Author Topic: Do I absolutely need permits to install recessed lights?  (Read 908 times)

jamesbond007

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 426
  • Location: USA
  • One penny at a time.
    • I'm raising $3500 for the Arthritis Foundation.
Do I absolutely need permits to install recessed lights?
« on: May 14, 2019, 08:51:00 PM »
My city states that I need permits to install new lighting fixtures. It costs $$. Do I absolutely need it even if I use 14g Romex and make sure I follow the code?

seattlecyclone

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4729
  • Age: 34
  • Location: Seattle, WA
Re: Do I absolutely need permits to install recessed lights?
« Reply #1 on: May 15, 2019, 12:33:36 AM »
I did a lot more unpermitted electrical work than that at my previous house several years ago, and I haven't been arrested or fined for it yet.

daverobev

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3288
  • Location: UK
Re: Do I absolutely need permits to install recessed lights?
« Reply #2 on: May 15, 2019, 01:42:33 AM »
Is it going to invalidate your insurance if your house burns down?

AMandM

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 797
Re: Do I absolutely need permits to install recessed lights?
« Reply #3 on: May 15, 2019, 06:22:01 AM »
I don't think you'll get in trouble now, unless by some chance a city official happens to learn you are doing unpermitted work and decides to bang the gavel on you. But it might cause problems down the road. We have a friend whose house was damaged by a falling tree and the reconstruction was delayed by a year because of unpermitted work; the insurance cover was to rebuild the destroyed part of the house, but the county would not let him rebuild that because the destroyed part was an addition that had been built without permits. Or another case: my city will not issue a rental license if the work done to convert the basement to living space was done without permits.

Of course, you have to decide whether you face any real risk from that sort of potential later problem.

Fishindude

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2002
Re: Do I absolutely need permits to install recessed lights?
« Reply #4 on: May 15, 2019, 06:32:27 AM »
Generally, the reason a municipality wants you to get permits is so they can ask how much the projects costs, then jack up your home value for taxation purposes.
So long as you know what you are doing, I sure as heck would not involve the my municipality to simply install a couple lights.

Home Stretch

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 98
  • Age: 31
Re: Do I absolutely need permits to install recessed lights?
« Reply #5 on: May 15, 2019, 07:04:02 AM »
I think this somewhat relates: https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/10/22/theres-something-you-need-to-know-about-the-rules/

I think something as minor as recessed lighting would fly under the radar, because I doubt anyone keeps records of what kind of lighting was originally installed.

Actually, the ONLY scenario I can imagine where this could cause problems is if your recessed lighting itself starts a fire, and the fire is extinguished in time to preserve the evidence of what started it, and the insurance company is extremely competent and determined to fuck you.

Rosy

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1959
  • Location: Florida
Re: Do I absolutely need permits to install recessed lights?
« Reply #6 on: May 15, 2019, 09:04:24 AM »
Wow Home Stretch, awesome article. https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/10/22/theres-something-you-need-to-know-about-the-rules/
Somehow I missed reading that one - thanks:)

Sometimes it helps talking to the right people. This family has employed the same AC contractor for over 50 years so when we finally had to replace our AC, I talked to them about installing AC in the utility/laundry room (part of the carport). The city would not allow it, unless we converted our carport to a living space or poured an extra five inches of concrete onto the existing concrete floor in the carport to be level with the house.

It was a matter of about 30 minutes to extend the AC into the utility/laundry room and a huge improvement.
That room used to be hot as hades, full of bugs and spiders and because of the intense heat and near-constant Florida humidity you couldn't use it for storage for most things.

Same with the plumbing. Apparently, the washer water pipes just ran into the yard underground but one day something broke and it clogged with dirt. Our plumber friend discovered the issue and we were extremely lucky that it was right next to the existing sewer line so he installed a new pipe and connected it to the sewer line - all proper now:).

Electric is the one and only thing we've always used a contractor for, but I doubt I'd hesitate using recessed lighting - once I assured myself that it doesn't constitute a safety hazard.
Municipalities often have entirely different reasons for forcing or denying permits.

 

jamesbond007

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 426
  • Location: USA
  • One penny at a time.
    • I'm raising $3500 for the Arthritis Foundation.
Re: Do I absolutely need permits to install recessed lights?
« Reply #7 on: May 15, 2019, 09:57:56 AM »
Thanks for the input. I will pull permits.

