What kinds of interior renovations require city permits?

Asked by Adam Singer, Fri Aug 16, 2013

Looking at houses, it seems like there are those that are already redone, or new construction; and then there are houses that are old, but could be renovated to be modern on the inside.

I'd be interested in doing this with a home, but I wonder what kinds of interior renovations require a city permit, and how difficult/costly it is to acquire these permits?

For instance, would knocking down a wall require a permit?

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Lllsmith, Home Buyer, San Francisco, CA
Tue Jul 26, 2016
Will I need a permit to replace my kitchen cabinets. I live in Oakland, Ca.
0 votes
Sam Shueh, , San Jose, CA
Sun Oct 12, 2014
yes, it weakens the structure support. Check City Permit site.
0 votes
Ryan Rudnick, Agent, San Francisco, CA
Thu Aug 21, 2014
Looks like this is a year old, but it's still a relevant question that I've been asked recently - so here's my two cents:

Permits can be pretty easy to get for interior renovations if you aren't replacing or changing the exterior of a building in San Francisco, so long as you aren't in a historic home. If you're renovations are relatively simple (ie: you're not adding on to the house or making any major exterior changes) you'll like get what is called an over the counter permit, which means you will submit plans to the city and get the permits the same day. I would agree with the commenters below that having an architect or contractor go through this process with you is advisable, as they are familiar with the process and will likely make it smoother for you.

Regarding what requires a permit: nearly everything does. Anything involving electrical or plumbing work will require one, and any structural changes (ie: moving walls or knocking one down) would as well. Switching out vanities in bathrooms or cabinets in kitchens would too. Things like installing new appliances, changing out fixtures, painting and the like probably wont need permits though.

You're best bet is to talk to a contractor or architect about what work you want to do. I work with an LLC that renovates homes in the city and have a fair amount of experience with this process, and I'd be happy to recommend a great architect or contractor, or help in any other way I can, with renovations.

Hope this helps!
0 votes
John Oldfield, Agent, San Francisco, CA
Fri Aug 16, 2013
The San Francisco Department of Building Inspection has a brochure that talks about the permit process and includes a list of types of work not requiring a permit. It's a PDF file here:
0 votes
George Wolff,…, Other Pro, San Francisco, CA
Fri Aug 16, 2013
Basically any physical alteration of a building costing more than $600 or so requires a building permit.

Things like painting, carpeting, landscaping etc thus are typically exempt.

Usually you have a licensed contractor or architect apply for the permit for you.They are also very experienced in doing so.

You could also apply for a permit as an "owner-builder" ,but you have to agree to do all the work yourself or either hire licensed subcontractors or workers who are your employees. Usually this is just for very simple projects.

Any structural remodeling, retaining walls over 30" etc require plans from a structural engineer, and on more complicated projects its wise to have an architect prepare plans.

If you do work without permits you have to disclose this when you sell the property, or you could be sued for fraud.

Knocking down a wall definitely requires a permit.

If it is a structural wall or bearing wall, you may need to consult with an engineer to make sure you do not weaken the building structurally.

Always deal with licensed and insured contractors with good reputations, as there are a lot of bad ones out there.

Let us know if you have any further questions on permits, contracts, etc
Web Reference:  http://www.wolfflaw.com
0 votes
Lance King, Agent, San Francisco, CA
Fri Aug 16, 2013

I have done a lot of projects in the city, the most recent being a year long down-to-the-studs renovation, and can help you with that, but it's probably better to do this over a phone call. In the meanwhile, here are the basics:

Any electrical, plumbing, or structural. And there are odd things you wouldn't expect to have to pull a permit for like changing countertops. Also, you need to know that something as simple as changing a countertop can trigger a lot of other things like plumbing and/or electrical upgrades, so you should have a good handle on what you're doing before you talk to the city.

Here's my info:

Lance King/Owner-Managing Broker
King Realty Group

DRE# 01384425
0 votes
I think renovating and remodeling is a good alternative option to moving. Even though it can be expensive it is cheaper than all the costs of moving. I think if you renovate the bathroom and the kitchen you'll be really happy with the results. http://www.newcreationgroup.com.au
Flag Thu Dec 18, 2014
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