Do You Need a Building Permit to Drywall a Basement

As a homeowner, you can’t help but think of new ways to improve your home every once in a while. That’s especially the case if you’re a new homeowner.

When thinking of upgrading your home, what better place to start than your basement? Isn’t it the best place to create a den for yourself! Or maybe you can set up a playroom for your kids!

You only need to drywall your basement and you’ll turn it into a highly functional space. But do you need a building permit to drywall a basement? The short answer, is most likely. This has to do with your cities zoning laws.

basement renovation

Keep reading to find out more!

Will I Need a Building Permit to Drywall My Basement

The regulations vary from state to state, as each state has its own zoning laws. More often than not, you’ll need a permit to drywall your basement. The fact that this is an indoor renovation may tempt you to disregard getting a permit, which can get you in trouble.

True, the interior of the basement is definitely not visible from the street, which may lower your chances of “getting caught.” However, state fines and penalties aren’t the only consequence of not getting a permit.

What Are the Consequences of Not Getting a Permit

Failing to obtain a permit can have both short-term and long-term consequences. Here’s what you should be concerned about the most.

You Can Be Forced to Start Over

Normally, when getting a permit, there’ll be a local inspector ensuring that your project abides by the state’s rules and regulations. So, if you get caught building without a permit, an inspector will be called to the scene. There, they’ll run their usual inspection, and based on their inspection, your penalty will be decided.

You can get away with just a fine, much like a speeding ticket—only more costly. This isn’t the worst that can happen, though. If there were major breaches of state standards, things can get unpleasant. The inspector can ask you to tear the whole thing down and start over.

Your House Can Be Undervalued

If you decide to sell your house, the realtor will require to see building permits for any renovated areas around. Having no permit for drywalling the basement will make your house lose precious value. Moreover, you may be asked to take down what you’ve built.

Insurance Can Bail Out on You

Your building has to be consistent with the standards in order for the insurance to be in effect. So, if a fire or any unforeseen accident took place in the basement, the insurance company will ask to see the permit first.

In most cases, no permit equals no insurance.

When Is a Permit Not Required

This depends on two factors: the regulations in your state and the nature of your project.

When Regulations Are Flexible

There are some states with more flexible regulations. The flexibility extends as far as allowing you to replace the drywall in your basement without a permit. Installing a new one from scratch, however, might be a different story.

Places that allow you to repair and replace your old drywall permit-free include:

Even with the replacement, there’ll be limits regarding the dimensions. For example, in Chicago, you can replace without a permit as long as the drywall is no more than 1,000 square feet. That also has to be without any changes to the existing electrical and plumbing systems.

When the Project Is Cosmetic

Generally speaking, light cosmetic projects usually don’t need a permit. These cosmetic projects include:

  • Installing new countertops
  • Driveway repairs
  • Painting your home
  • Putting in new cabinets

On the other hand, there are projects that can’t be considered cosmetic, and obtaining a permit for them is a must. These include:

  • Major changes to the footprint of the house
  • Altering the supporting system of electricity and plumbing
  • Manipulating the walls

What Is the Cost of Getting a Permit

There are two fees involved in the process. First, there’s a smaller fee that you have to pay when applying for the permit. When your application is approved, you’ll have to pay for the permit itself.

The fees depend on the cost of your project. The more you pay for the project, the more you pay for the permit. The exact numbers will differ according to where you live.

For example, in the Village of Tarrytown, New York, you’ll pay $19 for each $1,000 you pay for the project. In other areas, the ratio between the cost of the permit and that of the project will be something similar.

As the cost of your project plays a major role in determining the fees, you’ll be asked to give a detailed cost structure when obtaining a permit.

How Can You Obtain a Permit

If you’re a first-timer, obtaining a permit can feel a bit daunting. No worries, though, I’ll detail the basic steps needed so you can go through this well-prepared.

Plan Your Project

Through your local office website, you can know the codes and standards you have to meet. You can also obtain this information by contacting the office on the phone. Then, you’ll have to plan the structural changes accordingly.

After finishing your project model, estimate the needed costs.

Get Feedback From the Inspection Office

To make sure you’re on the same page, contact the office again and get their feedback on your project plan. This will help clear out any potential issues early on.

Fill Out and Submit the Application

You can request the application from the local office. Before doing that, check the website, as in many cities you can fill out the application online, saving yourself a trip to the office.

Another heads-up: you may need to have a licensed architect on board. Some areas require an architectural plan made by a professional to be submitted with the application. Now, you should be ready to submit and pay for the application.

Follow Up With the Inspector

Once the application is approved, you’ll have to stay in contact with the inspector. He has to be with you every step of the way, to ensure your meeting the standards. So, it’s a good idea to schedule his visits to the site ahead of time.

After the project is finished, the inspector will have to do a final examination, and that will be it!


Renovating different areas of your house can feel exciting, especially if you’re into DIY projects. Permits and regulations, however, can put a damper on your pursuits. Daunting as these regulations can be, you shouldn’t ignore them. Mostly, this won’t go consequence-free.

That said, you don’t need to worry, obtaining a permit may not be as hard as you think. You just have to stick to the standards of your area. This way, the drywall of your basement will be in place before you know it!

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