Replace windows without touching frame - need permit?

Asked by Taza Guru, Sunnyvale, CA Wed Jan 28, 2009

I took a risk in replacing couple old single pane windows without permit and the city inspector shows up and tells me that we need permit. My understanding is if we touch the frame then we need permit but in the place I live, it seems like irrespective we need permit. Now I am in a place where should I replace the new with old window (which is kind of pain) or I have to correct and follow code.
Follow code would end up throwing the new window, make a larger spacing, order new windows and then install (whcih would add 2 more weeks)

Just so that I understood the risk in the below situation - what if I pay the permit but do not get inspection and let it expire. What would happen? Would there be a penalty later on?
Appreciate your thoughts.

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Joe Nernberg, , Calabasas, CA
Wed Jul 22, 2009
Wow. The Realtors had the best answer and the contractor gave the bad advice. To be clear, a permit is required for every window replacement. Newer windows must comply with Title 24 (our Calif Energy Code). Also, the new windows must be properly sealed/flashed. They must allow the minimum for egress, ventilation and light. New windows must be tempered for safety if they present a potential walk-through hazard, over a bathtub and near a door opening.

Most municipalities will allow you to swap same for same. In other words, no changes to the opening. It still must be permitted. Weep holes go on the bottom, not the side.

As a home inspector (and a licensed contractor), I see dumb contractor work every day. The homeowner typically says "but it was done by a licensed contractor!" As if the ignorance goes away.

If Taza applies for the permit and does not get it finaled, he/she is committing fraud. No doubt other aspects of the real estate transactions would be questionable as well.

