Permits and Inspections for Basements

Don't let permits and inspections scare you or worry you.  I remember this was a big mental hurdle in my mind to getting started.  The words alone seem so daunting.  Do you have permits for your basement? Did you pass inspection?  Crap!  What happens if I don't?  Jail time?  Huge fines?

Chillax.  There are no fines and you won't do time.  Try changing the vocabulary from" permits" and "inspections" to "announcements" and "reviews".  The permit is really just an announcement that you are going to do some work on your house.    The inspection is really just a review of your work by a licensed and experienced person who is just checking to make sure everything is safe.

Permits for finishing your basement

Orange Permit to Finish a BasementIf you're finishing your basement yourself you can actually start without one.  I built a couple of my walls before I made it official and purchased my "announcement" (permit). I don't even have permits as one of my 8 steps to how to finish a basement.

Now, if you're planning to have a huge back hoe outside of your house to dig up some dirt and install a basement window, then you may have a neighbor or two who start to ask some questions and in that case you want to have your permit ready.   The very first inspection visit is the framing inspection so as long as you have the permit before then, you're good to go.

Every area is different but in my county permits can easily be obtained by the homeowner.  You need a rough sketch of your design, the permit application (name, address and stuff) and you need the permit fee.   You take that to the county office where a clerk checks it over and hands you a permit.  In my case it was a big orange sheet of paper that you put somewhere near the front of your house.

They will want to know if you are also doing the electrical and plumbing phases, say yes, you can always change this later if you decide to hire someone.  If you do decide to hire some then they need to get their own permits and handle their own inspections.  The person who did the work is responsible for passing the inspection.

Should you get a permit?

Yes!  If you are going to do electrical, plumbing or major structural work - you should absolutely get one.  It's not that hard and it could save your life, your kids life or some family's life in the future.  By getting the permit you're all setup for free inspections!

That's right, free help!  Look, you've never done this before, now you'll have a guy come out before everything is closed in by drywall, and just let you know if you've done something that could hurt you or cause damage to your house.  Don't look at it as a hurdle, look at it as an opportunity to improve and to learn.

Plus, if you ever sell your home, the realtor is going to ask, "Do you have permits and inspections for this great basement?"  No?  There goes 5 to 10 thousand bucks out of your pocket.  You can probably still sell, but the buyer is worried now, no one has checked your work.  If you wait until you sell to get things inspected, good luck.  Codes change over time and you're expected to meet the codes that are in place at the time of the inspection.  Not to mention the fact that you'll have to crack open a bunch of walls so they can see what's going on.

Finally, you'll give confidence to your family.  My wife was always a bit leery when I working with electrical or plumbing and rightfully so.  Electricity is no joke, it can hurt or kill you.  Even though I showed her the books I'd read and explained the process and she could see the wiring and all the lights worked, it wasn't until the inspector came and put a small 2"x2" sticker on our basement door with red "approved" stamp on it, that she believed everything was safe and correct.

Das Inspections

I always kind of thought of inspections as the SS coming in to check my papers with a big growling German Shepard by their side.  But really it's more like a lovable little puppy who just wants to be your friend.  I was a bit nervous for that first inspecton.  It was for the framing.  The guy took about 2 minutes, walked through basement, asked a few questions and gave me an approval.  Done.

Electrical inspection was even better.  This guy was giving me tips, showing me why certain things are done and encouraging me to keep learning.  I actually failed the first electrical inspection but both issues were minor, I fixed them and then he came back and I passed.  He said I was actually much more thorough in my planning and execution than some of the professional electricians.

Help Me Help You

The thing to remember about the inspectors is that they do hundreds of inspections a month.  They have to inspect new houses, renovations, additions and more.  Respect their time.  Clean up before they get there.  Make sure it's easy for them to walk around and see what they need to inspect.  If they're coming to inspect electrical - make sure they can see all of the outlet boxes, make sure they can get to the electrical panel.

Be Sure to Be There

Make sure that you are home when they come to do the inspection.  Don't just have your wife or brother or something let them in the house.  They need to talk with you.  They might have questions and if they have instructions on what you need to do to pass then you'll want to hear that first hand.  If you had a contractor do some of the work then try to have them with your or at least know that they are available via phone to answer questions or get feedback.

They won't inspect every single element.  If you put in 20 electrical boxes for outlets, they might check 3 or4, if those look good then they assume you know what you're doing.  The bottom line is that they need to trust your work and it's more difficult to trust someones work who isn't there in person.

Go Ahead, Inspect Away

I hope that puts some of those fears at ease.  I know I mulled over the whole permit thing for way to long.  Just go online and find you counties website, hopefully they have one by now, and check out the permit process.  Then get started already, get your rough design and application finished then pick a time and go apply.

basement finishing jasonDo you have a crazy inspection story?  Did you ever have trouble passing an inspection?  I'd love to hear your stories.  Please post them  as a comment below.

Cheers -


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Questions and Comments

Click here to ask a question or leave a comment.

      • Fred says

        my question is a little different I am renting a home in Illinios and the basement has flooded for 1 1/2 years since I been here..finally got the landlord to do something about it and he rent a jack hammer to break the basement floor and install drains...does this need to have permits since he tearing up the floor and installing pcp pipes as well as a drain? If so how do I get the inspector to look at it before and after for my safety? I have called 311 and put in a request bt the work will start soon prolly before an inspector can come out !

