“Do I need a permit?” is the quintessential question at the start of any kitchen remodel.
It’s not surprising — California’s Building Code is quite demanding when it comes to permitting, and local authorities hold plenty of sway over enforcing the rules. Knowing what’s permitted and what isn’t may be difficult to establish.
In our guide below, we’ll walk you through the kitchen remodeling activities that typically require permits, as well as those that don’t. Keep in mind, however, that these requirements may vary between locales, so it’s always best to check in with your building department.
When You Need a Permit for a Kitchen Remodel
In many cases, kitchen remodel projects will require a permit to proceed. That’s because, according to the California Building Standards Code, a separate permit is needed for any building or structure to be “erected, constructed, enlarged, altered, repaired, moved, improved, removed, converted, or demolished.” As you can see, the exhaustive list of activities covers all possible angles and leaves little room for ambiguity.
That said, some cosmetic tasks that don’t interfere with the structure or services may be exempt. Below, we’ll go through the typical kitchen remodel activities and the permits they would normally entail in most cities, towns, and counties in California.
Remember: permit requirements differ between jurisdictions within the state, so it’s always best to confirm with your building department.
Permitted Kitchen Remodel Activities
If your kitchen remodel involves an alteration or demolition to the home’s partitions, you’ll have to obtain a building permit. This requirement may apply to non-load-bearing walls, too.
Also, since walls often conceal electrical conduits, air ducts, and pipes, you’ll have to find out if the wall you’re altering has any of these services. If it does, you’ll require an additional mechanical, electric, or plumbing permit for the ensuing change to this infrastructure.
In the event that your walls contain asbestos or lead-based paint, you may also have to inform your local Air District or use a lead-safe contractor, respectively.
Adding, Rewiring, or Removing Electrical Circuits
Any time you alter, remove, or install an electrical circuit, you’ll need to get an electrical permit.
For instance, if you’re moving your electric range to a new place, you won’t be able to plug it into a regular power outlet — it requires a dedicated 240V circuit, which you’ll need to install. This is a permitted activity.
While your fridge and microwave don’t require 240 Volts, they do need a dedicated circuit so that they don’t “share” the current with other appliances and overload your breaker. If you’re moving these appliances to a new location, there’s a good chance that you’ll need to make changes to the circuitry and obtain permits for the work.
The above are just examples — any changes to electrical wiring need a permit as a rule of thumb.
Installing or Removing Sinks
Any time you move, install or remove a sink, you’ll have no choice but make appropriate changes to the water supply and drain pipes. These activities require a plumbing permit.
Moving or Installing a New Range Hood
Range hoods rely on ducts to expel the fumes produced while cooking. Consequently, if you’re installing a new range hood, or moving the existing one to a new location, you’ll have to install new ductwork. This is a permitted activity, and you’ll require a mechanical permit before proceeding.
Building a Kitchen Island
In most jurisdictions, a building permit is necessary for any new construction, including stationary counters and kitchen islands. If you intend your kitchen island to house a sink, you’ll need an additional plumbing permit.
In the event that the kitchen island is meant to have a dishwasher, you’ll have to pull new wiring and run new pipes. This means you’ll have to obtain mechanical and plumbing permits for the work on top of the building permit needed just to construct the island.
Kitchen Remodel Activities That May Not Need a Permit
Typically, upgrades of a purely cosmetic nature do not require a permit, and you should be able to perform the following without approval from the building department:
- Applying new wall coverings — You can paint, or apply wallpaper, without notifying the building authorities.
- Refinishing cabinetry — No permits are needed to sand and restain, or repaint existing cabinets. You can take the cabinets off the wall and replace them in the same location in the process. However, you may need a permit if you decide to move your cabinets to a new spot; check with local building authorities to be sure.
- Updating your kitchen counter — You will not have to get a permit to change an existing countertop. That said, a permit may be needed if you’re installing a brand-new counter during the course of your remodel.
- Changing light fixtures — If the circuitry is already in place, you should be able to remove an existing light fixture and replace it with a new one without a permit.
- Changing sinks — As long as you leave the existing plumbing, simply installing a new sink in the place of an old one doesn’t require a permit.
Who Can Obtain a Permit for Your Kitchen Remodel?
If you own the home, only you or a licensed contractor may apply for a permit. To streamline permitting, it’s always best to leave this task for the contractor — they’re the most familiar with how the local building authorities process applications.
That said if your project entails structural, mechanical, electrical, or plumbing work, you’ll need an engineer’s input to ensure the plan check goes smoothly, without getting stuck in countless revision cycles.
Don’t Skip the Permit for Your Kitchen Remodel
This is one of the most valuable Kitchen Remodel Tips we can give you. Skipping out on a permit may seem like a great way to save time, money, and hassle, but the decision can come back to haunt you later on.
If you ever decide to sell your home, you’ll be compelled, by law, to disclose any alterations you’ve undertaken during your years of occupancy — including those that went unpermitted.
You’ll have no choice but, to be honest, because your buyer’s agent can always compare your home’s layout to the original plans on file with the building department. Once your buyers become aware of unpermitted work, you’ll have to make major concessions (for example, a serious dent in your asking price) to sell the property.
Design Everest Can Help You Get a Permit For Your Kitchen Remodel
At Design Everest, our engineers have worked on countless kitchen remodeling projects and know what it takes to make the permitting process quick and painless. Our team can assist with planning your project, furnish drawings, prepare the permitting submittal package, and handle any revisions. We can also give you kitchen remodel ideas and tips to make your project a success. To get a FREE consultation and quote, contact us today.