Do I Really Need A Building Permit? Bathroom Modifications Unable To Fully Meet Code

Discussion in 'Remodel Forum & Blog' started by Bluegrass Picker, Jan 14, 2014.

  1. Bluegrass Picker

    Bluegrass Picker New Member

    Messages:
    12
    Location:
    Washington State
    Hi,

    I am going to move a toilet in my bathroom and install a shower where the toilet originally was.

    I would very much like to pull a building permit and be totally legal, but in the small space of my existing bathroom I will be unable to conform to modern code in areas that are not major structural or plumbing issues.

    The distance from wall to center of the toilet flange on both sides will be 14 inches instead of 15. I cannot fudge and get an additional two inches of space.

    Also my light switches might be closer to the shower than what code allows. Again, due to the existing construction, there is very little wiggle room to try to conform to code.

    My intention is to have the entire construction of the bathroom remodel be as much up to code as is absolutely practical, permit or no permit, such as proper plumbing/venting/construction etc. but if it has to absolutely meet code in absolutely every area, there's no way the project can be done. I'm rather experienced in construction (not pro) and I'm somewhat of a perfectionist, so it won't be a throw-it-together hack job, and when I get it done it will be the last part of the house to go down if there's ever an earthquake around here....

    What will happen to me if I don't have the permit and go to resell or if somehow they knock on my door and ask to see my permit? My concern is that once I call city hall and ask them these questions, it will open a door that I cannot go back and close.

    Finally, when an inspector makes and inspection, does he make notes of other areas in the house that are not up to code and require that they be updated? The house was built in the 60's and there have been a few remodels in the basement that don't fully meet current code. He would probably be in the basement to inspect the plumbing in the bathroom above. Again, nothing major, just issues like the romex not being routed through the joists, but stapled to them, water heater direct on the slab, etc. etc.

    Thanks for your help.

    Bluegrass Picker
  2. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,233
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    quote; Finally, when an inspector makes and inspection, does he make notes of other areas in the house that are not up to code and require that they be updated?

    That depends on the inspector. Some consider your permit and inspection request as a "Carte Blanche" to check for any health/safety violations. And when you sell the house, some agencies request the building permit numbers for any revisions, especially if it is obvious that they would not have passed inspection.
  3. DougB

    DougB Member

    Well there are several things to consider depending upon what you are updating, how much it costs, and where you live. Each city / county / state has their own rules.
    I believe the reason people don't want to get permits is because some inspectors bring up rediculous, minescule issues that have little value. However I have found that many of them really want to be helpful. Before doing anything, I think it would be best to talk to the inspectors for your area, and ask them about the problems. You might be able to get a wavier.

    Certain updates require you to have smoke/co detectors in every bedroom. Or perhaps you will need 20 amp circuits to each bathroom. You can find this out just by calling the permit department and asking what you will have to update if you do a bathroom remodel.

    Some neighbor could turn you in. An inspector could be driving by and see your large dumpster, etc. Generally, if you do work without a permit - they will double or tripple the permit cost.

    Also, you may be able to get a wavier for the toilet clearance, and maybe if the switches were on a GFIC it would be OK.

    Inspectors only inspect what is on the permit. They do not go through your entire home.

    For the remodel of an entire bathroom, I would get a permit.
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2014
  4. Vegas_sparky

    Vegas_sparky Eat kitty

    Messages:
    233
    Location:
    LV,NV/ Nowhere,UT
    FWIW, there is no NEC minimum distance for light switches reletive to showers, as long as they are outside the wet area(defined by curb or door). Only spas and hot tubs have a rule.

    I'm building a shower in my own home, and placed the switches right outside the door. They are GFI protected.
  5. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,233
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    PErmits and inspections have two purposes. The SECOND one is to confirm that the work is being done without creating health problems for the homeowner OR his neighbors. The main one, however, is to upgrade the tax base so they can adjust your property taxes to reflect the added value to the building.
  6. Bluegrass Picker

    Bluegrass Picker New Member

    Messages:
    12
    Location:
    Washington State
    Thanks everyone for your replies. I sincerely appreciate the response and the help.

