A Bit about Remodeling Permits

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Many homeowners who embark upon a remodeling project worry unnecessarily about the subject of permits. The cost of permits and an uncertainty about procedures and inspections may drive even the most honest and civic-minded to consider remodeling without permits. We don't advise it.

While every city has different requirements, for most kitchen or bathroom remodeling projects, the process is straightforward, the cost reasonable, the inspections timely and in the best interests of the homeowner. Getting permits for your projects is a much better alternative to avoiding this step in your project planning. Remodeling or demolition should not start prior to obtaining required permits.

1) Why you need a permit
The permit and inspection process gives you, your neighbors, and your City assurance that specific standards are met when expanding, altering, or repairing your property. State codes, local codes and zoning requirements are all standards based on well-established health, safety, and environmental considerations intended to protect the integrity of your home, the safety of its inhabitants, and the welfare of the public. The permit and inspection process ensures that your contractor is doing the work correctly and safely. The city is really on your side.

Projects not completed according to code can affect your home’s insurability and potential sale. In most cases City building records are public, available upon request. Anyone involved in a future sale of your home, including municipal agencies, can use these records to see if permits were obtained and if compliance was achieved for specific projects. In some areas, a lack of permits will hold up the sale while the non-permitted work is corrected or torn out.

2) When is a permit required?
Permits are required prior to removing and/or installing most remodeling or construction materials on your property. Samples of required permits for interior remodeling include the
installation of new cabinets, and modification, installation, or replacement of electrical, plumbing, or heating devices.

3) Who is Responsible for Obtaining a Permit?
The property owner is responsible for ensuring that a permit is obtained prior to work being started. Contractors can also apply and obtain permits on behalf of the property owner but expect to pay for this service. Time spent at the permit office is often billed at the same rate as the remodeling work itself. There are also permit-assistance companies that can help you.

In most cases, when a typical kitchen remodel, the simplest and most affordable route is for the homeowner (who is hiring a licensed contractor to do the work) to get their own permits. Your contractor must often supply a license number and evidence of worker's comp insurance. If you are doing the work yourself and simply hiring laborers to assist, you will need a worker's comp policy as well.

4) How Much Does the Permit Cost?
With few exceptions, permit fees are based on the fair market value of the work being done, including the cost of materials.

5) How Do I Get a Permit
In Los Angeles, express permits can be gotten online for many types of projects. In other cities, a call to your city's building and safety office will enable you to discuss your project and find out the requirements. In most cases, two submissions will be required, in addition to fees:

1) A detailed, written description of the proposed work
2) A dimensioned floor plan detailing tthe areas of change

For many kitchen remodeling projects, inspections will be required. Any electrical, plumbing or wall removal or building will require inspection. Your contractor will help you schedule so that there are no delays. Inspections can often be scheduled a mere 24 hours in advance.

This article is only a brief summary of some things I have learned about permits. I hope it provides enough gentle encouragement so that you will include the cost of permits in your budget, and the process of obtaining permits in your remodeling learning curve. It's far easier than you may think.

If you'd like to discuss your project with me, I can offer you a free, 30-minute phone consultation. Here's my calendar, just pick a time that works for you.



Are IKEA Cabinets Perfect?

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A rhetorical question, of course.

We have been looking for years for any other cabinet brand that matches or exceeds IKEA’s kitchen cabinet line. We’re not tied to IKEA although it may seem as though we’re promoters of their cabinets. We just have not been able to find any other product that is as affordable, durable, and, when laid out and installed correctly, as beautiful.

And yet a nagging feeling remains since nothing is 100% absolutely perfect, and mass-produced IKEA cabinets must have shortcomings. To provide a balanced view of a wonderful product, here are the three things (only three) that we consider imperfections. They hardly warrant an article, but it might be good to know these things before you run into them.

1) They come in only a few standard widths and heights. If you could pay a cabinet maker to build cabinets for your kitchen, the sizes would be specific to your kitchen’s requirements. With any purchased cabinets, you have to design the layout with the standard sizes the manufacturer provides. With IKEA cabinets, you have somewhat fewer standard sizes than some other brands. Is this a problem or serious limitation? If you are designing the kitchen yourself using IKEA’s design tools, “yes” comes to mind. You are stuck with standard sizes and if they don’t quite work you are looking at wasted kitchen space.

On the other hand, if you have an expert kitchen designer to work with (like ours), the sizing limitations just require creative, customized use of standard cabinets. I am endlessly amazed at the customizations our designer comes up with. I’ve learned first hand that the standard sizes are merely a palette from which you can design. You do have to work with the fact that cabinet doors can rarely be resized, and that wall cabinets come in only 30 and 39 inch heights. But with those few unchangeable factors, you can, I have seen, do many, many things.

2) The interiors are birch or white only. Sometimes, if you are using a dark wood door (such as IKEA’s Liljestad) the edges of the cabinet frames can be slightly visible when the doors are closed. If you use white frames (boxes) and white doors, not a problem, or birch and birch. But if you have the dark doors and light interiors, you may find that the finished kitchen, even perfectly installed, has a few areas where the doors are slightly, maybe 1/64th of an inch, smaller than the frame, leaving a small line of frame visible.

Installers run into the problem of having the customer think this is an installation issue. It is not. It is simplyh that a mass produced door is not going to be perfect. We’ve had customers return a slightly-smaller door to IKEA only to find the replacement door slightly too big, or otherwise perfect also.

The best solution if you can’t live with a tiny sliver of lighter wood showing, is to have your contractor put some dark veneer tape around the front face of the cabinets whose doors are not perfectly matched. This handles the problem completely.

3) Delivery. This is not a problem with the cabinets, per se. But the experience of remodeling with IKEA cabinets is going to include the issue of ordering and getting a delivery of a few hundred boxes. It’s not really possible to inventory the delivery while the delivery guys are still there. The only workable way, given the high likelihood that there is some missing, broken or incorrect part(s), is to simply install the kitchen and, as it goes in, to make note of missing/broken/incorrect parts and make a trip to the store to request replacements.
You may have forgotten to order something, you may have ordered the wrong thing, or the delivery may simply be incorrect in some minor way. Some people worry about this, but I can assure you it is not a problem. Just know that you may have to swap a few parts during the project. It is easy to do, IKEA’s aftersales department is very helpful and they will deliver to you at no charge any part they forgot to send the first time. They accept returns of broken parts easily, and as long as you have your order receipts, will do any exchanges needed.

These three factors, and only these three, have annoyed us at times, over the course of hundreds of IKEA kitchen remodels that we’ve done, and we run into them regularly. Should you concern yourself with there things? Should you look to another brand of cabinets because of them?

Not at all.

If you'd like to discuss your project with me, I can offer you a free, 30-minute phone consultation. Here's my calendar, just pick a time that works for you.