        • says

          Hey Fred - Permit requirements vary by location but my guess is that if you're digging up your foundation floor then mostly likely "Yes" you need a permit and it should be inspected. - Jason

          • Giuseppe says

            Hey Guys! I'm a foreman for a company that waterproofs basements. Here in KY no inspection is needed for waterproofing basements. The basement floor doesn't add any structure in most basements. The only time there is anything to worry about anything is if you have block walls that go less than 4" into the ground below the floor. (If the floor is holding the bottom row of blocks the wall can cave in with ground pressure once the floor is removed.) The foundation is not disturbed when jackhammering trenches and no permits are needed because the system will not be tied into sewage. No new "plumbing" will be done. They may possibly need to drill a small hole through the side of the foundation or floor plate to discharge the water from the sump via the pump. No worries! Enjoy your dry basement!

  1. Ado says

    Jason, first of all, thanks a lot for this site. It will help me a lot since I am about to start work in the basement. Have a quick question about the work performed. Did not you have to be licensed to perform the electrical and framing work etc in the basement?

    Law may be different in counties where we live (I am close by you in Montgomery County MD), but I wonder what is it that I can't do myself unless I am licensed (plumbing, electrical, framing, drywall etc.)?

    Thanks, ado

  2. mississauga sucks says

    Hi there, reading the above makes my wana live in the US ! the permit and inspection process if way complicated in canada (specially in mississauga). you expect a hound and you actually get one! feels like they want a permit even if you are hanging ur wide screen tv on the wall
    the process is really complecated , you cannot do it your self you have to get professional help which costs at least $1500 they ask so many questions like site survey and all .its crazy -wish it was simple in missisauga to get permits for a basement. the city staff and inspectors are also very very unfriendly.

    • says

      You're right. I guess I never considered that it might be really restrictive in other areas. In Virginia a lot of the officials that run the building code departments are elected. So they always try to keep the homeowners best interest in mind, so they can keep their job! Then again, Virginia let's you do a lot of things. Hand-gun... no problem. I guess you have to find a balance between safety for the common good and not stifling improvement and discovery. Sounds like Mississauga is a bit stifling.

    • says

      Ado- I checked out the site and it looks like you don't need a lot of those requirements for a basement.

      My suggestion would be to visit the building department / permit department in person and have them show you exactly what you would have to do for your finished basement. They should have examples of other homeowners applications that you could look at. I wouldn't bother doing any extra application work until you what you know what they will expect.

      I know it's probably a half-day of effort but it could save you days and days of prep work if all they need is a few things. Let us know how it turns out.

      - Jason

  3. Ado says

    Hi Jason, I am going to visit permitting office next week - found something interesting though - not sure if you have faced this issue, "ceiling height". Not sure if I am reading it incorrectly, but the requirement is to have at least 7" height in all spots - I measured and saw that my height is slightly less than 7" near the main iron beams and ducts so even in unfinished mode the height is less than 7". Am I reading this file correct (law was changing in last 10 yrs or so):

    I hope county is not expecting me ti dig my basement further deeper through concrete to get to this height. Wonder if I can finish it but not claim this space as "living" space.

    Did not even start and am learning a lot :)

    Have you faced anything similar?


    • says

      Ado - Let us know how it goes. The fact is you've already put yourself on the right path. You run into a hurdle and you start solving it. Somethings might slow you down but NOTHING will stop you. Make progress each day. Keep it up and you're guaranteed to succeed. -Jason

    • David Pfeffer says

      Regarding the 7 ft ceiling height concern, I had the exact same issue so I dug around. The IRC code referenced for the 7 ft ceiling height rule is R305.1. They like to quote only *part* of the code in those "helpful" code cheatsheets. The part you care about is the second paragraph, which reads:

      Exception: Beams, girders, ducts or other obstructions may project to within 6 feet 4 inches (1931 mm) of the finished floor.

  4. Liz says

    Thanks Jason for this article, and for the website. I am really glad to find it!
    I got a first contractor who asked for $500 to get us the required permit from the county to finish our basement, and the second one asked for $1000!
    I have been to the county, got the permit by myself. I just paid the required fee which is a far less than what the contractors asked for. Thanks again.

  5. Liz says

    Thanks for this website. It has a lots of helpful info.
    I Just want to mention that we contacted two different contractors, months ago, who quoted us respectively $500 and $1000 to pull the permits for us. We decided to get them on our own. I have been to the county office and got the permits in no time. We filled up the forms and just paid the fee required by the county which is far less than what the contractors asked for!

    • says

      Liz - That's awesome! Thanks for letting us know those amounts you received as quotes. I certainly don't mind paying for a good contractor, but I don't see why they should markup the permits so much. Now you can take that extra money and get something nice for your new basement! - Jason

  6. Brian says

    Hey Jason,
    We are moving into a new house in a few weeks and I plan on finishing the basement without a bathroom. My question is if I get permits will my property be assessed with higher taxes after an inspection when I am finished.


