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brian0123

When do I need kitchen remodeling permits in Houston?

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I'm about to tear out old cabinets and flooring to stick a new kitchen in our house. I've tried to determine what (if any) permits I might need but the Houston Permitting site doesn't really give a lot of info. A lot of the sections seem like I have to have licenses just access them. I will be doing demo myself, hiring an electrician (who will pull permits for that), and then a guy to patch up whatever holes I have in ceiling/walls. I might end up picking a water line out of a wall and dropping it down another as well (not a pipe, just the small line for moving the fridge).

Any idea what permits (other than electrical) that I might need? Thanks for your help in advance.

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If you pull permits, then your project will be mightily delayed and HCAD will bump your value.

I can't tell you to skip everything, to do the work on weekends, and to haul off the debris in the dark of night. So I won't. :)

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I don't think you need anything other than the electrical permit based on your description. Niche is right though, and if you pull permits, expect an unannounced visit from HCAD soon after the permits expire to admire your work.

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What do you guys mean by HCAD stopping by? Do they actually send someone out to the house and request access so they can bump up my value?

Also, will pulling an electrical permit for the kitchen make the city think other things are going on and they'll become a big pain if they gain access to my house for inspections?

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If you pull an electrical permit, you will likely be required to pull a construction permit for the rest of it. Not a big deal, but HCAD does have a habit of wanting to see the renovations in order to properly value the property. If you move a pipe, you would need a plumbing permit, too.

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I agree with the sentiment here: Do the work yourself and skip the entire process.

I myself am considering taking some eletrical classes at HCC in order to learn how to do some residential wiring work.

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I agree with the sentiment here: Do the work yourself and skip the entire process.

I myself am considering taking some electrical classes at HCC in order to learn how to do some residential wiring work.

That doesn't work for electrical, where the City thinks you should have a Master Electrician's license to do almost anything involving wires. You are not allowed to rewire your own property, hang ceiling fans, replace outlets, etc without a permit, and those are only given to holders of Master Electrician licenses. The ignorant jerks at the City consider us all to be morons when it comes to electricity. The way it ought to work is that we get the permit regardless of our status as licensed professionals, and the City inspectors red tag any work that isn't up to snuff.

If you do work without a required permit, and later sell your house, you open yourself up to misrepresentation issues if you don't list all unpermitted work.

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That doesn't work for electrical, where the City thinks you should have a Master Electrician's license to do almost anything involving wires. You are not allowed to rewire your own property, hang ceiling fans, replace outlets, etc without a permit, and those are only given to holders of Master Electrician licenses. The ignorant jerks at the City consider us all to be morons when it comes to electricity. The way it ought to work is that we get the permit regardless of our status as licensed professionals, and the City inspectors red tag any work that isn't up to snuff.

If you do work without a required permit, and later sell your house, you open yourself up to misrepresentation issues if you don't list all unpermitted work.

Agreed. The City is ridiculous in this regard. I tried to look at different permits needed on their site, but some sections require you enter your personal Plumber's or Electrician's License (which I obviously don't have) just to search around. In other words, it's my responsibility to ask my electrician to get a permit for everything, but if they don't pull a permit for something, I have no clue of knowing what they didn't get pulled yet I'm still responsible. I would have no idea when selling later what wasn't unpermitted work.

Do you really need a permit for replacing an outlet? Does that mean I need to hire an electrician just to replace a $2 socket I bought at Home Depot?

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Agreed. The City is ridiculous in this regard. I tried to look at different permits needed on their site, but some sections require you enter your personal Plumber's or Electrician's License (which I obviously don't have) just to search around. In other words, it's my responsibility to ask my electrician to get a permit for everything, but if they don't pull a permit for something, I have no clue of knowing what they didn't get pulled yet I'm still responsible. I would have no idea when selling later what wasn't unpermitted work.

Do you really need a permit for replacing an outlet? Does that mean I need to hire an electrician just to replace a $2 socket I bought at Home Depot?