    I'll call the city inspector's office and try to anonymously ask a few questions before I jump in.

    Thanks again.

    Bluegrass Picker
  7. dhagin

    dhagin builder:anti-builder

    Messages:
    108
    Location:
    oahu
    Sounds like permit(s) would be required in your case based on the work you propose to do. Be advised that if you don't get a permit, and get caught, the AHJ can hit you with double or triple permit costs as a penalty. See HJ's reason 1 for why they like doing that to folks.
  8. snokel

    snokel New Member

    Messages:
    41
    Location:
    Wi
    isnt't the standard distance 12 inches for the toilet?
  9. snokel

    snokel New Member

    Messages:
    41
    Location:
    Wi
    I would also just call your building inspector and ask some questions, it's part of their job to help you out a bit, they won't help you design your bathroom, but if you call and ask about the distance for the toilet drain to the wall they will help you even before you apply for the permit. Most of them are pretty cool about that stuff. My inspectors in south east wisc where a big help in a project i recently did.

    The permit is mostly for the tax assesor, but they do want the stuff done right as well.
  10. dhagin

    dhagin builder:anti-builder

    Messages:
    108
    Location:
    oahu
    If you're talkin back wall, it depends on the toilet rough-in dimensions - 12" from finish wall to drain center is a common one, but there are other options as well. If side wall, it's 15" minimum from drain center to any side obstruction/wall/etc., however, 18" is a better number to shoot for. :)
  11. snokel

    snokel New Member

    Messages:
    41
    Location:
    Wi
    ok, I misread the part that it was the side clearance :)
    Again, I would start talking with the inspector, those clearances are not set in stone and if the inspector is not a jerk he can approve it no problem.
    the OP can ask the inspector questions about a project in planning before submiting any permit application, plus the inspector may give hints on how to work around issues etc.
  12. houptee

    houptee Member

    Messages:
    181
    Location:
    Monmouth County, NJ
    They cant go thru your existing house on a fishing expedition and make you bring the entire house up to the current codes that would be impossible to comply with, as the codes change yearly for "new construction". You would never be able to keep up and be renovating your house yearly to try to meet current code if that was the case.
    Existing items are grandfathered in unless you tear it all out.

    Example the AFCI arc fault breakers are now required for new construction, but they cant come knock on your door and say hey your house was built in 1960s you now must install AFCI in there or we fine you. But if you were going to install a entire new electrical service drop, meter pan, panel, etc, then they could make you at that juncture install AFCI breakers.
  13. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,233
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    quote; They cant go thru your existing house on a fishing expedition and make you bring the entire house up to the current codes that would be impossible to comply with, as the codes change yearly for "new construction". You would never be able to keep up and be renovating your house yearly to try to meet current code if that was the case.

    Now, WHO said they would go on a fishing expedition. The statement was that IF you had a permit and inspection for some NEW changes, they could do it. Not the you had to comply with code revisions as they were made, which would be ridiculous. In some cases, especially if it is a health/safety issue, they CAN require an upgrade as part of you NEW permit for construction. (they do not just drive down the street and knock on your door.) For example, in this area if you add a certain amount of space to your existing building, they DO require that the existing one be upgraded with fire protection systems, event though they were NOT required under a "grandfather" clause, and sewer and water connections to the building CAN be required to be increased, regardless of a "grandfather", if required by the changes, EVEN if the original MIGHT be adequate for "real world usage".
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2014
  14. houptee

    houptee Member

    Messages:
    181
    Location:
    Monmouth County, NJ
    The OP said:
    Finally, when an inspector makes and inspection, does he make notes of other areas in the house that are not up to code and require that they be updated? The house was built in the 60's and there have been a few remodels in the basement that don't fully meet current code. He would probably be in the basement to inspect the plumbing in the bathroom above. Again, nothing major, just issues like the romex not being routed through the joists, but stapled to them, water heater direct on the slab, etc. etc.

    It would be unrealistic for them to make you update other parts of the house that you are not pulling permits for, i.e. what if your front stairs are not 36" wide clear span, what if your entry doors are not 36" as required now, what if you have no landing in front of every door just steps (as many older houses in my neighborhood)?
    What if some outlets in the house have no ground prong?
    Are they going to make you do a full remodel of your house because you want to move the tub and toilet?