    • says

      Brian - My guess is... yes. Property is typically assessed based on square footage, bedrooms, bathrooms and a few other factors. If your county/township is efficiently run then they will likely have a link between permits and assessments. That being said, I would still 100% recommend getting a permit and an inspection. Tax evasion is never looked upon kindly by our friends in government, but we all know everybody plays the game. - Jason

  7. jim says

    I had a house built and the basement was roughed and inspected by the city less than a month ago.Now i want to finish it and the city is asking for blueprints.

  8. Jimmy says

    Thanks for your advise on permitting. I just finished the demo and on to the permitting stage. Obviously each state/county are different. I was just wondering how "rough" your sketch was that you turned in alongside your application.
    - Jimmy

    • says

      Hey Jimmy - Pretty rough. Let's put it this way, I could have drawn my basement permit design with an etch-a-sketch. It was literally a few rectangles with names of the rooms. I think what they were really looking for was the room name - like did I right "bedroom" but not have an egress window. Or did I write "Sauna" or "kitchen", in which case they may have asked a few more questions than they did. Good luck! - Jason

      • Jimmy says

        Thanks Jason...Super helpful. I'm out in Seattle, and there seems to be a million and one details the city wants to know...That said, I plan on hiring only electrical, doing the plumbing myself(w/ the help of an experienced friend) as well as the rest of the project. Pretty similar to your parents size...minus the "huge ass" saw!!

        Living in Seattle and have just purchased our home, I'm a bit nervous about starting the project w/out having a history of wether or not its a wet basement(common up here). Part of me wants to wait til rainy season(winter) to see if I dealing w/ anything before I do the work. Any thoughts? PS...I'm getting the book:)

        • says

          Hey Jimmy - Great to hear from a reader in the Northwest. If the house you bought has been around for a few years (5 or more) then you should be able to spot signs of water trouble in the basement, IF there have been any. Is there a musty smell? Are there any "weep" lines or water deposits on the concrete block? Any discoloration on the floor? Does they sump pump go off a lot?

          If you don't see any signs of moisture problems then you should be good to go for finishing your basement.

          Thanks for buying the book and the videos - be sure to leave a comment or email if you'd like to see any new chapters, I'm about to update everything for the latest 2013 edition.

          Good luck! Cheers - Jason

  9. Rachel says

    as every nagging wife does, I too told my husband that he needs to get a permit for the work in our basement, and he proceeded to not . . . and put up the sheetrock. Now, and investor friend of ours put him in panic mode b/c he was buying a investment property and made the seller get it inspected- who too had not got a permit for a basement finish.
    Now, although the drywall is not taped, my husband has decided to get it permitted. Our goal is to number the pieces, photograph extensively, and unscrew ALL the sheetrock and stack it in the middle of the room for the inspection. Nice, I know! obviously nothing has leaked, or caught on fire in the last 6 months, but we'd hate to waste the investment when we go to sell the house and can't get the extra equity we were expecting. Sometimes nagging wifes should be listened to! - oh, did I mention I was an Architect? Yea, he forgot that vital bit of my credentials.

    • says

      Oouuch... your guy is just trying to do some good. Have you considered just calling the inspector and having him come out? Maybe he can cut a few holes and do an inspection without you having to rip out all of the drywall sheets in your basement. You never know. Good luck Rachel, and give that husband of yours a break! Cheers - Jason

  10. Ben says

    We are starting our basement project. It will require adding another trunk to our HVAC for heat. Did you do that yourself? Or is that better left to the professionals?

    • says

      Ben - I did not add any additional trunks at all. My basement felt warm enough in the winter. All I did was add a new register to an existing trunk, that I did myself. You can read about that in this post.

      I'm kind of on the fence about whether or not I'd do a new trunk myself. I suppose I would, as long as I knew that the HVAC unit would still be balanced correctly. You have to be careful because you can throw your whole house out of whack if it wasn't designed for that new capacity.


  11. David says

    I'm struggling with this idea of getting a permit. I finished my basement with the exception of the bathroom. Now that I'm considering finishing the bathroom I'm worried about calling to have an inspection/permit. My basement has been finished for 7 years with no issues. If they come to look at my bathroom plan, I'm sure they will ask about the rest of the basement. What could they ask for regarding my finished basement?

    • says

      Hey David - I feel your pain. It seems like you're just inviting trouble. They could ask for just about anything. They could say they want to inspect your basement electrical or basement framing or whatever. They might also just skip it and just inspect your bathroom. It really depends on where you live and even the inspector that comes out that day.

      My advice would be to apply for the bathroom permits that you need. Deal with the older work at a different time. It's not like they can haul you to jail, they'll just fail to pass you, then at some point before you sell your house you'll have to do the work to fix whatever they don't pass. Most likely, they just check for the work that's been asked to be checked. MOST... likely.

      Good luck man, if you're planning to live there awhile I wouldn't blame you if you just held out. - Jason

  12. Tracey says

    I'm wanting to start a basement project but I'm not sure if I'll need or should get a permit. We would like to use most of our basement as an area for the kids to play and hang out with friends. We also have our washer and dryer down there. We will be just painting most of our basement but I'd like the furnace and laundry area to be walled off so the kids can't get to it and also to create a storage area for holiday decorations, camping gear, etc. We will need to frame and drywall a few sections of wall as well as add two interior doors. We wont be touching any electrical or plumbing and only one side of the framed wall will be have drywall. The other side, which will be in the storage area, will be "unfinished". It's highly unlikely that we will ever sell our house but I don't want to do or not do anything that could cause a problem later.

