Do You Need a Building Permit to Drywall a Basement?

By putting drywall in a basement, you can take an unused space and turn it into a playroom, living room, or functional living space. But, do you need a permit for this project? I’ve done some research to find out the need-to-know details for this home improvement project. 

So, do you need a building permit to drywall a basement? Every county in the United States has different zoning and development laws, but generally, a homeowner should obtain a permit to prevent insurance issues and a loss of home equity in the future. 

Many people don’t see the need to pay the extra permit fee when they are just putting up drywall in their home, but a lot of problems arise when a homeowner doesn’t feel the need to get a permit and does the renovations without it.

The Value of a Permit

Even if you aren’t really building anything new in your basement, you should get a building permit. A building permit is a document issued by your local government, usually a city or town, that approves your building project. 

Refinishing the basement is one of those jobs that people often do without a building permit. Since the work isn’t visible from the street, the thinking goes, why not save the time and cost of the permitting process—and the tax increase that comes with an officially expanded living space? This is a mistake.

Josh Garskof, Money Magazine

When approval is obtained, you can move forward with your project. But what is the approval really for? Before a permit is issued, the project will be inspected by a county inspection officer who will make sure that your project is up to code with other local building standards. 

If the project follows code, you will be able to complete it with little hassle, and will avoid any fines or charges you might run into down the road.

Another great reason to get a building permit is to prevent yourself from faulty construction issues. If you remodel your basement and do something that might cause a fire there down the road, your insurance company might not cover the cost of the fire because the area where the fire originated was not approved by a building permit. 

Building permits also prevent you from being fined for working on your basement. If you start dry walling your basement and making any changes,  you could get in trouble if you are caught by the local government. You may even be forced to tear your project down and start over. This can be costly.

The same goes for selling your house in the future. A realtor will want to see the building permit for a remodeled area of a house, and if you don’t have one, your home could lose value and you might have to tear apart your basement. 

Here are some other projects you might need a permit for:

  • Changing electrical wiring 
  • Restructuring plumbing
  • Making structural changes to a home’s layout
  • New construction 
  • Large renovation projects such as updating a kitche

How Much Does a Drywall Permit Cost?

Permit prices vary depending on county and size of project. If you are looking to build a home, for example, your permit may cost anywhere from $400 to $1,800. But, for a smaller project, a permit might only cost between $100 to $400. 

A large factor in determining the price of a construction project is based on the estimated cost of the renovation. If your renovation is going to be costly, your permit might also cost a little more. 

“The national average cost of a building permit is $1,061, with most homeowners spending between $435 and $1,812. This data is based on actual project costs according to HomeAdvisor members.”

Another cost factor to be aware of is the fee for submitting your project plan for approval. Usually, this will be a small fee, but you should be prepared to pay it ahead of time. After your plan is approved, then you will pay for your permit.

When Do You Not Need a Permit?

For most home renovation projects, you will need a permit. The only cases where you won’t need one are when you are painting your home, laying flooring, or attending to other cosmetic home projects. Even outdoor projects such as building a fence around your property require permits to complete. 

Sometimes, a contracted worker will obtain the work permit, so you won’t need to. But, if you do the project yourself, you will need to obtain the permit. Make sure to talk to your contractor about the permit details before you begin renovation. 

These are the only exceptions you will find to permit regulations.

How to Obtain a Permit

Obtaining a permit can seem like a daunting task, and you might feel like the process is too complicated. But, if you are prepared, you will not encounter any unforeseen difficulties. I’ve done a little research and put together the basic steps you should follow to obtain a building permit.

However, you should also call your local building office to verify the steps they require for permit plan submission.

  1. Plan the details of your project and estimate the cost and structural changes.
  2. Contact your local building office and explain your plan to them. This will allow you to get feedback on potential issues with your remodel. You can also visit your local building office’s website to check for project details.
  3. Obtain a permit application. These applications usually are packets that you will out and submit to your local office. Some offices even keep their building permit applications of their website for easy access.
  4. Complete permit application. The requirements listed on the permit application might be different depending on your city or town’s coding and zoning laws, but usually, you will need to present a building plan and obtain the proper signatures. Sometimes, you may also be required to submit an architectural rendering of the space by a licensed architect. 
  5. Submit building permit and appropriate submission fee.

The next step is receiving your permit approval and paying the fee. After that, you can begin construction (or in this case putting up your drywall).

After You’ve Obtained Your Permit

When you have been approved and have your building permit, you aren’t quite done yet. Throughout the renovation process, a building inspector will come and check to make sure your project is meeting the proper code requirements. 

You will need to schedule these inspections, so to make sure you stay on track, do this with any major changes before moving on to other changes. 

If a part of the project is not done properly, you may be asked to change or redo a portion of your project. In the end, though, this process will prevent you from making any major mistakes in construction, even if you are just putting up drywall in your basement. 

At the end of your project, an inspector will do a final walk through to make sure the entire project meets the requirements and is up to code. Once the project is cleared by the inspector, you are free to enjoy your newly updated space!

Related Questions

Do I need a permit to install drywall? Generally, you should obtain a permit, or inquire about permit needs, before you begin a project. This will prevent you from encountering fines and repercussions down the road. Even if you are just installing drywall, you should get a permit.

Is insulation required to finish a basement? Often, building codes will require you to use insulation when finishing a basement. However, you should check with your local building office and determine what they require along with their permit.

How much does it cost to drywall a basement? The cost of drywall depends on the store of origin, but generally, drywall costs $1.50 per square foot. However, you should also consider the cost of labor the size of the room when determining overall cost. THis is especially true if you are hiring someone to inslaltl the drywall for you.


David has been an avid DIYer for years. Recently he's really taken to home security, but he has a lot of experience with all sorts of projects from Plumbing to Electrical and Framing to Tiling.

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