Do You Need Permits to Remodel a Bathroom

Building permits are used so that work completed on a home is safe. A renovation or remodel can involve changing major structural features in a home, or can be something more minor. Today, I will cover if permits are required to remodel a bathroom.

As a general rule, you need a permit to remodel a bathroom. However, it varies by jurisdiction. For this reason, you should contact the permit office in your city, county or state, and they can advise you more precisely about what permits if any are required.

Some jurisdictions are more strict, and require more permits, or more thorough permits than other jurisdictions. Therefore, it very much depends on where you are located. 

Luckily, it’s easy to find out exactly what permits you need so below I will explain who to contact to find out this info, what’s involved in getting a permit if needed, how much it costs on average to get any required permits for a remodel, and what the consequences are if you don’t get permits that are required.

Who To Contact To Ensure You Get Any Required Permits

Doing a remodel or renovation can be a bit complicated, particularly if its a DIY project and it’s something you don’t have much experience with. The exact way something is done so that it gets a building permit also varies. So, here’s a rundown of who to contact to make sure the remodeling work on your bathroom is building compliant.

In general, search on Google for you city, or county and building permit. It will bring up the permitting office that is in charge of your jurisdiction. Go to the official website for your permitting office and find the contact number or email, and they can advise you what permits are required.

For example, if you are doing a remodel in New York City, then do a Google search for ‘New York City Permit Center’. 

There are different processes for getting a building permit. For example, in Los Angeles it’s possible to get what they call an ‘Express Permit’ for a bathroom remodel that won’t involve any structural changes. This permit can be filed and issued online.

Here’s commonly what the overall process is for getting a building permit.

What needs to to be done to get a building permit for a remodel

After contacting the permits office in your jurisdiction they will advise if it’s necessary to obtain a building permit or not. If a building permit is required typically there are a few steps involved in getting a building permit for your remodel. They are:

  1. Hire a professional to file plans to the permit office
  2. Get approval to carry out the work
  3. Contractor applies for a work permit
  4. Contractor completes all the work
  5. Organize for a permit office inspector to inspect the work

(source: New York City Permit Process)

In some cases, a contractor will handle the permit for you. However, this is a case by case basis. 

After talking with your permit office you will have a good idea about whether you need to file plans for the job you’re doing. And then you can talk to a contractor about whether they can do this as part of their service.

In some jurisdictions no permit is required

For some types of work, and in some jurisdictions no permit is needed. And the only thing required is that the contractor is licensed with the jurisdiction where the remodel is being done. 

In general, this applies to minor alterations. But, because it varies you should get in touch with your permit office to ask them if a permit is required.

How Much Does It Cost To Get a Permit To Remodel a Bathroom

The cost of getting permits is something that needs to get factored in to the total cost of a bathroom remodel. Therefore, it’s a good idea to have a rough idea of how much it costs to get them. So, this is how much it costs get a permit to remodel a bathroom.

On average, around $500 for all costs involved in getting a permit for a bathroom remodel. However, there is a wide variance in price depending on what jurisdiction the remodeling is being done in, and the extent of the work. Typically there is an application fee, and a fee per square foot.

There is almost always an application fee – also called a filing fee – of $50 to $200 at a minimum. After that, the additional fees can vary and are typically a percentage of the total cost of the remodel. To give you an idea in New York they charge:

  • Minimum Filing Fee – $170 (First $5,000 of work)
  • $2.60 for each $1,000 over the first $5,000 – equals 2.6%


However the cost can be higher depending on where you live. For example, there are a few anecdotal stories from people in California who state that getting permits costs anywhere from $500 to $2,500.

What Happens if You Don’t Get a Building Permit for a Remodel

Getting building permits is generally not overly difficult. But, it does add an additional step and requires filing a bunch of paperwork. So, this is what happens if you don’t get a building permit.

In general, your insurance provider won’t cover any damage to your home caused by poor workmanship. For example, if faulty wiring causes a fire, your insurance company won’t provide coverage. When getting a permit after the fact, they may require the work to be redone.

Building permits will also generally need to be obtained if you want to sell or rent the home. This is because a smart buyer will ask to see the permits. In general, it’s very unlikely you will get ‘caught’ for not having a permit.

This would only generally happen if someone seeing the work being done makes a complaint due to poor workmanship such as a neighbor or a contractor working in your home. 

Also, if you are getting a permit in the future for something different, then the building inspector may notice some work does not have a permit. And they can ask you to obtain a permit within a certain number of days.

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