    • says

      Tracey - Sounds like you have a good vision of what you want to do. I can see how this may be an instance where getting a permit isn't necessary. However... I'd still get one. Now what you could do is get started with your painting, etc and then get the permit down the road. Don't let that stop you from starting. I just wouldn't do a lot of framing without a permit. Good luck, have some fun with it! - Jason

  13. Tom says

    Do you have to install an egress window for a finished basement that is used as a family room? There is one other small window in the basement.

  14. Michael says

    Hey Jason,

    So I just my own house, the biggest selling point for me was that it had a basement. The previous owner had already started finishing the basement and we discovered that they never got a permit for the work. The framing, electrical, and plumbing is done. Just needs drywall and paint and the project is done. I figured I should get a permit and inspection before doing all of that, but I have hit a few snags in the process:
    1. Turns out this wasn't a basement, it was a garage converted into a basement, records still show it as a garage.
    2. I live in city limits so I have to deal with the city and not the county. They seem to be a little more picky on the process, but oh well.
    3. They require plans drawn up of what I plan on doing, I was able to draw the plans no problem for the framing, but I am unsure on what to do about the electrical and plumbing.
    Anyways, I was hoping it would be easy to just have an inspector come out, tell me what needs to be fixed, and that be that. Any tips?


    • says

      Mike - I would definitely start with a nice friendly chat with an inspector, onsite. Tell him your story. Tell him, you can't believe that other guy didn't respect the process and didn't get a permit. Then ask him, what can I do to make sure I'm in full compliance with city ordinances. Then report back to us here, I'm curious about what he/she will say. My guess, it won't be that bad. Good luck with your basement! - Jason

  15. V says

    Help. I am currently working on getting permits pulled for work that I completed myself. I am having issues with getting permits pulled in Wauwatosa, WI. They are requiring that a contractor pulls the permits and will not let me pull them. I have read that other's have been able to pull permits themselves in Wauwatosa. They will not refer any plumbers and it is hard to find plumber that will come in and review the work, complete permit paperwork for the inspectors to come out and inspect the work.


    • says

      Hmmm... I did some quick reading on the cities website and they're claiming that you must be a licensed plumber to pull a permit. So if other people are getting them themselves, not sure how. Otherwise, you'll need a contractor who will help you pull them. You guys should lobby to get that changed. It's ridiculous that you have to be licensed to pull a permit. - Jason

    • Brian says

      V, I live in Wisconsin and I have been told that it is a state law that you do not have to get a contractor if you are the home owner. I can't imagine city could overrule a law like that but maybe they could.

  16. chelsey says

    Hi Jason,

    I have been using your website as I get ready to finish my basement. I live in loveland, Colorado and according to their website and a simple email, I am required to pull a permit before any work is started or i could face a fine and penalty. Have you ever heard of this?

    Also, if i do not contact them in 180 days for inspection my permit goes void. How can i work around this since i only have enough money saved to do one room at a time.


  17. Caleb says

    Hi I am just wondering what age you need to be to get the permits? I am 16 and want to refinish my parents basement ( to move my living space down there......My parents approve that I can do the Framing by myself, electrical with my Uncles help ( he is a Pro electrician),and Dry Wall and trim/doors By my self, I will probably Hire a pro Plumber to do that stuff...... so If I can get some help that can be great.....Thanks

    • says

      Hi Caleb- That's awesome! I wish I was as enterprising as you at 16. I can't think of a reason why they wouldn't grant you a permit? The only issue might be that you need to be the owner of the house. Kind of depends on your local building department. Best thing, take a drive on over there and introduce yourself, ask a few questions. Good luck, let us know how it turns out. - Jason

  18. Aq says

    Great to see this awesome site. We had some flood damage some time ago and we did the work ourselves.. Drywall repair and put i a new laminate floor. I live in PG County in Maryland. After the repairs someone from the mortgage company came out to take pictures and to make sure the work was done. They did not give me any card or anything they just said good job. Should I be concerned. After they checked the work then they released the remaining funds from the insurance claim to me.

    • says

      Aq - Sounds like they approved of the repairs. For drywall and laminate you don't need any permits, so from what I can tell you are good to go. Nice job! - Jason

  19. Kulwinder says

    Really need a help ,I did my gas work in my house without pulling a permit . It will be a big problem in future, how can I prove this from city little scared.

    • says

      Hi Kulwinder -

      Well... you really kinda screwed-up. And of all the area, gas line is not the one to do without a permit and inspection.

      What's done is done though, you wouldn't be the first person to do it. Time to own up. Time to man up. Go to the city. Tell them the straight truth. Ask for forgiveness and a plan of action to get you straight and legal. The good news is.... you're alive and your house hasn't blown up!

      - Jason

  20. Randy says

    Hi, first of all thanks for the wonderful site. One question- I am finishing my basement out. I did not get electrical inspection done before hanging the drywall. Can i still get the electrical work inspected now? Will they ask me to rip off the drywall? Any suggestions? Thanks.

    • says

      Randy - "Usually" they won't make you rip it all down. Call your inspection office and ask nicely. It's different for different locales. Apologize, and let them know you want to follow the permit processes they've setup - that usually sets things off on the right foot. From there, keep your fingers crossed for an understanding inspector... of which most are. But definitely have them check it, it's worth the hassle.


