Paul Bianchina: Best to rectify those missing permits before selling
Q: I have made the mistake of changing the plumbing in my kitchen without a permit. We used "cheap" carpenters who assured us we did not need a permit. This was done over a year ago and we are considering selling our home next year. What can we do now to avoid a big problem later?
A: Given the strictness and complexity of today’s real estate disclosure laws, it’s definitely important that any remodeling or repair work be fully disclosed to new buyers, and most buyers are savvy enough that they will ask about building permits or do the online research themselves to check and see if the work was permitted correctly.
Your best bet is to simply have an honest discussion with someone at the local building department. Explain exactly what was done, and ask what your options are. If the plumbing work was not extensive and did not involve a lot of relocating of water and waste lines or the installation of additional fixtures, a permit might not even be required.
If a permit was required, you will need to apply for one, pay the applicable fee, and then have a plumbing inspector come out to the house and inspect the work. The inspectors are only there to keep building projects safe, so if you’re honest with them about what happened, they should be more than willing to assist you with explaining how to make any necessary corrections.
When the corrections are complete, they will sign off on the new permit. The work will now be “legal,” and you can include a copy of the signed permit with your disclosure paperwork when you list the house.
Incidentally, the same will apply to any structural, electrical or mechanical alterations that were done in the course of the remodeling.
Q: I have an exterior door that is pretty beat up on the outside from the weather. The inside portion of the door is in good shape. Can I swap the door end for end where the inside will face out and the bottom of the exterior will end up at the top inside?
A: Typically, that’s actually more difficult to do than you’d imagine. The hinge and knob locations on the door won’t line up with the frame, and some doors are also beveled slightly on one side. Plus you have a lot of issues with swapping weatherstripping, door shoes and so on.
I strongly recommend that you buy a new prehung exterior door unit, which comes complete with a new frame, exterior molding, sill and weatherstripping already installed. If it’s not practical to replace the entire door and frame, then consider leaving the frame in place and just replacing the door itself. Any door shop can route the hinge locations and drill the knob hole in the new door to match the exact locations of what’s on the existing frame, which will make the change-out quick and easy.
Q: I have a concern with my friend, who removed her dryer vent hose to clean it. When she couldn't replace it she placed a sock around the vent opening and secured it with a zip tie. She said her mother did this and it worked just fine. This has me worried that this is a fire hazard. Is this safe?
A: While I applaud your friend for cleaning her dryer, what she’s done is definitely NOT safe! All that a sock (or a piece of pantyhose, or whatever) will do is collect some of the lint so it doesn’t go flying into the house. It does nothing to stop all that warm moist air from collecting in the house, where it becomes a breeding ground for mold and mildew, and eventually causes structural damage. Secondly, and even more important, as it dries all that lint creates an extreme fire danger.
Please tell your friend that she needs to have her dryer correctly vented all the way to the outside of the house! And while she’s at it, she needs to take care of her mom’s dryer, as well.
Have a home repair or remodeling question for Paul? He can be reached by email at email@example.com.