Bathroom Remodeling

Do You Need Permits to Remodel a Bathroom?

Do You Need Permits to Remodel a Bathroom?

May 17, 2023

The idea of remodeling your bathroom is an exciting one! You get the opportunity to take your builder-grade space from a common appearance to a truly one-of-a-kind oasis. If only it were as easy as that, though. There are many steps that go into making this retreat your own, permitting being one of them. 

Without the proper permitting required for the job, homeowners face a whole host of issues ahead, ones that may not be so easily fixed. If you’re starting to plan your bathroom remodel and you’re not sure about the permitting process or the remodeling process in general, you’re in the right place. Let’s jump right into the main question! 

Do you need a permit to remodel a bathroom?

The short answer is yes; most of the time, you’ll need a permit. For small projects like a new coat of paint, you’re probably safe without one. Otherwise, it’s likely you’ll have to go through the permitting process.    

Even so, let’s start out by establishing the fact that not all permitting requirements are the same across the board, though. Your city and state likely carry different conditions than neighboring places, so it’s always a good idea to go straight to the source. Contact your local entities for their exact permitting specifications. 

That said, there are aspects of any bathroom remodel where you can safely assume you’ll need a permit. For example, if you plan to demolish and move any walls, change the piping, or move any of the main electrical components, you’ll need to obtain proper permitting. More on the specific types of permits later! 

The thing is, even changes that seem small will likely interfere with an element of work that would require a permit. For instance, if your goal is to lay tile, facets of your plumbing will probably need adjusting, which needs permitting. Likewise, installing a waterproof pan may not require removing a wall but still has to have a permit. 

If you’re still unclear on whether or not to pull a permit, Contractors State License Board makes things pretty clear when it states, “No building or structure may be erected, constructed, enlarged, altered, repaired, moved, improved, removed, converted or demolished unless a separate permit for each building or structure has first been obtained from the building official.”

What’s the point of permitting a bathroom remodel?

The permits to remodel a bathroom might seem insignificant at first glance. As if a simple piece of paper makes a difference in the grand scheme of things, but in reality, it makes a huge difference. The point of permitting a bathroom remodel is two-fold. First and foremost, it ensures that the work performed by whomever you’ve hired has been done up to code and that it was a job well done. 

Inspections from the permits allow homeowners to see areas in which the work was done incorrectly or even sloppily. Second, it gives homeowners and the city certainty that the work done within the structure is safe. Again, any hazards or missteps can be made known to the contractor via the permitting inspections and then rectified before the permit is closed. 

Types of Permits Your Job May Require

Depending on what your remodel entails, you’ll need different types of permits. Take a look at the most common types of permitting below required for a bathroom remodel.  

  • Mechanical: A permit that often goes forgotten, mechanical permits are required when you’re working on ventilation systems as well as heating and cooling systems. A common mechanical permit homeowners can expect is for their HVAC system; other scenarios include bathroom ventilation systems. 
  • Electrical: An electrical permit will be needed if you’re moving the placement of or installing new wiring. For example, moving or creating new electrical outlets, installing a fan for ventilation, moving light fixture placement, or adding a new place for a fixture. 
  • Structural: A structural permit is just as it sounds. If you’re making any serious changes to the structure of your bathroom, you’ll need a permit. It’s not unusual for homeowners to demolish or move walls during a bathroom remodel to open the space up. That’ll definitely require permitting in order to remain in code. 
  • Plumbing: As with the other permits, a plumbing permit is required for big changes like moving plumbing to another location within the bathroom. Other instances include re-piping, water heater replacements, drain pipe replacements, and the like. 

For some homeowners unfamiliar with the remodeling process, it may feel intimidating to pull permits; some may even worry they’ll miss a crucial permit required for the job. This is where an experienced contractor leads the way. They’ll pull all the proper permits, which is why it’s important to select a contractor well-versed in remodels. 

How to Apply For Permits to Remodel a Bathroom – 5 Easy Steps

If you end up choosing to pull permits yourself, no problem. Generally, there are just five simple steps to getting your permits pulled, and we’ll lay them all out right here. 

  1. Contact the City: Each city will have its own set of procedures, so start by calling or checking their website for more details. They’ll guide you to the resources you need to get started. 
  2. Complete the Application: Regardless of the differences each city may have, you’ll have to fill out some sort of permitting application. Whether this is by paper or online, be prepared to complete an application. 
  3. Submit the Application: Once you’ve filled in all pertinent information, it’s time to submit the application. If you’re doing this yourself, it may be helpful to have someone look over it for errors prior to submission. 
  4. Wait for Approval: Now the waiting game begins. Most cities will be able to give you a general timeframe for how long approval will take. If you hired a contractor, they’d likely be able to speak from experience about how long the wait times are. 
  5. Permit is Released: If your permit is approved, it will soon be released to you, and your bathroom remodel can begin once it’s in hand. Don’t forget to abide by whatever permit posting rules your city requires!

