Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Without a Permit

If you want to work on your own house in NH, you don't need a lot of licenses and permits. It's legal to wire your own house, do your own plumbing, and your own carpentry. If you do something major like add a new room, a building permit is needed. They usually aren't that hard to get. They don't cost a lot of money. When I wanted to cut the roof off my house and replace it with a dome and add six new rooms -no problem. Their only concern was that I wasn't changing the footprint of the house. If I was going to crowd my neighbor, that'd be an issue. Fair enough.

When I lived in town, they were a bit more formal. The place actually had a full time building inspector. Make a job for a guy and don't be surprised that he's going to want to do it.

We used to live in town in a tiny house on a tiny lot. By the time the third kid came along, the place was just too small. It did come with an attached garage. Now a garage is nice, but another bedroom, a full sized bathroom, and a bigger kitchen were more important. Having three very young children, my wife quit work to take care of them. Money, as it often is, was tight. If I did the construction work myself, I could just barely afford the job.

There were a couple of concerns. I might not be granted a permit. Governments like to say no sometimes. If I did get a permit, I'd be on the radar and my tax assessment would go up. Could not afford that. What to do? What to do?

While standing in my garage, I noticed the old cedar shingles of the house had been left on. It gave me an idea. If I carefully removed the old shingles, there'd be enough to cover the hole where the garage door was. Over the next few days I gathered the materials I'd need to replace the garage door with a wall. I carefully removed the weathered shingles and set them aside.

The building inspector didn't work on Saturdays. Early Saturday morning, a small work crew of friends and family quickly removed the garage door. We closed up the hole and carefully covered up the new materials with the old shingles. I put in a small window while I was at it. When we were done, it looked like it had always been that way.

Once the outside was closed up so prying eyes couldn't see, the rest of the job was done in a more leisurely pace. The garage addition added a good sized bedroom and a big bathroom. A wall in the house was knocked down to expand the kitchen into what was once the old bathroom.
We lived there another 6 years and never got into trouble for our clandestine construction work. Our neighbors never said anything. Of course, as far as I was concerned, what they did on their property was their business. Good neighbors mind their own business.



  1. Another victory for one of us! I love these kind of stories. But preppers are more prone to use the think-wad between their ears than a dumbass herd follower any day of the week.


  2. We do what we can. In a rigged game it's best not to play.

  3. I understand the safety factor and that some people are real idiots, but it's really hard for me to get over needing a "permit" I'm very prone to just doing it, but these day's they'll rip it down for you and then charge you for it, plus the fine. I don't know. It's getting worse, people in other peoples business. But, you gotta admit the propaganda machine is well oiled. "They" show non-stop problems with this and that to get the emotional response - next thing you know "people" are screaming we've gotta do something. ie: Old lady crazy has 50 cats in her house, well we better put in an ordaninace about the number of pets, instead of just dealing with the old crazy lady. Same thing with somebody building an addition with cardboard and wax paper, yea it may work, but it burns like a son of a gun.

  4. I'm all about fire safety. Used to be a Firefighter after all. Just happen to be one of those "my home is my castle" guys. If my project doesn't change the footprint, I don't worry about permits.

    Funny story, the town tax assessor was at my house in August. A whole bunch of us pulled up right behind him. We'd just come back from the shooting range and had piles of guns with us. Shortest assessment I've ever had. The poor guy was nervous for some reason. Guess he hasn't worked out in the woods much.

    I was really really polite, but he was still anxious to get away.