      • Randy says

        Jason - My city folks want me to either rip off the drywall or get a letter from a State of TN certified elec. eng. certifying that everything is in compliance with the code. I am having no luck in finding an engineer who'd give a letter for residential purposes. I'm happy that they at least gave an alternative option, but no idea what to do now.

  21. Chris says

    Hey Jason,
    I am in agreement with everyone here, it is a bit intimidating and scary to get an inspection. I pulled my permits a while ago (but I had done some framing prior to - then realized I was supposed to be permitted so I stopped and got it) but now am a little worried that they are going to come in and make me rip stuff down ...

    I guess the reality is I am an amateur DIY'er who is learning as I go.

    Are the inspectors really picky or are they generally (in your experiences) fairly lenient with stuff? I want my basement to be safe for my family, however I am concerned I might be unsuccessful (lets not call it a fail :P) because of some small measurement errors.

    Am I just being a bit paranoid?

    Thanks again,


    • says

      Hey Christ (and everyone). Don't be nervous about permits. They won't "rip" stuff down. The inspectors are their to help you. The only thing they want is a safe home addition. In fact, in many areas, the head of the home inspection "department" is an elected official. Homeowners are their top priority! The last thing they want is to not serve you, the people who elect them into their position.

      When I was finishing my basement I felt the same way. IF this is 1/2 an inch off are they going to be "mad". No, they weren't at all. In fact my drywall guys said I did a much better job framing than most of the pro firms - just because I took my time and was very careful.

      So don't be worried. Just take the next step. Go get your permit. If you get stuck, contact me, or call you building department. They aren't just there to inspect at the end, they also will take calls, give advice and clarify the regulations. CALL THEM!

      Good luck!


  22. Derek says

    Jason, fantastic site, thank you. I have a semi-finished basement (main level and bathroom completed by the builder), with three side rooms unfinished. I've begun turning one of those side rooms into a poker room and have recently finished the framing. I wasn't intending on pulling a building permit since some of the work was already done by the builder and I'm only throwing up a few walls. After reading your posts though, I'm wondering if I should anyway?

    For electrical, I'm definitely planning on getting that permit before I get started pulling wires. However, I'm most likely going to need a sub panel installed (using a contractor) so which should come first? The electrical contractor and their permit for the sub panel or mine? FYI, we're neighbors (I live in Arcola) so I plan to use Ashburn Electrical based on your recommendation.

    • says

      Hey Derek - Unfortunately you'll still want to get a permit. You'll need two permits - a general building permit and the electrical permit. When I used Craig (from Ashburn Electrical) he did the work under my permit. Essentially I was the general contractor. You won't need a separate "sub-panel" permit, just the one for electrical - they may ask for a rough electrical plan - you can just list that you're adding a sub-panel and then running new circuits to your new rooms.

      They're mostly interested in whether or not you're building a bathroom (requires a dedicated GFI circuit) or a sauna or something crazy like that.

      You may want to call the building department first to confirm this plan but I'm fairly certain thats the best way to do it (for Loudoun County, each area may have different regulations). So in summation.... Draw up your general plan (doesn't have to be fancy) - Go to the building department in Leesburg and buy permits for "Basement Finishing" and Electrical Work. Remember, permits are 1/2 tax collection and 1/2 making sure you don't kill yourself.

      Once your framing is done - schedule a framing inspection. Once your framing inspection passes, call your electrical guy and have them install the sub-panel. Then run your electrical; then schedule an electrical inspection; then drywall and finish work - then final inspection to close it all out.

      Hope that helps. It's not as bad as it seems, just take a bit to get started. Good luck!


  23. Brian says

    Jason, so glad I came across this site when I did, I am about to finish my basement. I plan on pulling permits. The basement is unfinished with rough in plumbing for a bathroom. I am sure Ill have some more questions, but the ones that have come up so far:
    1. I want to hide the support beam my masking it into a wall. The problem is when I want to add the doors to the rooms. From the concrete floor to the beam is 80 inches, so my door would be maxed out at 78". Have you ever had issues with doors being shorter than the standard height? Will that cause a problem with a permit?
    2. Is a 28" door okay for a bathroom?
    3. The exterior walls of the basement already are framed and insulated when we purchased the home. Our home passed inspection and appraisal at the purchase, so we shouldn't have to remove any of the exterior walls? Just wondering if there could be any issues with that.


  24. Brian says

    dang, wish I could edit so it's not another post. One more question I forgot:

    Our basement is a partially exposed (4' concrete, top 3.5' siding and exposed) does that change the requirements for egress windows? It is really difficult to understand the legal lingo used in all the requirement posts I read. I want to get sliding windows but it is tough to fit a window that is 36" height and then have one side with a 5 sq ft opening. What are some tips for windows in basements?

  25. Bruce Shipley says

    I have a poured foundation basement that I want to finish; walls with paneling or drywall, ceiling; and a rug. There is a small casement window. No heat or A/C; no bedroom or bathroom. This will just be a recreation room with maybe a big TV. Do I need a means of second egress? I live in Lansdale, PA.

