Monday, June 22, 2009

Rehabbing an Old House Step 6: Plans and Permits

Rehabbing an Old House Step 6: Plans and Permits

This follows Step 5.

OK, so now you have your rehab (or are moving in that direction), now what? Well, you're going to need permits. You're going to want to check with your local municipality to see what permits are needed. If you hire a plumber, HVAC, or electrician he or she will get their own permits. If you do this work, you'll need to get them. You'll also almost assuredly need a building permit and you may need a demo permit. If you don't need a demo permit, you may still need a permit or other permission before putting a dumpster on the street. Here, we have the NKAPC (Northern Ky Area Planning Commission), and said folks were easy to work with and happy to answer questions.

In our opinion, if permits aren't required for something you want to do, fine. If they are, don't be cute. Get the permit. You can run into bad trouble trying to get tricky. Inspectors look for dumpsters. You don't want to get on their bad side by cheating. Furthermore, permits are to make sure the job gets done right and safely. You can DIE if some things aren't done right. The inspection is a fail-safe in the event you or your contractor screwed something up badly.

So when you apply for your building permit, you're going to need to submit a plan. Now, this may or may not be a big deal. If you are going to have a relatively simple design and you will not be moving or removing any load-bearing walls you can probably do the plan yourself (though check with your planning commission). If the architectural design is more complex, you may need an architect. If you're doing anything structural, like cutting openings in load bearing walls or moving them, you may want an architectural engineer. Don't let this scare you off, as the expense need not be outlandish, but also be advised. Things are simpler if you don't move any bearing walls.

A note on load-bearing walls: How do you determine which walls are load bearing and which aren't? As a general rule, head to the basement. If there's a doubled joist underneath the wall, it could well be load bearing. If there's anything transferring the load from that wall to the ground, it's probably a load-bearing wall. Now, if you don't see anything supportive under a wall in the basement, chances are it's not bearing. Chances are... BUT, with old houses, just in case, if you're removing the wall and your sawzall binds or you hear loud creaking or the ceiling saggs, STOP. You may have found a partially load bearing wall. Get a 2x4 or two in there to support things and go find a pro to give you a hand. More on this in the Demo step.

In any case, if your plan is relatively simple, leaving load bearing walls as they are, you can probably do your own plan. There are lots of resources for this on the web, and be advised that some jurisdictions may have very strict requirements while others will be just fine with a hand drawn plan.

Where to start on your plan? Measurements. Accurate to within 1/2". Don't measure trim to trim. Measure wall to wall. Twice. Graph paper is great for this. Make a rough drawing of each floor and then insert measurements. You'll also want to accurately measure the location of each window and each door. Widths of stairways should be measured too. Don't forget ceiling heights. Note that different rooms may have different ceiling heights.

You may want to get a look at some floor plans
We found that

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