You’ve got the finances, you’ve got your budget, and your designs. You’re a handy homeowner who wants to finish their own basement, but why do you need permits? Most local governments require permits for any major changes to a home. Building an addition, remodeling a kitchen, and of course, finishing a basement. But why? We are going to explore all of the reasons that local governments require permits for renovations below. 

A Permit to Build

A building permit is a document from a local government that states the proposed renovation or construction complies with all building codes and regulations. Plumbing permits are required for any plumbing installation or changes. Mechanical permits are required for heating, ventilation, or air conditioning installation and modification. Electrical permits for electrical work, et cetera. 

Permits Promote Safety

Whenever we renovate our homes, or build a new structure, there is the chance of something going sideways, and the possibility people getting hurt. Permits, licensing, certifications, and insurance are all necessary regulations to ensure everyone’s safety, as well as the quality of the work. Without these regulations, people with more confidence than know-how would renovate their homes without care, which results in structures being ruined, and people getting hurt much more frequently. Even with these safeguards, DIY homeowners with more ambition than skill still ruin their homes and get injured. 

Your Home’s Value

If any renovations were performed on the home without permits, and they’re not up to code, this will hurt the home’s resale value. Renovations without permits and without meeting building standards creates an unpredictable, dangerous structure. It is vital that all renovations meet building standards to prevent structural breakdowns, accidents, and injuries. 

How Do I Get a Permit?

Permitting processes vary from place to place, but the first step is always to call your local building department. They will guide you through the rest of the process, which will require some paperwork to be filled out detailing your building plans, and a fee. An inspector will have to sign off on the plans before your permit is issued. Many building departments also have online application processes available for permits, but the easiest way is to have your contractor handle it. A reputable contractor like Flooring Masters has existing relationships with building departments, understands the codes, and will be able to get through the application process quickly and easily. 

What if I Finish My Basement Without A Permit?

Consequences. Lots and lots of consequences. Not only from the officials, but finishing your basement without it being up to code can result in structural failure, fire, and all manner of injuries and accidents. Always always always go through the proper channels and pull permits before remodeling your home. Without obtaining the proper permit, you are subject to fines and other penalties and you may have to pay the price of shoddy work. 

Is it Legal to Finish My Basement Myself Without a Permit?

Building out your own basement without a permit violates local laws. This is illegal. These laws are in place for a lot of good reasons. The top one is the safety of yourself and your family. Please do not start framing up walls, or running wiring in your basement without the proper permits, and licensed contractors. Experts are needed to ensure that everything in your finished basement is up to code. In addition, remodeling without going through the proper channels can result in your homeowner’s insurance not covering an accident. It is absolutely vital to do everything by the book to protect yourself, your family, and your home. 

Basement Finishing

What Are The Consequences of Finishing a Basement Without a Permit? 

Are you thinking that it might be worth it to roll the dice? It’s not. Here’s why:


When a local government finds out about illegal construction, they issue fines. Big ones. The money you saved on not applying for your permit is a tiny fraction of the fines that are issued. These fines are issued with an order to stop all work. The amount of the fines depends on where you live, and the details of the laws that were broken. The good news is that many local governments allow for retroactive permit applications for first time offenders. You will get one chance to make it right, which is more than fair. The permit still has to go through the approval process, and work that is already done may have to be demolished and reconstructed. Dismantling part of the work you’ve done is a lot better than the next consequence…

Demolishing All Completed Construction

You read that right. If you finish your basement without a permit, even if everything is up to code, and even if it is top quality work, your local government can force you to tear it all down. Your brand new home gym, home office, the beautiful bar you made out of reclaimed barn wood, your home theater, gone. Please pull your permits before you remodel anything, or have your remodeling contractor do it for you.

Value Reduction

Failure to obtain permits before construction decreases a home’s value. So in addition to the fines and demolishing all of your work, you lose value as well. Cheap renovations cost so much more in the long run. It’s always best to do it right the first time. 


Homes can be condemned because of unpermitted work that is up to code. This means that no one can live there until it is brought up to code, or it must be demolished entirely. 

No Financing

If you finished your basement without permits, and you try to refinance, you can be rejected. If an inspector finds a finished basement that is not up to code, they are required by law to report this to a potential lender. 

Can I Obtain a Permit After My Basement is Finished?

Yes. Retroactive permits are issued. If you are moving into a home that has a finished basement, but doesn’t have a permit, you can still apply for one. However, you may have to renovate further in order to obtain the permit. 

If you’re looking to finish your basement in New Albany, Indiana, and don’t want to deal with obtaining permits, don’t hesitate to call us here at Flooring Masters & Professional Remodelers. We provide our customers with lifetime relationships, and take great care in our work. We also provide the best options for perfect floors and other renovations. Schedule a free estimate today!


About The Author

John Raisor is a well traveled carpentry and food writer.


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