Average Costs of Building Permits

Pulling building permits can be confusing and intimidating. Here we'll demystify one element of the process: cost.

It’s always a good idea to establish a budget for your larger do-it-yourself home improvements. One item that many DIYers forget to factor in is the cost of building permits.

Permits are required for many projects, and not all building departments require permits for the same ones. But here’s a good rule of thumb: If you’re working underground or behind a wall, you’ll probably need to pull a permit. Because permit costs vary from location to location (and even from neighborhood to neighborhood), we’ll cover a range of expected costs for common projects. Contact your local Building Department to get the specifics.

Here is a sampling of projects, from relatively simple to complex, and what you can expect to pay for the necessary building permits:

Fence Installation

Fence permits generally cost between $50 and $100. Some cities simply collect the fee, while others require an inspection.

If your city does perform an inspection, check to see if they need to inspect the post holes. Some municipalities want to see the depth and stability of the post hole. You don’t want to redo any of your work because you forgot to have them come out to the jobsite.

Window/Door Replacement

Window and door replacements are perfect examples of building permits that vary wildly in cost. Some municipalities don’t require permits at all if the replacement windows or doors are the same size as the original.

If your local building department does require a permit, expect to pay about $50 to $100 to replace a single door or one or two windows. If you’re replacing more than that, the cost can vary more dramatically. Many locations top out costs around $250 no matter how many units are being replaced, but other cities don’t have that limit, so replacing a dozen windows could run $600 in permit fees.

If your local building department requires a permit, it may be a so-called “drive by” permit, where the inspector simply drives past and verifies that the work has been done. This may make the permit seem less important. But remember: Because window and door work is so visible from the street, skipping the permit will likely result in a fine or stop-work order from the city.

New Window/Door Installation

A window or door installation that requires a new opening (or an opening expansion) will almost always need a permit, and may require a stamped engineer’s drawing.

The permit fee is also likely to be more expensive than a straight replacement. Figure a minimum of $75 to $125 for the base project, with some municipalities charging up to $250. It’s rare to put in multiple new windows and doors, but if your project will involve cutting in more than three or four openings, expect to scale the permit cost accordingly.

Deck Installation

A new deck installation usually requires a permit, with a fee in the range of $150 to $350. Inspections will likely occur for the footer holes and at completion, although that will also vary from department to department. Note that if you’re replacing an existing deck, most municipalities won’t require a permit as long as the footprint of the deck remains unchanged.

Roof Replacement

Most roof replacements require a permit, but it’s rare to find a city that charges outside the $200 to $500 range. Much like a window or door installation, a roof job is highly visible and likely to be spotted by local building authorities, so it’s well worth the time and money to get your permit pulled ahead of time.

Bathroom Remodel

In general, expect to pay between $400 and $750 in permits for a full bathroom remodel. That may seem expensive, but consider that these projects often involve electric, plumbing and HVAC, as well as a general construction permit. That means even a small bathroom remodel requires the same number of permits and inspections as a much larger job. Luckily, many municipal Building Departments have costs that scale to match the square footage of the project.

Also, remember our rule of thumb about work behind the wall needing a permit. In general, if you want to replace your bathroom sink, lights or vent fan, you do not need a permit. But if you move that sink two feet to the right, and need to adjust the supply and drain lines, that most likely will require a permit.

New Garage

An unfinished garage with no plumbing or HVAC will likely only require an electric permit for the garage door opener and overhead lights, and a general construction permit. Your specific municipality may also require a roofing permit. As always, these costs will vary, but $450 to $1,000 is a reasonable range.

Kitchen Remodel

A kitchen remodel requires the same inspections as a bathroom remodel, but on a larger scale. Check with your Building Department, but once you factor in electric, plumbing, HVAC and a general construction permit, you’ll likely be in the $750 to $1,500 range.

Two-Story Addition

A two-story addition is about as complex as a project gets, short of building an entirely new home. This type of project requires multiple permits and inspections throughout the process. Expect to pay somewhere between $1,250 and $2,500 to cover electric, plumbing, HVAC, framing, drywall, insulation and roofing.

The exact permit cost will depend on the size of the addition as well as whether your Building Department gives a price break for having multiple permits on a single project. Also worth considering is whether your neighborhood or homeowners association (HOA) has a review board, and whether they charge a fee. As always, this due diligence should be done before you firm up the details of your project plan.

Note: No one seems to know for sure, but it is generally accepted that the term “pulling a permit” comes from a time when someone had to physically pull the paperwork for the permit out of a filing cabinet!

Dan Stout
Dan Stout is a freelance writer and author based in Columbus, Ohio. Dan's non-fiction has appeared on numerous sites and in print, while his prize-winning fiction has been featured in publications such as Nature and The Saturday Evening Post. He is the author of The Carter Archives series of noir fantasy thrillers from DAW Books.