The purpose of a permit is to ensure that work is done "up to code", which, to further complicate things, varies by county and state. This means that the work that is done on your property meets the most current and specific guidelines of its kind in your area. So what work requires permits?
In the Herald Times Online, Monroe County Building Department, Building Commissioner Jim Gerstbauer says:
Any construction activity that includes new space, or changes the use of existing space, requires a permit.
That means a permit is necessary for any new house construction, any additions that enlarge the square footage of a house, any modifications that require changing headers, beams or walls, and any remodeling which changes the use of that space within existing building (converting an unfinished basement to a family room, for instance). No permit is needed to replace drywall, cabinets, and other non-structural fixtures.
The guideline is “like into like.”
“If you’re replacing like with like, generally we don’t get involved,” Gerstbauer pointed out. Therefore, it’s usually fine to replace old roof shingles, or install new windows or new siding, without a permit.
But if you’re altering a room in such a way that occupants will use the space in a completely different manner than before, it requires a permit. For instance, converting an unfinished garage to finished living space would require a permit; as would adding an all-new bathroom where none existed previously. This is because the new elements are unlike the original elements.
Some changes are too small to merit permits.
“Changing electric receptacles, adding ceiling fans, or adding a plug, we have no problem with people doing that,” Gerstbauer continued. “We don’t want to get involved with every maintenance aspect of every house.”If you're not sure, it is best to call us and find out. We know the most current laws for your area and can advise you. As contractors say, it is always better to "measure twice and cut once" to avoid fees or penalties for work done without a permit.