Why People Remodel Bathrooms Without Permitting

It’s not a great idea to do a complete bathroom remodel without permitting, but it does happen. These three reasons are the common culprits:

  • DIY Movement: As of late, homeowners forego the use of a contractor in favor of the DIY (do it yourself) movement. The thought process is it may take longer, but they’ll save money. While this is sufficient for simple projects, it’s not the way to go for a total bathroom overhaul. Even so, many homeowners will take the project on themselves with the help of friends and family. 
  • Permit Cost: Costs are usually deterrents of many things in a home improvement project, permits being no exception. Many homeowners try to save money by avoiding the permitting process altogether. While it has the potential to save some money, as permits are usually in the hundreds cost-wise, it’s nothing compared to the repercussions of doing the work without permitting. 
  • Project Timeline: Good things take time, but if homeowners aren’t willing to wait to have the job approved via the permitting process, they’ll often take matters into their own hands. Getting the right permits in hand can take a while between the time the paperwork is submitted and then actually approved. For those wanting to see their projects come to life now, they may ditch the permits. 

Risks of Completing a Bathroom Remodel Without a Permit

You may be able to get away with remodeling a bathroom without a permit, but the risks will most certainly catch up with you one way or another. Here are a few of the most common results of unpermitted remodeling. 

  • Penalties: Even after you file for a retroactive permit, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in the clear. Some cities may decide to impose a penalty. The cost of the penalty will depend on your city and what the work was that was done unpermitted. Some projects completed without permitting can cost homeowners hundreds of dollars, easily getting into the thousands if the penalty due is not paid within the timeframe the city puts forth. 

Certain states take unpermitted work more seriously than others, the state of California being one of them. For contractors who are caught working without permits, the consequences can be detrimental. The state licensing board can impose fines up to $5,000 or pull licensing depending on the level of infraction. 

  • Resale Issues: Say you do the work without a permit. Initially, you may think you’re in the clear, no harm done. That thought may quickly change when it comes time to sell your home. Home inspections will likely reveal that permits were not pulled for remodeling. This will affect the sale process in a few ways, the first being appraisal value. The appraiser will not give your home the value that includes the home’s bathroom remodel since it wasn’t done under a permit. 

The second issue this brings about in resale lands squarely on the homebuyer. Homeowners are required to report the unpermitted work in the sale process. Once the unpermitted work is disclosed to prospective buyers, it may scare some away. They’ll have to either buy the home knowing the work wasn’t permitted and apply for the retroactive permit themselves or negotiate for you to do that in the sales agreement prior to closing; either way, it’s a hassle on their end. 

  • Insurance Problems: Insuring your home is vital and, in nearly all cases, easy to do. That is if the home is up to code. Insurance companies are in the business of covering homes that were properly and legally constructed. If you’ve got unpermitted work in your home, you’ll struggle to find coverage. 

Even if you’re able to gain coverage without the insurance company knowing there’s unpermitted work, you’re in trouble if the time comes when you need to make a claim. Once a representative is sent out to assess the damage, they’ll uncover the unpermitted work fairly fast, and you’ll be left to pay the damages. 

  • Faulty Results: We touched on this a little before, but it’s worth detailing! A major risk homeowners face with unpermitted work is a poorly completed project. The permitting process allows the city to help identify faults in your plans you may not see yourself, whether that be structural issues, safety concerns, or the like. Without that safety net of a second pair of eyes, you can end up with a real mess on your hands. 

Homeowners shouldn’t risk ending up with bad results over something as silly as unpermitted work. In the end, the time and money invested in the permit will ensure the work lives up to the overall monetary investment. 

The Process to Remodel a Bathroom – 10 Steps for Look For

There are a lot of components to a bathroom remodel, which can be tough to keep track of when you start exploring the project. That said, when you have a birds-eye view of what goes into the remodeling, it can make the planning process much easier. Take a look at the basic list below for a snapshot of what you’re in for. 

  • Demo and cleanup work of old materials.
  • Electrical, plumbing, and mechanical work.
  • New fixtures, faucets, toilet, vanity, cabinetry, etc.
  • Basic interior finishing materials (drywall, millwork, paint, etc).
  • New tilework and grout in the shower area.
  • New flooring and flooring materials. 
  • Baseboards and trim.

If you’re taking on a full bathroom remodel, it’s likely that all of the elements above will be included in your project. If the scope of your project only involves the aesthetic side of things, much of it will be omitted. Still, knowing what needs to be done and the sequence of how to do it are two different things. Let’s review the key parts of the bathroom remodel process so there are no surprises!  

