Think you can bypass the permit process when it's time to remodel?

What could possibly go wrong with work not done to code?

Sometimes, nothing. Other times, leaks, electrical shorts that become fire hazards and windows too small to crawl through in the event of a fire result when homeowners and contractors do work under the radar of code enforcement inspectors.

In no particular order, here are some issues homeowners may encounter when work isn’t properly permitted:

Shower needs to be replaced

Frequently, home flippers wanting to do a remodel on the cheap will hire contractors who give the bathroom a facelift without proper permitting, says Joshua Cutler, president and CEO of Cutler Construction Services in Orange, California.

“They know the work they do is shoddy and not up to code,” he says of contractors who routinely refrain from pulling required permits and avoid inspections. “So we’re going in and ripping these showers apart because the shower pan leaks. It was never properly done.”

Electrical not wired correctly

Shoddy electrical wiring can result in not having enough juice to power a TV and computer simultaneously without blowing a breaker, and it could escalate to a safety hazard.

“Electrical, as you know, is dangerous,” says Thayer Long, CEO of trade association Independent Electrical Contractors, based in Alexandria, Virginia. So, he adds, knowing electrical code and doing work to those specifications is critical.

Windows don’t meet fire code

Sometimes contractors retrofit bedrooms with smaller windows, Cutler says, making them too small to serve as an egress that would allow a quick escape in the event of a fire.

“There’s a very specific reason we have codes like that,” Cutler says, adding they’re meant to protect the health and safety of homeowners.

Walls unstable or drywall cracking

When a contractor doesn’t build to code, it can literally affect work from the foundation up. More minor issues may occur, too, when drywall isn’t hung correctly — or say a homeowner DIYs a new entryway without proper permitting oversight or an inspection.

“We’ve seen ... structural issues where a homeowner all the sudden wanted doors somewhere and just cut holes in the wall,” Cutler says. “Then you end up with sagging joists or wall cracks.”

City fines or an order to redo

It’s commonplace for homeowners to forgo required permits and many contractors play along, or suggest it as a way to save money. But in the off chance that code enforcement authorities flag these violations, homeowners can face fines and penalties that far exceed the cost of the original permit. In addition, the city may require contractors or DIYers to tear out work, such as drywall, and do it over.

Your homeowners insurance might not cover resulting damages

Not all code violations come back to bite the homeowner in the form of shoddy work that needs repair or city fines. But experts say if, for example, a homeowner does electrical work without proper permitting and problems down the road spark a fire, a homeowners policy may not pay for damages.

Article by Michael Shroeder; article found on Angie's List




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