Spend Visibility — Building Codes, Permits & Inspections for Home Projects

I thought about making this post a Friday Rant. Years ago I would have written about corrupt inspectors and greedy local officials using the code, permit and inspection process as just another way to line their pockets. In New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, where I'm most experienced, I can happily say that the process is mostly above board these days -- and if you suspect it isn't, there are a number of open channels to remedy the problem (e.g., mayoral hotlines, State Regulatory Commissions and local TV news stations). The other reason I'm not ranting is that the process ensures that the work is performed correctly and protects the investment you're making in the event that a future mortgager does a "look back" on improvements or you have an insurance claim that involves the in-process or completed project while you still own the structure.

Just like managing total cost in a corporate sourcing, spend visibility with home renovation starts with understanding all of the total cost elements that go into the life-cycle of a project. Don't ignore the hidden costs that can arise from missing out on a key input. Some contractors eschew obtaining permits because it takes more time and can be disruptive to the work flow while scheduling periodic work-in-process inspections. Failure to obtain the proper permits can result in fines, leans against your property and in some cases demolition of the un-permitted project. So if your contractor tells you not to worry about a permit, just say no. Contact your local building and renovation codes department and obtain a list of all projects they deem subject to inspection before work begins -- it will be much less expensive in the long run.

- William Busch, Retired Contractor and Spend Matters Columnist

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