Permits and Inspections- What You Should Know...

Do I need a permit for my plumbing project?
Well, the short answer is, yes. Plumbing repairs do not need a permit, however, many replacements do need permitting. Reality kicks in when we try to define wat is a repair versus a replacement. Is a new toilet a replacement or a repair, how about a shower head? I have not had any clear response from the CSLB about how best to define repair over replacement.
Clearly however, there are some projects where a permit is definitely required. Water heaters, gas lines, sewer replacements, repipes, additional fixtures, anywhere that structural change is needed, these projects all need permits.

According to the Universal Plumbing Code (UPC) 503.0
"It shall be unlawful for any person to install, remove or replace or cause to be installed, removed or replaced any water heater without first obtaining a permit from the Authority Having Jurisdiction to do so"

Inside of Wall

"I don't want an inspector in my house, we have knob and tube wiring"
I am frequently asked if building inspectors look at other areas of the home and 'Red Tag' things like electrical or foundation.
In my experience this never happens. Anecdotally, this can happen, however I have not experienced an inspector calling into question anything other than the item on the permit. The exception to this would be if the plumbing permit was part of a bigger project, for example, if we were to put a bathroom in a garage conversion, the inspector would require a permit for the garage conversion. The garage conversion would need a building permit.

Permit Line

How long does it take to get a permit?
Well, it depends...
Most plumbing permits are what is know as "over the counter permits". This means we can get a permit on line or same day at the permit office. We can start a project without getting the permit as long as we apply for the permit within three business days.
Projects that need to go through Zoning take longer, some times much longer as they need to be reviewed before the permit can be granted. Projects that need to go through a zoning review are typically additions or other structural alterations.

Home Inspection

Can I get my own permit?
Homeowners can get their own permit as an "Owner Builder". According to the CSLB:

  • An owner-builder is what the term indicates: a person owns the property and acts as their own general contractor on the job, and either does the work themselves or has employees (or subcontractors) working on the project.
  • The work site must be their principal place of residence that they have occupied for 12 months prior to completion of the work.
  • The homeowner cannot construct and then sell more than two structures during any three-year period.

The benefit to getting your own permit is that it does save money. We do charge for permits, we include the cost of the permit and the time it takes to get the permit. We also charge for the inspection to cover the time taken for a technician to meet with the inspector. This can be anywhere from a couple of hours to four or five hours. There are some projects where we do not like clients to get their own permits, projects that require a lot of calculations and technical knowledge, there are others where we do not like clients to stand inspection. Gas lines, for example require the gas piping to be pressurized before inspection, sewer lines also require isolating and testing.

Stop Work Sign

What happens if I don't get a permit?
If an inspector comes to a house that is having work done without a permit, the inspector can issue a "Red Tag" or Stop Work Order.
Once you have a red tag, life gets really crummy. No work can continue on the house until the citation has been rectified. This is not as simple as just getting a permit and carrying on with the work, there is paperwork and potentially fines for the homeowner and the contractor. There will be delays and there will be stress.
Frequently this occurs because a neighbor to call the city, sometimes it is just an inspector driving by, maybe doing an inspection at another job in the area.
Red Tags can be appealed and extenuating circumstances can be heard, however, it is ALWAYS a drag dealing with a Red tag.