    • says

      Hi Bruce - Since you are not building a bedroom, you should be good to go. No egress window required. It's possible that your borough requires one but I dug all over their website and couldn't find an answer so you'd have to call them to confirm. Looks like the best number to start with is 215-368-1691; you want to ask them if an egress window is required when you finish your basement.

      Good luck! - Jason

  26. Chris says

    HI Jason. We live in rural Wisconsin. We have a partially finished basement in our newly purchased home. Electrical was done, we just needed to add a couple outlets to comply with code, no new circuits. Drywall on outer walls was done and finished by previous owner. We framed a couple walls and are essentially ready for drywall to the ceilings and new walls. I have discussed with both the county and town the need for permits, and I was only required to get a permit through the town we live in. I was issued the permit, but on the permit application I signed it says that the municipality does not perform inspections, and I waive the town of any responsibility. Should I seek someone out to do an inspection of the framing and outlet additions? I'm concerned that if we ever sell the house it will be an issue it was never inspected. I'm unsure of who to even seek out if necessary as the town does not offer this.

    • says

      Hmmmm, that's a first. A permit with no required inspection? Honestly, if they say it's not required then you should be good to go. Think of it this way, worst case you could have someone inspect when and if the issue comes up - it's not impossible to inspect after the fact for such a small change.

      Hope that helps.


  27. David says

    Hi Jason,

    Great site! Thanks for all the info, ideas, and most of all, the recommendation not to do my own drywall.
    My question is, my basement was framed and roughed in by a previous owner, likely at the time of construction and first occupancy. Is there a way to verify this prior to putting up drywall? I guess if I'm going to pull electric, I will likely need a permit for that, and they'd check then, but if I don't need to pull any more electric, could I just hire the drywallers?

  28. Conrad says

    I purchased a house a number of years ago. The house had a lower level and was finished with a living area and two bed rooms. Now I want to sale the property. The inspection found that the owner before me did not have a building permit to do the lower level. I purchased the house as finished, paid taxes , and never thought that the addition was built with out a building permit. The future buyer will only pay for what the public record shows as before the addition. What can I do I will take $12,000 hit. CJS

    • says

      Hi Conrad - Unfortunately you only have two options - 1. Sell it again withOUT the permits or inspections (if this is even still possible). 2. Get the permits and have the basement inspected. It's possible that you'll pass with non issues or just need some minor adjustments. Sorry - other dude should have gotten it inspected. - Jason

  29. AM says

    Hi there! We moved to Loudoun county two years ago. Prior to that we had finished two basements in two houses without pulling permits. It seems like it is a little more strict in Loudoun. Sadly, we didn't realize this, and we already completed drywall, electrical and plumbing. Do you have any advice about what we should do? Should we pull permits anyway at this late stage or should we lay low? I understand the safety considerations...but we would have to rip out drywall for the inspection. Please let me know what you think...Thanks!

    • says

      Hi AM - I would call the County and see what you can work out. I'd imagine you're not the first person ever to do this, there's a good chance they can review it without ripping out a ton of drywall. What's the worst that could happen - they say you'll have to rip it all out so you say "okay, thank you" and hang-up - no harm no foul. - Jason

  30. home theater says

    working on finishing a basement - walls are framed, electrical is up and working. drywall done on ONE SIDE of walls - could I at this point pull a permit and have everything inspected at once?
    I have staggered stud walls (not load bearing) inside of theater has TWO layers of 5/8" drywall, with electrical done and working.
    the only issue I think I MIGHT have is on the ceiling I'm using a resilient channel to 'suspend' the drywall for noise isolation -- because the wires can not be hit by screws from drywall on ceiling they are not bored through the ceiling joists, they're stapled across the joists AND at the primary breaker panel the wires are 'temporarily' run with about 3 feet of extra wire so I can hire an electrician later on and have my panel 'balanced' since the loads on the house have changed with lights and amplifiers etc.

    does this sound like I'm in big trouble with the ceiling electrical not being bored through the joists????

  31. Jett says

    I am buying a property in which the builder has finished the basement in 2004 for the first buyer without a permit. The second buyer bought the house with the permit and they are getting the permits and approvals before the closing for us (third buyer).
    The question I have is..will the second buyer need to pay taxes for the years that he used the basement or the taxes will come into picture from the time the permit is approved?

    • says

      Hello Jett. My nephew's name is Jett, great name! There shouldn't be any back taxes. The next time your home is assessed then the following tax bill will take into account the additional finished space. Hope that helps. - Jason (ps. I am not a tax professional, but this is my general understanding of how it works)

  32. Nate says

    Hi Jason,

    I'm just getting started on my basement and I would love to have my work permitted, but I have one major roadblock: egress. I'm located close to you in Fairfax County where new basement egress requirements were established since my home was built in 1987. The basement windows are smaller than those required for egress by today's code. I understand the rationale behind having the larger windows, but I think it's silly that the size of the windows that currently are there would be allowable if somebody had decided to put up some walls and 'finish' the basement ten years or so ago.

    I plan to live in this house for a couple of decades or more, so I'm not concerned with being able to claim that I have an extra 'bedroom' in the basement for the purpose of resale. I just want to make the space more comfortable while I'm down there for the time I live in the home. Since you're in Ashburn, your homely likely was new enough that you did not have this dilemma, but I thought I'd ask anyway. I've heard that the egress requirement only applies if you are claiming to have a bedroom in that space. Do you happen to know if it's possible to get a permit that allows me to leave the windows as is and either a) complete the space without the claim to having an extra bathroom or b) just frame the walls and install the electrical circuits and leave it at that? Thanks!