FINate

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1302
Re: Do I absolutely need permits to install recessed lights?
« Reply #8 on: May 15, 2019, 10:20:33 AM »
Every jurisdiction is different, so it's a judgement call on your part.

In some cities it's easy and cheap to pull permits and then pass inspection. The overall process is reasonable so it makes sense to pull permits.

However, in some cities the permit and inspection process is punitive. Pulling the permits is expensive, and then the inspection process is capricious, depending on the inspector and their mood that day. For example, in my city if I pulled permits to install recessed lights in a bathroom then the inspector could force me to move the bathroom to its own branch line on a dedicated breaker which would run in the $1000s. It's too much of a crapshoot so most people fly under the radar if they think they can get away with it. Replacing a few fixtures at a time is the type of thing that folks don't worry about permits for unless there's also a ton of other conspicuous construction happening. Even then, many folks will pull permits for the conspicuous stuff and and then later change things like fixtures after final inspection. Besides, I've been red tagged and it wasn't a big deal. Stopped work, paid a small fine and pulled permits, then got back to work. Again...a lot of this depends on how your city operates.

So it depends. Ask around to get a sense for which situation you're dealing with.
« Last Edit: May 15, 2019, 10:22:25 AM by FINate »

secondcor521

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2046
  • Age: 49
  • Location: Boise, Idaho
  • Big cattle, no hat.
    • Age of Eon - Overwatch player videos
Re: Do I absolutely need permits to install recessed lights?
« Reply #9 on: May 15, 2019, 11:03:24 AM »
I have a minor remodel going on now and pulled both a construction and electrical permit (they're different in my case for reasons I don't really get).  The cost compared to the overall job cost made things about 1/3 more expensive and was a moderate hassle.

I got the permits in my case for two reasons:

1.  When I go to sell, there is a question I have to answer about whether there has been any unpermitted work.  There was some weasel-wording in the question where I could have said "No", but I was willing to pay to avoid the ambiguity.

2.  I am a relatively new DIYer, so I wanted to make sure someone who knows more than me checked my work to make sure it was OK.  I didn't know what I didn't know.  For example, with recessed ceiling lights, I know that they have to be IC rated or you have to build little drywall boxes to keep the insulation off so you don't start a fire.  But that is something that I just happened across and wouldn't be guaranteed to know.

In my case I have a friend who has done a lot of DIY stuff because he manages some rental properties.  He was able to help me properly wire an additional smoke/CO detector in a way that was better than what I would have done and was in line with updated code.  The inspector didn't check this aspect of it, so the lesson here is that sometimes friends who know stuff is even better than permits and inspections.

Jon Bon

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 728
  • Location: Midwest
Re: Do I absolutely need permits to install recessed lights?
« Reply #10 on: May 15, 2019, 11:13:38 AM »
Sounds like you have made up your mind. But you absolutely do not need a permit. Not sure what your local environment is but I cannot see a situation how you could get in trouble for this. Even if you wrote a letter detailing what you did to your building department.  The building department should be about protecting home owners from contractors doing cheap/unsafe/crappy work. it should not be about taxing home owners for improving their own home.

Another posted talked about 'trouble with insurance" I think it is safe to say the un-permitted addition is a bit different then a few can lights.

Lastly No one is going to be able to tell. Even in a sale of the home/inspection whatever. A few can lights are going to blend in with everything else. Unless you have 1950s stuff everywhere else type thing.

Personally I tell the city/inspector etc to pound sand when I want to do work on my own house. It is my house, I can do what I want with it.


NorCal

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 657
Re: Do I absolutely need permits to install recessed lights?
« Reply #11 on: May 15, 2019, 09:04:25 PM »
In my mind, scope and scale matter for permits. 

I just added two new outlets in my garage.  I made sure the circuit breaker had enough capacity, and just put them in.  No big deal.

I'd put recessed lights in the same category, as long as you have easy access to a circuit breaker with enough spare capacity.  No one would ever know they weren't there when you bought the house.

Now if you want to install a new subpanel, I would come back with a completely different answer.

zolotiyeruki

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3041
  • Location: State: Denial
Re: Do I absolutely need permits to install recessed lights?
« Reply #12 on: May 16, 2019, 08:19:44 AM »
Installing can lights?  If you know what you're doing, I wouldn't bother with a permit.  Adding an attached deck to the back of the house?  Yeah, that's worth pulling a permit.

