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Rebecca West
Rebecca West
Interior Designer and Decorator
Seattle, Washington
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To Permit or Not To Permit - bathroom remodels.

Permitting is tricky, and important. As a decorator or designer you may be asked if you customer needs a permit - do you know the answer?
Written Apr 09, 2009, read 34839 times since then.




As a decorator or designer you might not be sure whether or not your homeowner needs a city permit for their bathroom remodel, but as a home design specialist, you want to be as informed and knowledgeable as possible!  This information is meant to help clarify that question, but please keep in mind that this information is *only a guide* and that you need to evaluate each project individually.  There are some good resources to help you answer that question for your specific project, listed below.   Additionally, this article is only for Seattle area homes, because while the same rules may apply in other jurisdictions, they are not my area of expertise.

In all likelihood, you probably do not need a permit for your bathroom remodel.  If you do, you probably only need an “over-the-counter” electrical permit, for which you can quickly apply online, no need to wait for hours in a city office.

There are three basic kinds of permits you might face - the first is a building permit.  You might need this if you are removing structural beams or moving or resizing a window.  In a standard bathroom remodel you are probably leaving the walls alone, and perhaps replacing, but not moving or resizing a window.  No permit needed.  

The second kind is a plumbing permit.  You'll need this if you are moving around the rough plumbing, that is if you are, for example, moving the tub across the room, adding a stand alone shower, and moving the new double sink vanity to a new wall.  That is significant plumbing work and you should have a permit.  However if, like in many Seattle area remodels, you are just replacing the fixtures (and perhaps the shower diverter) but not moving the plumbing to new locations, no permits needed.

Finally there is the electrical permit.  This is the one permit that you might need, and you might need this even if there is no need for plumbing or building permits.  You want this if you are moving around the wiring (adding new recessed lighting, for example), changing the kind of wiring, or (especially) if you are running new circuits from your electrical box.  When would you need a new circuit?  In older houses it may simply not be done right and when you open the walls you may realize the circuits have too much load and need to be redone.  Or you might be adding electrical underfloor heating that should have it's own circuit.  You (or your contractor) might be tempted to skip an electrical permit, but they are not that hard to get (you can apply online!), and when you go to sell the house, you want that all in order.  Not to mention that you have no need for any new fire hazards, and having an inspector check the quality of your contractor's work is not such a bad thing.

So, what it often comes down to is what kind of remodel you are really doing.  If all you are doing is giving everything new clothes (tile, fixtures, paint, even sheetrock) but you are not changing any of the bones (plumbing, wiring, beams) then you likely have no need of a permit.  But I'll say it again, this is only a guide, so judge each project on it's own terms and, if you need more help, check out the Seattle Department of Planning webpage to learn more about building permits, read here to learn about plumbing permits, and click here to learn about electrical permits, and about applying online.

If you have any further questions or concerns about a specific project, I'll be happy to help you find an answer, so don't hesitate to email me, too!  I am at or you can visit me at



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Article tags

  • building permits
  • electrical permits
  • plumbing
  • bathroom remodels
  • interior design
  • interior decorating
  • decorators
  • designers
  • seattle

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