    • KimS says

      Hi Nate, I am curious to know about your decision. Would you please share. I am in the same situation. Thank you!

        • says

          Nope. The permit just let's your county/town know that you're going to do some work - the inspections might cause some issues. Right after pulling permits you might want someone to come out and review what already there - they can tell you want may or may not pass. Hopefully that helps explain it a bit better. - Jason

  33. T.Clarke says

    Hi! I gotmy basment finished 1 year ago and didn't realize that a pernit shouldn't have been pulled until recently. What can I do at this point ?

  34. Mark says

    Jason, first time home owner and i got a little trigger happy and started finishing pieces of my unfinished basement. I didn't do any electrical work and don't plan to in these areas, but i've framed, drywalled and painted everything. Now i'm starting on a 4th bedroom/office that i will be having electrical work done. I was just approved for the building permit, but i'm worried when they come to inspect after the framing is completed that they'll see the other work i've done and either make me take it all down or fine me. Your description of inspectors definitely does not match that of the one i'm dealing with so far. He's not been helpful and borderline insulting to me with my floor plans and some of the questions i've been asking. Whats the worst that could happen?

    • says

      Worst that could happen really depends on your jurisdiction but my guess is that they might would say that they can't pass inspection on your next section until they review the old work. I guarantee you're not the first person to not have permits - I'm guessing they have a process for checking work that's already complete that doesn't involved tearing everything apart. Good luck! Please let us know how it turns out, come back to comment on the results - a lot of people would be curious to know. Thanks - Jason

  35. Jon says

    Hi, I am looking to get started on finishing our basement this spring/summer. I am going to do the framing and I will hire the electrical and plumbing and possibly hvac if it's needed. I am wondering what you've heard on if it's okay to build a couple test framing walls before getting the permit just to make sure I feel comfortable doing this myself?

    Also, the zoning guy at the city said that I have to show "progress" every 180 days to keep the permit. I'm worried about getting the framing done and then possibly waiting on a contractor for the electrical and plumbing. What do you think the progress means?

    I would like to buy your book and videos but I think it would be helpful to your sales if you had a trailer or teaser of your videos so that we could see how they look. I am more of a watch and do type of person than read and do. Thanks!

  36. Elaine Malloy says

    Hi Jason,

    I am new to all of this remodeling stuff and came across your website. I am taking on the project of refinishing my basement. I took all the paneling down that was previously there and want to hang drywall up in its place. The frame and everything is already there with the electrical work done. My only concern is that I don't know if the previous owner had the permit work done when they had the room done to begin with. Is there a way to find out if the permit was ever issued for the work done? Should I get a permit before hanging the drywall up? I thought it was nothing since I was basically just taking the paneling off the already framed room and replacing it with drywall.

    • says

      Hi Elaine - Welcome to world of remodeling! Bravo to you for tackling this project - you can totally do it! My advice is to call your local building department and ask them if they have a permit AND a passed inspection on this wiring. Yes, you need a permit! I would get one before installing the drywall. - Jason

  37. KimS says

    Hi, I am in exact same situation as Nate asked in November2015. Do you have any suggestions? I am also thinking about getting a bathroom too. Thank you in advance.

  38. says

    Hi Jason,
    When we moved into our new construction 14 years ago, our builders had already framed out the basement and had started adding the sheetrock. We finished the sheetrock for the two bedrooms and finished out the bathroom. We finally have the time/money to finish the family room. We had assumed everything was pre-approved and needed no building permit since the builders had started and we merely finished to save money. Now that we put up sheet rock in our family room, we're worried that we should have bought a permit--since so much time has passed--and we're also worried that an inspector won't understand/believe us. Do we apply for a permit, schedule an inspection and explain our situation? I really don't want to have our sheetrock removed, etc. after all the hard work and money we've put into it. We really did think everything would have been good to go. *Frustrated & worried* Thanks.

    • says

      Hi Jody - Take a deep breath, now exhale... and relax. It's very simple and you don't need to worry. Call up your friendly building department, explain the situation, they'll lookup a few records and send someone out if necessary. If they can avoid it they'll try not to need to tear anything out - they know how hard and expensive it is. The key to be safe - so make sure it's legit and legal! Good luck! - Jason

  39. Socalhusker says

    I want to bury a 48" plastic culvert in the ground under a slab I want to pour. 30x40 for a metal building. The culvert will be used later as a secret room or bug out if ever needed...will the code inspector be able to tell I have something or done something

    • says

      Hi David - Nope, you don't have to be a master electrician. In most areas you just need a plan and the permit fee money, in some areas you need to take a basic electrical test. You DO need to know how to stay safe and you need to know what you're doing but it's not much different from working on your own car. - Jason

    • says

      Hi Lana - The permits are for specific types of work. So if you plan to run electrical wire or changing the framing and layout of the rooms - then yes. Best option is to draw a rough sketch of what you want to do, then drive down to your local planning board and ask them what you might or might not need permit wise- they're usually very friendly and helpful. Make a fun afternoon of it! - Jason