This is not quite accurate. Once you pull a permit, that permit number allows you to access everything that has been done or requested related to that project, including electrical, mechanical and plumbing. You may need the license number to pull the permit or request inspections, but you can see everything that is being done.

Technically, you are supposed to pull a permit to move an outlet, but I know of no one who has ever done so. Even the inspectors will roll their eyes and tell you not to worry about it.

Edited by RedScare

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"The ignorant jerks at the City consider us all to be morons when it comes to electricity. The way it ought to work is that we get the permit regardless of our status as licensed professionals, and the City inspectors red tag any work that isn't up to snuff."

The problem with this scenario is, what happens after the red tag goes up? You will ask the inspector what is wrong, and he (or she) will say, "You need to talk with your qualified professional electrician." Because they are not your unpaid partners/ consultants in your enterprise. I have been present when a semi-clueless flipper begged the city guy for guidance with all kinds of screwball items, and the inspector just smiled and went on his way.... to the next screwball project.

Texas has a long border with a poor, overpopulated foreign country, that disgorges numerous mendicants our way, who will do anything for a pittance, and that includes electrical work. Jus' sayin'.

Given the staggering amount of improper bootleg repair and remodeling that goes on in this city (never mind the county) I would paraphrase the above quote and say "The weary jerks at the City consider us all to be ignorant morons when it comes to electricity, and they would be right."

The price of a device (whether $2 outlet, or 35 cent plastic device box, or $12 light fixture) has no relation to the cost of the labor it takes to install it safely. This is Big Box Syndrome, where the eager shopper puts The Shiny Item in the shopping cart and assumes he is halfway there.

Electrician buddy of mine put this list together. He loves redoing amateur work. Its his retirement. If you can somehow manage not to do any of the below items, you will be at the 95th percentile of quality work. Weekend remodelers and flippers are encouraged to copy and paste this list with 18pt or larger type and epoxy it to the front of the fridge. Sorry I dont have a spanish version.

Common homeowner/ handydude electrical mistakes:

  • Replacing two-wire receptacles (on a two-wire circuit) with three wire type. This can only be done by code with GFCI devices and still would have to be marked "No equipment ground."
  • Reverse polarity at receptacles (and at light fixtures/ paddle fans). If you don’t know the difference between the black and white wires, don’t do wiring.
  • Ignoring grounding requirements at appliances and lights.
  • Use of lamp cord for permanent wiring.
  • Fluorescent lights on a dimmer (unless specifically designed to be dimmable). Receptacle on a dimmer (ouch).
  • Paddle fan on a dimmer. Also three-speed paddle fan should not be on a separate fan control.
  • No wall switch for a paddle fan.
  • No light switch at attic entry. No light switch (or switched outlet) at room entry.
  • Covering up garage GFCI with workshop pegboard, shelving, freezer, etc.
  • Limiting access to breaker panel with shrubs, heavy furniture, garage junk, etc.
  • Running Romex at inappropriate locations, such as in the great outdoors, inside cabinets, and in damp/ wet areas.
  • Not putting connections in a junction box. Not putting cover on junction box.
  • Putting bathroom lights on the GFCI. Not usually required and leaves occupant in the dark if GFI trips.
  • Monkeying with the breaker panel, like using wrong size breakers, wrong size wire, etc.

(photo taken actually not far from the Yale bridge...coincidence?)

post-7654-0-82361300-1350434267_thumb.jp

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I got 13 out of 14 (I've been known to use romex in inappropriate locations). What do I win? A green tag?