  1. Planning: Never underestimate the power of planning. The process needs to start with a solid plan for the result to be exactly as expected. Decide on all your wants and needs during this part of the process. 
  2. Hiring: Next, you need to select a contractor. Take your time on this step, giving yourself an opportunity to fully vet prospective companies. An inexperienced contractor will, without a doubt, lead to shoddy work. 
  3. Permitting: Onto the process we’ve been discussing this entire time, obtaining your permitting. If you choose to hire a contractor, they’ll take care of this part for you. If not, refer to the “How to Apply For Permits” section above. 
  4. Demolition: On day one, your contractor and their team will arrive ready to gut the bathroom from head to toe. They’ll remove all the old materials and refinish certain surfaces to prepare for the work ahead. 
  5. Plumbing: During this phase, you’ll see things like a new shower pan being installed and possibly rerouting of plumbing pipes if you’ve chosen to redesign the bathroom layout. 
  6. Electrical: Now, your team can move onto the electrical phase, relocating outlets for appliances and fixtures. They may also need to switch out or add in more circuits and rewire or move vent systems.
  7. Mechanical: All the mechanical work is next, for instance, installing a new exhaust fan. Projects like this need careful attention, as in states like California, these additions must be Energy Star Compliant.
  8. First Inspection: At this point, your project will require its first inspection to review all mechanical, electrical, and plumbing. Only after passing this inspection can your project proceed with further renovations. 
  9. Shower Inspection: There’s an additional inspection required here for the shower. Entities will ensure that the installation of the shower pan is waterproofed and properly intact. 
  10. Drywall: When the “guts” of the work are done, you’ll start seeing drywall go up. Depending on the work left to do, you may even see your paint being put on the walls at this point. 
  11. Second Inspection: Things have really come together at this point, but again, before proceeding, your project will undergo its second inspection. Here, the nailing (drywall and tile lath) will be carefully inspected.
  12. Flooring and Tile: Flooring is next up after the walls, accompanied by the baseboards, of course. Any tilework present in shower areas or backsplash accents is now able to be installed. 
  13. Fixtures: Finally, the moment you’ve been waiting for! All the fixtures you’ve picked out will now be put into place. This includes everything from bigger items like vanities and tubs to smaller details like towel hooks and cabinet pulls. 
  14.  Final Inspection: At this point, everything is in its rightful place, and you’ve got the bathroom of your dreams in front of you. Not so fast, though! All work needs to be inspected by the proper entities where the permits were issued before you can truly consider this process complete. 


Remodeling your bathroom gives you the unique opportunity to create a space that fits your family’s specific needs. From an array of designs to finishes and luxury additions, there are endless possibilities. The fact is though, not every contractor knows the ins and outs of a remodel, and you need someone you can trust with a project of this size.

That’s where Structura Remodeling comes in! Ready to get started on your bathroom remodel in Los Angeles? We’re ready to assist! Get a FREE bathroom remodel consultation in the Los Angeles area! Call Structura Remodeling at 1-800-922-4613 or schedule a free consultation here:

*Serving Los Angeles County and surrounding areas*


How long does it take to get a permit, and how long will the permit last?

As mentioned above, some homeowners really hate the waiting process of securing the proper permitting. Unfortunately, the wait time will vary from state to state and city to city. You can count on it taking at least a few days, sometimes weeks, depending on the type of permit and hope backed up your local office is. 

As far as how long they last, the work usually needs to begin within six months of the date the permit was issued to remain active. After the work begins, your permit should be good for up to a year so long as there is continuous work occurring on the project. 

What if an honest mistake was made and I did not get a permit for my bathroom remodel?

If you’ve chosen to go the DIY route and weren’t aware that permitting was required to do certain aspects of your project, you’re not alone. While some permitting infractions may be harder to reconcile than others, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. You can actually get a permit issued to you after the remodeling work is completed if you forgot it on the front end. 

You’ll want to contact your local entities first and explain your situation. Your city will be able to direct you to the proper paperwork in order to file what’s called a retroactive permit. This permit can be issued once the initial paperwork and designs are approved by the city, and then you can go through inspections and other city requirements as needed to eventually close the permit. 

Can I finance my bathroom remodel?

Oftentimes, permits are avoided due to cost, so it’s natural for homeowners to wonder how they’re going to fund their entire remodel, much less the permitting. Luckily, financing doesn’t have to be a deterrent for your remodel, there are enough financing options available if cash isn’t an option. 

HELOCs, or home equity lines of credit, are a financing favorite for home remodels as they offer lower interest rates without closing costs. You could also utilize a renovation loan which is helpful for those who may have a lower credit score or need to apply for a smaller down payment. 

In some states, there are government programs and grants that may apply to your particular situation. They’re often harder to obtain but absolutely worth it if you can meet all of their requirements. 

What’s the average cost to remodel a bathroom?

Well, that’s a bit of a loaded question. The cost of a bathroom remodel hinges on the size and finish level, which means the costs will widely vary. Most homeowners find it easiest to base costs on their bathroom size; with that in mind, there are some general figures below that you can follow to get an idea of where your project may fall monetarily. 

Half baths, meaning 1 to 2 fixtures, toilet, sink, and vanity, run between $8,000 to $10,000. Full bathrooms, meaning 3 to 4 fixtures, toilet sink, small to midsize vanity, and a shower or tub run between $25000 to $30,000. Last, a primary bathroom, meaning 4 to 5 fixtures, toilet, dual sinks, dual vanities, tub and/or walk-in shower, will average between $50,000 to $80,000.