    I agree if there are blatant life health safety issues the inspector he could issue a unsafe structure notice.
  15. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,233
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    What if your water heater does not have a T&P valve, or it is plugged, or it is nonfunctiona?. What if you house does not have smoke or CO detectors? What if you have a basement bedroom without an egress? What if the water heater and/or furnace does not have proper combustion air? Should I go on?
  16. houptee

    houptee Member

    Messages:
    181
    Location:
    Monmouth County, NJ
    So when he moves the toilet does he also have to remove every soldered joint in the 1960's plumbing system that has lead content solder in the whole house?
    And replace every faucet and stop valve that might have lead content?
    Lead free is the new code.

    Smoke and CO detectors are usually only checked during a home sale, or at time of a new rental lease to get a certificate of occupancy.
    If grandmas house hasn't been sold in 75 yrs and she still lives there they cant just randomly come in and demand you install them. And if they do say you need them, existing homes can have battery powered smokes and CO's since they can't make you install hardwired units.

    If you pull a permit to relocate the waste lines for the toilet and shower why would they be looking at the water heater relief valve? That is a separate permit and additional fee to inspect a water heater and if you didn't request a water heater inspection permit then hes only there to inspect the waste lines.

    I already said in previous post if some blatantly obvious life safety issue is blaring in the guys face that could kill someone he is obligated to do something about the issue.

    There is something called the 4th Amendment that is fun to read before bedtime.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2014
  17. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,233
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    quote; why would they be looking at the water heater relief valve?

    I am tying to decide if you are trying to be beligerent or just "playing stupid". NOBODY said anything about redoing EVERY solder joint, but any new ones WILL have to conform to today's requirements.
    Depending on WHERE the new work was done, he could have passed by the water heater. I am not going to try to think of EVERY situation that could have occurred to trigger an update, but they DO happen. I know if the inspector goes to the front door and rings the bell, and the water service is right there, which is often the case, he will require ALL the hose faucets to have backflow preventers if he sees they are missing.
  18. houptee

    houptee Member

    Messages:
    181
    Location:
    Monmouth County, NJ
    Well I live and work in NJ and the law here is Ordinary Maintenance does not require permits. And when you request a permit you list only the work you are doing and estimated cost of that work. If I list rearrange waste pipe for toilet and lav they issue me a permit for that work only and come to inspect that work. They dont climb up on the roof or crawl under the house or look in the attic they look at only the pipes I said I altered/replaced to see if I did it correctly.

    (c) The following items are ordinary maint
    enance and shall be treated as such by every
    enforcing agency. No permit for, inspections of, or notice to the enforcing agency of ordinary
    maintenance shall be required. This is not an all-
    inclusive listing of ordinary maintenance.


    2. Ordinary plumbing maintenance shall include:

    i. Replacement of hose bib valves in single fami
    ly dwellings. Replacement hose bib valves shall
    be provided with an approved atmospheric vacuum breaker;
    ii. Refinishing of existing fixtures. Relining of fixtures shall not be considered to be ordinary
    maintenance;
    iii. Replacement of ball cocks. Replacement
    ball cocks must be an approved anti-siphon type;
    iv. Repair of leaks involving the replacement
    of piping between two adjacent joints only;
    v. Clearance of stoppages;
    vi. Replacements of faucets or working parts of faucets;
    vii. Replacement of valves (including shower
    or combination bath/shower valves in a single
    family dwelling);
    viii. Replacements of working parts of valv
    es, including, but not limited to, shower or
    combination bath/shower valves;
    ix. Replacement of traps except for traps on
    culinary sinks in food handling establishments;
    x. Replacement of a water closet, and/or lavatory, and/or bathtub or shower unit and/or kitchen
    sink in a single family dwelling with an approv
    ed similar fixture provided that no change in the
    piping arrangement is made. Replacement water clos
    ets bearing a date stamp of July 1, 1991 or
    later must use an average of 1.6 gallons or less of water per flushing cycle
    ; and
    xi. Replacement of domestic clothes washers and dishwashers.
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