Installing a Wood Burning Stove

Mr. Smith decided to install a wood burning stove to reduce his heating bill. He did this installation himself, without a building permit. He was given some verbal instruction from the salesman concerning wood-stove installation when he purchased the appliance. After a few weeks of use, the home caught fire because of a faulty installation.

For a $21.20 building permit, Mr. Smith would have been told minimal clearances required from the stove and pipe to combustible surfaces. He also would have been given methods for reducing those clearances if needed. In addition, a building inspector would have inspected and approved the installation.

Since Mr. Smith did not obtain a building permit and get the necessary inspections, his insurance company will not cover the fire damage.

Finishing a Basement

Unlicensed Contractor

Mrs. Jones hired the friend of a friend to finish her basement. Although the fellow was not a licensed contractor, he had a good reputation as a handyman, and his bid was quite reasonable.

The handyman removed some 2 by 4 studs from the basement bearing wall. He supported the new wall opening with a beam, which he, personally sized with his long-standing rule of thumb method. The 3-foot door opening was now 10 foot wide, making one large recreation room from two smaller rooms.

Sagging Beam

The finished basement turned out well, so Mrs. Jones paid him immediately. However, after about a month, Mrs. Jones noticed that the new 10-foot beam appeared to be sagging. It had developed a 1-inch dip in the center of the span.

The handyman just shrugged his shoulders and claimed it was just the house settling. This was not only a point of embarrassment for Mrs. Jones but also a nagging concern. The beam seemed to sag a little more each month. Would the beam eventually fail.


In addition, it caused sheetrock cracks at both floor levels and made the doors in the vicinity of the new beam difficult to open. When Mrs. Jones decided to sell her home, a promising buyer insisted on evidence of a building permit before signing on the dotted line.

For the cost of a $75 building permit, Mrs. Jones would not have had structural problems. She would have been able to sell her home to the promising buyer, and would not have future problems with her home insurance company or her Realtor.

Building a Garage

Personal Building Project

Mr. Doe decided to build a small garage along the side of his home. He designed the building himself. He worked on his dream project on weekends to avoid detection. When he was almost complete, a neighbor complained to the local building inspection department.

Mr. Doe received a stop work order and then attempted to obtain a building permit (after the structure was almost complete). An initial investigation revealed Mr. Doe built his own roof trusses, rather than purchasing factory-built, engineered trusses. Now the only way to approve the roof system is for Mr. Doe to hire an independent structural engineer.

The licensed engineer must make a field visit to the site and tell Mr. Doe and the local building inspector how to make these homemade trusses work. At the very least, Mr. Doe is looking at modifications to his work, and some very expensive bills for the engineer's time. In addition, further investigation revealed that Mr. Doe's garage is located where detached garages are prohibited.


After six months of hearings at City Hall, Mr. Doe must relocate his garage at least six feet behind the house. The original foundation must be demolished and hauled away. Finally, the $150 building permit fee that Mr. Doe had hoped to avoid, has been doubled to cover the investigation for building without a building permit.