The Ins and Outs of Applying for Home Modification Permits


We’re talking about building permits.

We recently heard a story on the news about a man with MS working to modify his home so that it was adaptable for his needs. He applied for permits to build and remodel his home to make it wheelchair accessible. However, the county was making the process long and arduous, delaying his ability to live in his home comfortably. Because the man lived in an unincorporated town, his local jurisdiction became the county. An incorporated town submits applications to their own city government, not the county. The county kept delaying their approval of his building permits. Without these, he was unable to legally start the necessary renovations to make his daily routine easier. When the man reached out to the local news station to tell his story, the county quickly worked to approve his paperwork. Remodeling your home is exciting and sometimes a necessity, but it can be a headache just trying to get the approval to do so.  Before starting any type of large project, make sure you have a full understanding of the process.


Expect three weeks to a month for a permit application to be processed and approved. Once your local jurisdiction receives all paperwork, they give you notice that it will take at least 10 days to process the information. If there are any questions or kickback about your plans, the time will be extended.


Understanding the cost of applying for a permit is important. If you are working with a builder or firm, they may submit the application for you. However, it will be your responsibility to pay for the permit. Costs vary by city but expect a hefty price tag if you are making big changes. If you live in Sugar Grove and want to do an interior remodel, the cost of the permit for a residential remodel is $165. A home addition is $0.31 per square foot with a $630 minimum. Both aren’t including any inspection fees. Make sure to keep inspection costs in mind as well when budgeting.
Adding an addition to your home, like this one, will require a permit. If you’re in Sugar Grove, the cost will be based on how many square feet of room is built.

Building Codes

If you’re a DIYer, make sure you have a full understanding of building codes. When submitting your plans, your designs will need to be within the building codes of your town. You can typically find these codes under your jurisdiction’s building department’s web page or by calling your building department.

Why should I get a permit?

You will need a permit by law for any of the larger jobs listed below and any other large-scale building projects. Getting a permit may be costly at first, but it will be more costly if you are found to be doing a project without the proper permits. They could fine, sue, and force you to tear down any work that may be started or done. Legal trouble is not the only issue you’ll run into without a permit. Permits and inspections help keep you and others safe. They make sure the building and work are up to code so that no one has the chance of, say, electrocution or other harm.
Bathroom remodeling typically requires permits, especially when plumbing and electrical modifications are involved.
The easiest way to avoid extra costs and time is to include potential inspection and permit costs in your budget.

When do I need a building permit?

You will always need a permit if you are building an addition or making any structural modifications. Any work that requires plumbing, electrical modifications, replacing the water heater, window mods, mechanical system installation (such as an elevator), roofline, sewer modifications, major demolitions, and new fireplaces.

When don’t I need a building permit?

You don’t need a building permit when you are making interior cosmetic changes. Installing new carpet, hardwood floor, painting, paneling, installation of trim like crown molding, baseboard and casing do not require permits.

Will I need approval from my Housing Association?

Most likely, yes, you will need approval from your housing association for any exterior modifications. New siding, painting your house a different color, new deck or porch, or new fencing will require approval along with any other exterior changes you decide to make. Depending on the age of your house, you may also need the approval of the historical society that governs your area.

Who can help me apply for a permit and schedule inspections?

When doing home modifications, it might be helpful to hire a professional to not only do the work but to also help you through the permit process. At Home for Life, we take care of the often confusing and time-consuming task of getting a new project approved. Once it’s approved and the work is started, we’ll also schedule the inspections. We use only licensed professionals to do all the contract work as well as plumbing and electric. This saves time and money because jurisdictions require licensed, registered professionals.

The Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities

The Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities advocates for people who need assistance in making daily life more accessible. If you live in the city of Chicago, the mayor’s office offers grants for anyone under 60 years of age who need ramps, stairlifts, curbless showers, widened doorways, accessible sinks and cabinets. The home modifications are limited to $10,000.     (link to internal story that inspired post is no longer available)

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