One of the more confusing aspects of any home renovation is which building codes apply to the work and, depending on that answer, what building permit is required. The confusion extends to roof work. Do you need a roofing permit if your roofing project is for minor repairs, or are you only required to secure a permit if you are replacing the entire roof?
If you’re about to schedule a roofing project, it’s good to be up to date on everything it entails.
The following is a rundown of what roofing building permits most municipalities will require.
Check Your Jurisdiction
The municipality where you live has its own rules pertaining to the work you can perform on your home and property. Most minor roof repair does not require a roof replacement permit, but building codes exist that restrict what can be done in most places. At least, you want to figure out what factors into the criteria for a permit and how your work factors into that.
For example, some municipalities require roofing permits for any major repairs that alter the basic structure of the building. Other government organizations require you get a permit only if you are performing a roof replacement or installing a new roof. You may be restricted to only a licensed contractor with specialized training if your home is on a Historical Registry.
Some jurisdictions do not require a permit for a roof project if your roofing materials are the same as you are repairing or replacing. The key there is to make sure that all the shingles you use are exactly the same as you are ripping up. Other municipalities do not require you to or if you are adding shingles over an existing roof.
Because every jurisdiction is slightly different, your smartest strategy is to work with a roofing contractor. A roofing contractor will know what type of roof project needs permits and the appropriate permits for all the necessary work. Another great thing about a licensed roofing contractor is that they assume responsibility for if you get something wrong.
Who To Check With
If you are doing your own installation or repair, at least you want to check in with your Town Clerk, City Hall, town Administrator or whomever grants a building permit for roof work. In some municipalities, a building inspector can give you advice as well. The important part is to talk with the authorities to see if the type of work you want to do on your roof requires a permit.
They not only can tell you what permits apply to your roofing project, but also will help you:
- Understand what qualifies as minor repairs that do not need a building permit
- Understand the threshold for roof replacement or repairs that will need a building permit
- Determine if you can use the same permit for other work done to cover your new roof
- Figure out how your new roof will affect your property taxes
- Get a clear idea of what is considered structural work
Don’t Forget the HOA
You also should check with your Homeowners Association to see if you need specialized approval for your roof replacement. While your HOA does not carry the same weight as a local government, they can make your life miserable if you violate their rules. Your HOA might have requirements for inspections for work completed on roofs, roofing color, materials composition, construction sites and work hours.
In addition, the HOA will let you know what rules cover DIY roof installation if that is the route you want to go, or if your roof repair or replacement requires you use a licensed roofing contractor.
Types of Roofing Projects That Require Permits
As mentioned, the general rule in most places pertaining to work done on roofs is that structural changes require a permit. What qualifies as a structural component, however, can differ across municipalities. Some places consider alternations to anything below the roof’s underlayment to be structural and thus permit-worthy.
Other places only require permits when changes to roofs are to the “guts” of the home or the components that hold the house together are modified. All changes replace or repair roofing and avoid those types of changes are considered small repairs and do not need a permit.
Additionally, adding components to the roof, such as a deck, can be considered a structural change and need a permit. Making repairs to an existing deck does not usually need a permit.
Understanding these types of differences and the appropriate permits can be tricky for the average homeowner. Because navigating roof permitting can be confusing and subjective, hiring a licensed contractor makes a lot of sense.
A licensed contractor will have special knowledge you do not and can tell you immediately any permits required and why, when you need a permit and for how long the permit shoudl be valid. Additionally, they usually can give you advice on navigating homeowners insurance.
Does Having a Permit Matter?
The short answer to whether having a permit matters is yes, because of the ramifications of getting caught without one. Getting caught can make and already costly project incredibly expensive. You could be subject to fines and an ordered work stoppage.
Noncompliance also tends to promote other findings of noncompliance. If a town or city inspector finds you lack the appropriate permits, they will focus more other work you have had done or are planning. If you run into that situation, the best you can hope for is a general contractor that can navigate their way around the local government.
By far, however, the most severe consequence is if the homeowner is forced to rip out the work that has already been done. This type of measure is usually a last resort, when a roof that needed a permit but lacked one is already installed. Replacing roofing you or your contractor already installed is not worth avoiding the cost of a roofing permit.
Be Safe and Get a Permit
Replacing a roof is a major project and in some cases, considered so major that you must get the right permit as well as the right tools, underlayment and shingles. Taking a risk that you will not get caught is an option, but in most cases, the cost of a permit to replace a roof is far below the cost of fines and having to rip it out and start over again.