose projects they completed without obtaining proper permits. North Las Vegas and Las Vegas already offer year-round amnesty. Contact your jurisdiction for details.

Q: DO PERMITS COST ANYTHING?

Yes. In Clark County, fees range from $150 to $400, depending on the project. Penalties for getting permitted retroactively can double those amounts, and additional fees can be tacked on if building code enforcers are called to your property to investigate a complaint about noncompliant structures. “The goal with the amnesty program is to educate and not penalize people,” said Stacey Welling, a public information officer for the county. “We know many people don’t realize they need a permit.”

Q: WHAT DOES THAT MONEY PAY FOR?

Majid Pakniat with the city of Henderson explained that its Building and Fire Safety division is self-sustaining, meaning fees are based on the cost of the city’s work associated with inspecting various projects. They aren’t a cash cow and provide an important service, he says. “It is comforting to know that there are groups of professionals who work hard all year to make sure our buildings are safe,” he said.

Q: CAN I DO THIS PROJECT MYSELF?

You can build it yourself only if you own and occupy the home where work is being done. You will still need a permit when required. The construction of a fence at a home that’s being leased or rented must be done by a licensed contractor.

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