Q. What do you say to Taza in a new suit? A. Will the defendant please rise?
1 vote
I'm not sure if it does or not. I would call a window replacement company and see what it calls for. They will be able to help you with everything you need! Good luck and I hope everything works out for you!
Flag Mon Jan 5, 2015
I think that if they are your windows, you should be able to do whatever you want with them. I think that if it's in an apartment, especially one that you're renting, you'll probably need to get it professionally done, either that or get the required permit.
Flag Mon Dec 15, 2014
Thanks for this answer! Do you know anything about where I could get windows in Victoria, BC done? Thanks for your help!
Flag Mon Feb 11, 2013
Ellievdavis55, Home Buyer, Portland, OR
Mon May 9, 2016
I would suggest talking to the permit office and telling them your story. They should be able to tell you what needs to be done to make sure that you're on the right side of the law. Another way to go would be to talk to a professional and see what they would do for you. It might save you some time, especially if they need to get a permit, because they would be able to get the job done quickly and correctly the first time.
0 votes
Alex, Home Buyer, Sunnyvale, CA
Thu Jul 30, 2015
Breaking the law and committing fraud are never good ways to approach a remodeling project.
The cost of the permit is a minor expense. It's just the right thing to do.
0 votes
Celine Sande…, Home Buyer, Walla Walla, WA
Thu May 21, 2015
Honestly, if you're in the middle like that, I wouldn't revert back to the old window when you replaced your windows in the first place with new ones! However, consider the costs. The costs shouldn't be much more for the permit with those new windows. Plus, your new windows add value to your house that exceeds the amount you put into your house. Consider all of these things. I'd think it's worth getting your new windows the required permits. Hope this helps, Taza!…
0 votes
Jackson Will…, Home Buyer, Provo, UT
Mon Mar 30, 2015
It's always best to go about it legally. Getting a permit and doing everything in line with what they ask is the best way you can do this. I know that it can be difficult to realize this, but it's better to do it legally, and take more time, spend more money, etc. than to do it the wrong way and get in trouble for it later. If you do want to find a way to make it go by faster, you can seek professional help to make it go quicker.
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Gary Birtles, , Scottsdale, AZ
Wed Mar 18, 2015
I believe it is required to have a permit before doing any sort of replacement. The rules can sometimes get confusing. I'm sorry you took the risk and ended up hearing bad news. Hopefully everything gets sorted out for you.
0 votes
Nora Moore, Home Buyer, American Fork, UT
Wed Mar 11, 2015
In general, assume that you will need a permit when it comes to replacing pretty much any permanent feature of your house. It may be annoying, but it will save you a headache later on if you follow the code when it comes to those replacements. They usually have a reason for their coding laws, even if they seem excessive. It's better to avoid having to make repairs later.
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Mark Leach, Home Buyer, Pine Bluff, AR
Tue Feb 10, 2015
I had no idea that you needed a permit to do that either. I am glad that I came across this feed or I might have been in a lot of trouble as well. I need to replace my windows asap, single pane is just not cutting it.
0 votes
Kelsey Compa…, Home Buyer, Provo, UT
Thu Jan 8, 2015
That is a really good question and I am not completely sure if you would need a permit or not. I would assume with how you pretty much need a permit for everything today that you would need on for that too. My best recommendation to you would be to look into a service that could do it for you or they might be able to answer your question.
0 votes
lewisremingt…, Home Owner, Rochester, NY
Wed Jan 7, 2015
I would ask your neighbors and friends if they have any recommendations. You want to hire someone that you know has done a good job, and it's best to know that from a reliable source like your friends. You could also read reviews online and see what information you can gather about a company from that.…
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Sam Shueh, , San Jose, CA
Sat Dec 6, 2014
assuming you are in SJ
they get back to you in a day or so...
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Jackson Will…, Home Buyer, Provo, UT
Thu Dec 4, 2014
You should talk to some professionals here. People who replace windows for a living will know what permits are needed and what requirements to follow. They will be able to help you better than most at getting things done properly. I hope you can get things figured out quickly. Having a hole in the wall where a window should be definitely wouldn't be a fun thing.
0 votes
John Connor, Home Buyer, Kansas City, MO
Fri Nov 14, 2014
I would just get a contractor to give you an estimate and try to fix the problem best you can. In the future just remember that you need a permit to do a lot of things. Always get some advice first.
0 votes
I never realized that you actually had to have a permit to replace your windows. I'm glad that I found this information before I went and did any repairs on my house. We have been thinking about replacing a couple of our windows, and I think that it will definitely help our house to be so much more energy efficient.
Flag Tue Nov 18, 2014
I agree that I would just get a contractor to come in and fix the problem for you. Replacing windows aren't something you particularly want to mess with. Having a contractor or a company to come into help would only ensure success. Good luck and I hope you're able to get your window situation solved!
Flag Fri Nov 14, 2014
Myersjulie31, Home Buyer, Blakeslee, PA
Wed Nov 12, 2014
I think that the best situation for you would be to get a permit and replace the windows. This would be a good idea because then you could get the new windows but still be in compliance with the code. However, since according to their code you would need to get another new set of windows, you might see if you can somehow get them to allow you to keep your current window. You might also think about finding a service to help you get the windows put in so that they will be under regulation.
0 votes
Amber Johnson, , Brookhaven, Raleigh, NC
Tue Nov 11, 2014
I love the look of natural light and I think that it brightens every home. That is why I really love windows and having nice, clean panes. I have never replaced any windows personally, but I'm sure that you could hire someone to do it. You could also try going to a window and glass store and asking the people there to explain how to you. Best of luck!
0 votes
Caleb Hart, Renter, Orem, UT
Mon Nov 3, 2014
I have been wondering the same kind of thing. I want to replace some windows in my home but I'm not sure of what to get. I know that I have to comply with energy ratings and other things like that, but I don't know what they are now. I definitely don't want to get worse windows than I already have. What did you end up doing?
0 votes
Zeda Jackson, Home Buyer, Fullerton, CA
Mon Oct 6, 2014
My sons were playing baseball in the backyard and the ball hit the glass window. It was a miracle that the glass window did not completely break! It did leave a huge crack though. I need to get it replaced soon due to it being a hazard, especially with little kids running around.
0 votes
Paradislargo, Home Buyer, Largo, FL
Sun Sep 21, 2014
what happens when I paid for the permit but I don't call for inspection just installed Windows
0 votes
Paradislargo, Home Buyer, Largo, FL
Sun Sep 21, 2014
I had new windows and doors installed I think it was a jam when I ask the contractor to pull a permit he said he would but he did not so I had to now I have to get plywood and he's not doing anything about it he said he would help
0 votes
Tim Johnson, Home Buyer, Provo, UT
Fri Aug 22, 2014
I personally wouldn't go for it without the correct permit. That being said, I wouldn't think it could be impossible to get the permit. If there is any safety concern they should let you get a replacement window without issues. Even if it is just for cosmetics I'm sure all you have to do is ask.
0 votes
amylogan588, Home Buyer, Smarr, GA
Tue Aug 19, 2014
It can be extremely hard to do glass repairs on your own. My husband and I had a broken window for almost two months because we could not find the time to do it ourselves. In cases like this it is great to call an emergency glass repair company. They are quick, on time and in most cases cheap!