In our municipality, permits cost 1.25% of the project cost, with a minimum amount of $80.  That fee also covers the cost of inspection.  If you're doing something simple like putting in an outlet and you're only spending $20 on materials, spending five times as much just to get an inspector to sign off on something you know to be correct is silly.

A lot depends on your local government's building dept.  Mine has some really lame rules (like no romex or PEX), but otherwise have been great to work with, and are concerned with things being done correctly, rather than increasing revenue.
Generally, the reason a municipality wants you to get permits is so they can ask how much the projects costs, then jack up your home value for taxation purposes.
So long as you know what you are doing, I sure as heck would not involve the my municipality to simply install a couple lights.
This very much depends on your location.  Where I'm at, the local building department is run by the village, while the tax assessments are run at the county level, and the two don't talk to each other.  I'm also in a master-planned subdivision, and all 100 houses are one of five floor plans, all built by the same builder, all on the same size lot, all fairly close in square footage.  So our tax assessor looks at the average of recent sales and adjusts based on brick vs vinyl, whether you have a lookout/English basement, etc.  Interior finishes or even a finished basement aren't considered.

mrteacher

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 203
Re: Do I absolutely need permits to install recessed lights?
« Reply #13 on: May 16, 2019, 11:33:06 AM »
For what it's worth, this is the paragraph about Electrical Permits from my city's website. Emphasis mine.

"Electrical permits
You'll need an electrical permit if you are altering, changing, or adding to the electrical equipment for your home. If it involves the electrical wires of your home, you'll need a permit. If you're only swapping out a fixture, you don't need one -- but be careful! As a homeowner, you're able to do any electrical work in your home with a permit. If you're a landlord, you'll need a licensed and registered electric contractor."

I do not know if installing recessed lights counts as "swapping out a fixture" or not, but maybe that helps.

I have changed 4 light fixtures in my home, and did not once think about pulling a permit.

zolotiyeruki

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3041
  • Location: State: Denial
Re: Do I absolutely need permits to install recessed lights?
« Reply #14 on: May 16, 2019, 12:53:59 PM »
I do not know if installing recessed lights counts as "swapping out a fixture" or not, but maybe that helps.
Generally, the rule is that stuff behind the drywall, or anything where you are changing the house wiring "requires" a permit.  So recessed lighting does, but changing a fixture does not.

Bernard

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 21
Re: Do I absolutely need permits to install recessed lights?
« Reply #15 on: May 16, 2019, 01:46:21 PM »
I am updating my house, slice by slice. Right after purchase, I had to redo the ceiling joists in the living room because the amateur job caused them to sag. That was a $10K hit with cash to a contractor under the table who did an absolutely amazing job. Didn't pull a permit. Had I done that, the cost would probably had doubled or tripled. Did all new drywall. Paid contractor cash, and got a great deal. Didn't pull a permit. Of course we put recessed lights into the new ceiling. Redid the entire siding of my house, removed the crap and did Hardy board and batton. Didn't pull a permit. Painted the entire house. Didn't pull a permit. Did a lot of electrical work. Didn't pull a permit. Why would I want the government look over my shoulder when I work in my own home?

Of course, all of this hinges a bit on your location. If your home is in a neighborhood where tons of people are watching you, you may have to pull permits left and right. I live in a cul-de-sac where nobody who doesn't live there or visits somebody there ever shows up.

Generally speaking, cash is king. Since I cannot deduct home improvements and repairs from my income taxes, I pay cash for those things. I get a hell of a deal, the contractor loves it, and I benefit from it in more than one way.

FireHiker

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 954
  • Location: So Cal
Re: Do I absolutely need permits to install recessed lights?
« Reply #16 on: May 16, 2019, 06:02:06 PM »
My husband and I are both electrical engineers and his whole family are general contractors, so we absolutely would do our own electrical work on our own house without a permit without even thinking about it. We have put can lights in actually in our last two houses, and done our own drywall, texturing, and paint afterward. Both times we sold without any issues.

FIREstache

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 194
Re: Do I absolutely need permits to install recessed lights?
« Reply #17 on: May 16, 2019, 06:24:15 PM »

I've never known anyone that stated they pulled a permit for anything.   And the one time I had an electrician put in a new underground feed to my house, I don't think he got one, either.  It was an emergency, so I was so concerned about getting it fixed right away, that I didn't event think about it until later, after the company had gone out of business.   lol   I know I could check with the city.