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When Do You Need a Permit?

Of course when you hire a qualified general contractor he or she will be responsible for obtaining the proper permits -- or at least should be. But perhaps you are undertaking a smaller project or doing some work yourself. When exactly do you need a permit? This post is specific to requirements in Mecklenburg County, NC, but is a good guide for other counties as well. Remember to always check with your local jurisdictions before commencing work.

It is also important to note many homeowners feel avoiding a permit can save some time or money. The fact is these regulations are set up for public safety and do have a purpose. Whether you agree with the fees involved is another matter. Be wary of performing any work without a permit since there may be future issues that arise during the next sale of the home. There also may be some problems regarding insurance coverage if damages are deemed a result of work that was performed without a permit.

Examples of When to Get a Permit

Permits are required for the following: any new construction; reconstruction; alteration; repair; movement to another site; removal or demolition of any building; and the installation, extension, alteration, or general repair of electrical, mechanical or plumbing systems. They must be grouped by the particular project and paid for by the general contractor or the homeowner acting as their own general contractor. Separate permits are required for building, electrical, heating, air conditioning, and plumbing work.

There is an exception for single-family homes: permits are not required for any work costing $5,000 or less, unless the work involves:

  • The addition, repair, or replacement of load-bearing structures
  • The addition or change in the design of a plumbing system
  • The addition, replacement, or change in the design of a heating or air-conditioning system
  • The addition, replacement, or change in the design of an electrical system
  • The use of materials not permitted by the code
  • The addition of roofing, excluding replacement of like-grade fire resistance material

How to Obtain Proper Permits

The property owner or owner's agent obtains Mecklenburg County permits from the Code Enforcement Department located at 700 North Tryon Street in Charlotte (dial 311 for more info). Applications for electrical, mechanical, and plumbing permits may be mailed. Keep in mind permits expire six months (180 days) after the issue date if no work has commenced. Permits also expire when work has started but discontinued for 12 months (365 days) from the last inspection date.

STOP WORK ORDER (You don't want one of these)

As a side note, any person or firm that enters into a construction contract that exceeds $30,000 is required to have a North Carolina General Contractors License. If you are doing the work yourself on a primary residence there are some exclusions to this but be sure to check with the NC General Contractors Licensing Board first.

Here is a useful link with more information specifically for our local Charlotte area. Also, at this link, click under the Brochures for the item titled “When Do You Need a Permit?”:
Char-Meck Homeowner Tools

Writing collaborated by Duane Johns (Advanced Renovations, Inc.) and Ginger Sprinkle @ nine dots branding & marketing company (

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