Amy Logan
0 votes
Eugene Dean, Home Buyer, Provo, UT
Fri Aug 1, 2014
I am really glad that I found this thread before I made the same mistake. I want to replace some windows in my house and just assumed that I didn't need a permit. That would have cost me a lot of money that I don't have, so I better just hire someone who knows what they are doing.
0 votes
Tim Johnson, Home Buyer, Provo, UT
Wed Jul 16, 2014
I know a lot of time dealing with the a company to help you replace your windows will help your situation. I don't know why that would happen, but I would assume there wouldn't be a penalty. It seems like you were improving the property, so I don't see what they would complain about. Like I said, a window replacement company should be able to help.
Tim Johnson|
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Galia Taneva, Agent, Sunnyvale, CA
Mon Apr 28, 2014
I realize this is a very old question asked back in 2009 and I see people from all over the country answering even though this questions is in the section "Remodel and Renovate in SUNNYVALE". So here is what you need to know if you are replacing windows in Sunnyvale:…
If you use retrofit windows you do not need to get a permit. If you decide to get a permit you will need to finalize it, because you will not be able to get another permit for a different job before you close this one. You can't just let it expire. If you live in a condominium community check with your HOA because even though the City of Sunnyvale doesn't require permits for retrofit windows, your HOA may.
0 votes
Robert Lei, Agent, Cupertino, CA
Fri Apr 25, 2014
If you do everything right up front, then you'll have a much more pleasant and profitable experience when it comes time to sell.

People will naturally question your entire house if they pull permits and see that you never bothered to get the final inspection for your permit. They'll think "What else did this owner risk?"

Btw, how did the city inspector just randomly show up? Did your neighbor alert the city inspector's office?
0 votes
elijahali21, Home Buyer, Philadelphia, PA
Thu Oct 10, 2013
Sometimes windows in homes get broken and you need them to be repaired. If you need glass repair, you should call a professional do it.
Web Reference:
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Carmen Sanch…, Home Buyer, Mineral City, OH
Fri Nov 16, 2012
I would agree that if the process is not fully completed you could easily regret that decision when they come back. I would look into the entire replacement glass cambridge process to determine the best route for you. Good luck!
0 votes
Ymogri, Home Owner, Fremont, CA
Thu Sep 15, 2011
What is the Fees to replace all windows and one sliding patio door in Fremont townhouse, california.
0 votes
Depends who you hire.
Flag Fri Apr 25, 2014
Joe, Renter, Sunnyvale, CA
Mon Nov 22, 2010
Joe is incorrect. It will specifically depend on the city code that you live in. Sunnyvale, mountain view and santa clara do not require permits for retrofit windows and mountain view does not require a permit for replacement windows unless the overall size is being changed. (this is straight from the Mountain View inspector I spoke with 3 days ago).
0 votes
Joe Nernberg, , Calabasas, CA
Wed Sep 9, 2009
Darin's correct. Consider tempered glass as well. That's where some window companies fail.

Dear Mr. Redding: Please consider a CREIA membership. Your web site offers my Standards of Practice, but you have no affilliation. It's my participation and money that develops these standards to help protect you against malicious litigation. You are welcome as a guest at any chapter educational meeting in California. Tell 'em "Joe Nernberg sent me." Have a great year.
0 votes
Joe, please see the private message I sent. I do not have the CREIA Standards of Practice on my site, but the NACHI Standards. I have been a member of NACHI for many years.
Flag Tue Aug 13, 2013
Darin Redding, , San Diego, CA
Wed Sep 9, 2009
Just to expand on Joe N. comment about egress -

Retrofit windows fit inside the existing wood or aluminum window frame. They effectively reduce the window opening and sometimes violate egress requirements due to the smaller opening size. You should check that the new windows meet the following code requirements (providing of course that you do not have an exterior door in the room that meets egress requirements):

lighting (8% of your floor area)
ventilation (4% of your floor area)

Minimum opening area.
All emergency escape and rescue openings shall have a minimum net clear opening of 5.7 square feet.

Grade floor openings shall have a minimum net clear opening of 5 square feet.

Minimum opening height.
The minimum net clear opening height shall be 24 inches.

Minimum opening width.
The minimum net clear opening width shall be 20 inches.

Don't violate these and you should be ok.
0 votes
Timber Creek…, Other Pro, Los Altos, CA
Mon Jul 27, 2009
No problem,
Just trying to help out the general public with my knowledge.
0 votes
Joe Nernberg, , Calabasas, CA
Sun Jul 26, 2009
The contractor got me. He's right AND I do not know everything. Thanks for the follow-up.
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Timber Creek…, Other Pro, Los Altos, CA
Sun Jul 26, 2009
Wow, the home inspector is the one with the bad advice.
NO disrespect !

Some cities require a permit and some do not .
Some Cities have adopted a no fee" Retrofit Window and Door Certification" that may be submitted to the City in lieu of a building permit.
The Certification, signed by the property owner is an an acknowledgement that the windows or doors installed comply with California Building Code.