  40. Michael Bridges says

    My AHJ (Prince George's Co, MD) legislatively gives homeowners the right to do limited electrical work under a homeowners permit.'s_county/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=PTIITI17PULOLAPRGECOMA_SUBTITLE_9EL_DIV1ELCO_SD4EN_S9-117RIPROWPEWOOWPR

    I would like to add a circuit breaker to my main panel along with subsequent branch circuit wiring to a new room that I plan to finish in my currently unfinished basement. In your opinion does this activity fall under the following prohibited categories:

    The following electrical work is not permitted to be performed under a homeowners permit:

    (1) Installation of New Service;
    (2) Service Heavy-Up;
    (3) Service Panel Change;
    (4) Relocation of Service Panel and/or Meter;
    (5) Relocation of Service Drop or Lateral; or
    (6) Installation of subpanels.

    • says

      Hi Mike - In my opinion only... no, adding a circuit breaker to an existing panel and then running a new line doesn't fall under these 6 items you've listed here. As always - consult your local building department for specific guidance. - Jason

    • says

      Hey Shawn - It depends on the location - typically they can cost between $80 and a $200 dollars - for all the permits you'll need - electrical, structural, plumbing. Good luck! - Jason

  41. Joel says

    I turned an unfinished attic space into a bedroom/bathroom for my kids. I got everything permitted and got the rough inspections completed, then finished the work. I was slowed up by building a custom door for the bathroom though and never got around to scheduling the final inspections for months (along with having another baby). Since that time, I set up the bedroom and moved my two kids into it. They've been in there for a few months now and i'm finally done with the door and ready to schedule final inspections. My question is, will i be fined/penalized/failed for residing in the space prior to final inspections being completed? It'd be a huge pain to try to move everything out of the rooms prior to final inspection and make it seem as though no one has been living in it. I'm wondering if they'd be lenient, especially if everything passes final.

    • says

      Hey Joel - Well... I can't say for sure but my guess is that your inspector will not care. Their job is to execute the inspection - not judge whether some is or isn't living or using the space. For all he/she knows you're a photographer for "Basement Living" magazine and you've just been staging some realistic photos. Short of your kids standing in the room singing "we've been in here for months" at full volume... I think you're good. - Jason

  42. Tamara says

    We hired a contractor to finish our basement 9 months ago and it is still not completed. We signed a contract stating everything will be up to code and permits obtained. The contractor has notified me that the permits have been pulled and he is walking away from the project because it's taking to long! What does it mean to pull permits? Is this even legal- he has been paid in full for work not completed.

    • says

      Hi Tamara - Sorry to hear about this. Your contractor appears to be leaving you high and dry. The fact that he's "pulled permits" really doesn't mean anything except that he can legally start working on your basement, which apparently he's not going to do! You should get most if not all of your money back! Permits should be pulled in the name of the contractor - so if you hire someone else, they need to get their own permits.

      Never pay a contractor in full until all of the work is done. What you should do is placed a 20% deposit down - then only pay the rest as work is completed. Again, sorry this is happening to you, it totally sucks. Let me know if you have any other questions or if I can help in anyway. - Jason

  43. Krist Matthew says

    Hi Jason, I recently received a home as part of a veteran's program which has a partially finished basement. Before owning the home I was renting it, apparently the township inspector that performed the inspection rushed the job & listed the basement as 0% finished. Now that I own the home I'm in the process of renting it out myself & had to get the township to inspect it. Now the township is stating that since the wall opposite the stairs coming down into the basement has drywall that they have to list it as 50% finished. The entire basement is open with the exception that half has carpet and the other half doesn't. The basement is in the same condition as when I first moved into the house & I never finished the basement, nor was their any permit submitted. I don't have any blue prints for the half they say is supposedly finished. Would you have any suggestions on how I could proceed? They're giving me 1yr to get it permitted, but I don't know where to start.

    • says

      Frustrating, I know. Well - you could take down the drywall and remove the carpet then have them come take another look. No partial finish, no permit needed. Or, you could finish just part of it and have it permitted and inspected, etc. Or, what happens after 1 yr? Jail time? Doubtful. Do nothing... see what happens. I'm always partial to "do nothing", except for basement finishing - which I love doing! - Jason

  44. Pat says

    I am finishing my basement including HVAC ducts. But not planning to put the HVAC unit. We had rough approval by the Forsyth county, GA. Do I have to have HVAC unit for Basement for final permit approval?

    • says

      Probably not Pat. They'll probably check to see that the ducts are correct (although I doubt they will care about that either) but other than that they most likely won't care if you've installed the extra unit. Each jurisdiction is different, but that's my opinion. - Jason

  45. Cee Cee says

    I called for my first inspection (just framed in). I was told that I didn't have a plumbing or HVAC permit pulled yet so until then they would not come to inspect. They also wanted at least 2 days lead time, not one. Does this sound correct? It also took me almost 2 weeks to get the building permit. They asked me a couple questions like which way the doors on the closet were going to swing. I thought that was strange but I have not done this before so I went with it. We live in a small suburb in Wisconsin. Thank you for your feed back.

    • says

      I guess for some areas that could be correct. The questions they asked are quite common - just keep moving forward... you'll get there! - Jason

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