Speaking of red tags, what happens if you get red tagged? I understand that you must be green tagged in order to pass final inspection, and must pass final in order to obtain a letter of completion (there is no certificate of occupancy for residential structures). But, so what? Mortgage companies want to see the letter before issuing the mortgage, but if the work was done without a loan, what is the penalty? I know someone who angered an inspector, who promptly red tagged have of his electrical work (done by a licensed electrician), including work that the same inspector had previously green tagged. As the friend stewed over the red tag, days turned into weeks, into months. It has now been two years. The friend lives in the house, and has never gotten re-inspected. No one has contacted him. We cannot see what the harm is. For what it is worth, the red tagged items are not dangerous. For instance, the inspector insisted that a 4th wire must run between the main panel and a sub panel, even though each panel has a grounding rod attached to it. This is acceptable per code, and previously approved by the inspector.

Other than a future buyer possibly finding an open permit, I can see no other problem.

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Innerlooper, I am fully aware of all of those issues. Electrical work used to be part of what I did for a living in an industrial setting. I want to finish rewiring my garage, replacing the 60 year old two wire stuff with 3 wire Romex. It's not that hard to do, and would put a bunch of old loose connections in boxes. I am fully capable of doing that. I refuse to pay $2,000, which is the average of the 4 quotes I've had, to an electrician to do the work (it's a big garage). Since I don't want to have to disclose unpermitted work if we sell the house, I just won't finish the rewire.

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Innerlooper, I am fully aware of all of those issues. Electrical work used to be part of what I did for a living in an industrial setting. I want to finish rewiring my garage, replacing the 60 year old two wire stuff with 3 wire Romex. It's not that hard to do, and would put a bunch of old loose connections in boxes. I am fully capable of doing that. I refuse to pay $2,000, which is the average of the 4 quotes I've had, to an electrician to do the work (it's a big garage). Since I don't want to have to disclose unpermitted work if we sell the house, I just won't finish the rewire.

Can you simply say you did not know about the work and it was like that when you purchased the house/place?

When I purchased another home earlier this year, the inspector kindly pointed out that half of the electrical outlets in the house were 2 prong and the other half 3 prong. Nowhere in the inspector's report nor the bank's appraisal did I see any mention of unpermitted work.

Could it be that it was permitted and completed (only half the house was to be rewired) or it was permitted but not completed? How does one tell without hiring an electrician to view the city permits?

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Honestly, nearly every house over 50 years old has unpermitted work. I would finish the wiring in a professional manner and not worry about it. The solution to unpermitted work for a buyer is to not buy the home. A prospective Heights buyer will not find many houses to buy if he gets that anal about it. Much more important that unpermitted work is improperly completed work. An inspector will hopefully catch that. If he looks at unpermitted work done properly, he will pass it.

Finish your garage.

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Good comments all, thanks. Property condition disclosures are generally considered a joke and not worth fretting over. The only exception would be some whopper concealed problem that the neighbor is going to tell the buyer about at some point and then there may be fireworks. Note that most romex has a date stamp (and #12 has been yellow for only around 7 years) so it can be a little tricky passing work off as "old stuff."

BTW permits are searchable, if you have IE6 somewhere on an old machine. May not work on other browsers. http://www.cohtora.houstontx.gov/ibi_html/sldpmtsl.htm

If you feel qualified, I don't have a problem with doing your own work. Its the weekend warriors that create messes for others to clean up.

As far as subpanels are concerned....

For what it is worth, the red tagged items are not dangerous. For instance, the inspector insisted that a 4th wire must run between the main panel and a sub panel, even though each panel has a grounding rod attached to it. This is acceptable per code, and previously approved by the inspector.

Actually subpanels are supposed to have four-wire feeds these days, because otherwise (under the old rules) the ground is also the neutral and has current, and that makes for a lousy ground. The rods are only for dissipating lightning, not for clearing faults. You are allowed up to 25 ohms on a ground rod, which at 120v is about 5 amps, so in theory a dead short to a ground rod would not trip the breaker.

There is an exception for a feed to a separate building but best practice is four wires and a floating neutral. So yes it depends on the inspector.

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These days there is a way to find out online if you need a permit. You can try this online Renovation Estimator and when you choose which finish level you want, so just a simple makeover or total remodel, it lets you know if you need a permit or not.

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