Here is EXACTLY what the Town Of Los Gatos building department states on their website :
9. Do I need a permit to replace my windows?
If you are removing stucco or siding to do the replacement, or if the structure is considered historic you need a permit. If you are not affecting the exterior weatherproof membrane, you do not need a permit.

Just goes to show you, home inspectors don't know everything.

It is best to talk directly to your local building department before undertaking any renovations to your home.
0 votes
Does it make any difference if the window replacement includes the frame or not? I think the permit is something that should be looked into either way. There's no reason to do something wrong due to lack of research.
Jenn |
Flag Tue Oct 28, 2014
Timber Creek…, Other Pro, Los Altos, CA
Tue Jul 21, 2009
If you are going to "retrofit" the window, which means you are going to leave the frame in place, remove the existing glass and slide the new window into the opening , you don't need a permit.

If you are going to break stucco / remove siding, tear the whole window out, frame and all, you do need a permit.
0 votes
David Blockh…, Agent, Los Altos, CA
Mon Feb 2, 2009
It appears that you need a permit to do retrofit installations of windows in Saratoga, but I would call the building department to confirm. A link to what the city of Saratoga requires is:
Looking further, it doesn't appear that you need to take the retro fit windows out (and re-install) in order to get the permit signed off as finaled (again verify with city).
I would pull a permit and have the inspector sign off that the windows have been installed correctly. But I would go down the the building department and speak with them. They are the ones who have ultimate authority on building issues.

Note: I'm not sure how the building inspector "showed up" at your house to look at your windows in the first place . It makes me think that you may have a disgruntled neighbor who wants to make sure that any construction done on your property is done right. If that is the case, your only solution is to have it done right and permitted.
Web Reference:
0 votes
The Medford…, Agent, Fremont, CA
Wed Jan 28, 2009

As a licensed Realtor AND a licensed general contractor with extensive experience in both fields, I have one word of advice:

“Do it right.”

There are too many risks associated with doing the work incorrectly and without permits. One of the building inspector’s roles is to insure that the work is done correctly - this is to protect YOU and any subsequent owners of your home. Yes, it’s a pain. But it could be a FAR bigger pain down the road if you fail to do it correctly now.

As to the real estate implications of doing work without permits, see the links below:………

Let me know if you have any other questions.

Web Reference:
0 votes
Vinicius Bra…, Agent, Cupertino, CA
Wed Jan 28, 2009
Hi Taza,

Saratoga may be different then other cities. From my understanding the window retrofit which is what I believe you ordered usually does not require a permit, but Saratoga may have different policies.

If the city inspector stopped you then most likely he knows what he is doing and is correct. You have a right to check the city's building code and verify it. Assuming he is right, he may have even put a stop work order to prevent you from proceeding until you get the windows permitted.

If your contractor suggested the retrofits and was not aware of the city's requirements you may be able to get him to replace the windows without you having to pay any additional cost, since he is responsable for following the city codes. Ultimately however the burden lies on you as the home owner.

I would not recommend the option of paying the permit, continuing on with the job, and then letting the permit expire. The city may not bother you afterward. However, when you sell your home the buyer may have the permits researched and see that the window permit was pulled but never finaled. He may then be concerned about the window's installation and concerned about the liability of buying the home. This may become a big resale issue for you, especially since it could be a violation to the code.

Also if you ever decide to do anything else to the home that requires permits, and the inspector notices that you changed the windows and did not follow code, he may red tag the house and fine you until the windows are changed to code.

You should also be aware that most permits exist for public safety reasons, and windows are no exception. If you replace those windows and do not get permits and there is a fire in your property that results in some form of personal injury and the windows were a factor then you may be liable.

Concise article on the Pros & Cons of Retrofit Windows vs. New Construction Windows:…
0 votes
Marcy Moyer, Agent, San Ramon, CA
Wed Jan 28, 2009
Sunnyvale is very strict about permits. If you pay for a permit and do not do the work at a minimum it would go on the permit file for the house that a permit was pulled but the work was not finaled. What is more likely is that the person who originally called the city to check and see if the work you were doing was permitted would follow up and see that it was not completed properly, and you would be back where you started with the need to remove the new windows and replace them with windows that are to code. Bedrooms need to have windows that will allow for an escape in case of a fire.

Good luck!

Web Reference:
0 votes
Dallas Texas, Agent, Dallas, TN
Wed Jan 28, 2009
Difficult for any realtor make a comment we could be held liable, perhaps confer with attorney or follow code. WOW never knew if you replaced windows require a permit. SHOULD the contractor notified you of permit if contractor in violation of city code you might be able to work situation out. GOOD LUCK
Web Reference:
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