Before undertaking any building or remodeling work to your home or office, it’s essential to ensure that you have all the necessary permits. Rules vary from state to state, and city to city, and they change frequently, so don’t assume you can start building without a permit. Always check with local officials first, or talk to your contractor. They’ll be familiar with the process for pulling permits, and can give you experienced advice on what to expect.
Permits serve third purposes. First, they ensure that the work is being carried out to a professional standard by qualified personnel. Building codes are quite stringent, in terms of both the materials used and the construction methods. Poor quality construction can be dangerous, even life-threatening: even if the work appears to have been carried out adequately, it may not be sufficient to withstand the extremes of weather that we get here in Florida, or it may not be durable enough to last more than a year or two. The wrong type of doors, windows, or shutters could easily give way in a hurricane, for example.
Second, they are used to enforce acceptable design standards on a neighborhood. If you live in a historic district, they may have regulations on what color paint you can use, in order to preserve the unique character of that district. They may restrict what you can do with a roof line, or whether you can construct additional buildings on your property, or increase the square footage.
The third purpose of permits is to do with taxation. Changes to your property may affect its taxable value, and the amount you have to pay each year. Your permit application is used to keep the county or city records up to date so that they can charge you appropriately.
It may be tempting to try to bypass the permitting process and simply go ahead with construction anyway. However, it’s not worth it. You may get away with it, but in time, you could find yourself in a lot of trouble. If officials find you don’t have all the permits you need, they can land you with a hefty fine, or force you to demolish the construction and start over – and they won’t be cooperative.
Even if you don’t get caught when doing the building, when you come to sell your house, your buyer’s lawyer will usually insist on seeing all the permits for all the renovations. And if your house doesn’t match what’s in the official records, that could jeopardize your sale: no reputable buyer will purchase a house that isn’t up to code.
Do I really need a permit to replace doors or windows?
In Lee County, yes, you do. Here’s the link.
Or if you’re in Fort Myers, use this link.
You’ll need to demonstrate that you’re using approved materials, and that they’re correctly rated to withstand hurricanes for the size of window or door you’re replacing, in compliance with the Florida Building Code. If you’re changing the size of the opening, you’ll also need to supply architect’s plans showing that the new structure is sufficiently sturdy. Any associated electrical or plumbing work will also require additional permits.
Obtaining permits may be tedious, time-consuming, and expensive, but it’s necessary.