Well, actually, we do. Quite a few of them. The post below is a sort of primer for an Oklahoma City remodel permit process. I'm not always an expert at brevity, so please forgive me.
Home construction and remodeling is generally a well-regulated industry in cities. Unincorporated areas of counties can be a free-for-all, but generally most incorporated areas contain a variety of requirements and guidelines for all types of home issues.
When we started, we thought we generally knew the process and what would and wouldn't require permits. I emailed a past co-worker at the City to confirm that I did NOT need a Building Permit. The way we understand it, a Building Permit is only required when it's New Construction or if the remodel modifies or adds structural elements. Structural is the key word. Had we removed or added a load-bearing wall, we would have needed a permit. From our own analysis and evaluation of the house, we knew that what we were doing was not structural in nature. A Building Permit may also be required if the building roof is being replaced and it requires the deck to be replaced. We did not remove or replace our roof deck, so no permit was necessary for that work.
NOTE: The State of Oklahoma does NOT license general contractors; therefore, a Building Permit can be pulled by anyone. The City of Oklahoma City has a few guidelines about applying for that permit here: http://www.okc.gov/devservices/buildpermits/ To be safe, always bring a professional in to evaluate your home (be it a Professional Engineer and/or a framing contractor). And, if you use a framing contractor, get references, insurance and bonding information, and check their history. Since they are NOT regulated by the State, they don't all play by the same game.
Even though we didn't need a Building Permit, we knew we needed Electric, Plumbing and Mechanical permits. This is where things get dicey. In some cities, some work may be done by a homeowner and inspected by the City. Therefore, people can cut down on cost and still have the satisfaction of knowing that a professional reviewed and signed off on the work. The City of Oklahoma City, however, does NOT offer this and requires ALL work to be completed by a licensed professional. Only a licensed Plumbing, Mechanical or Electrical Contractor (note the word) can file for a permit. The Contractor will have Apprentices and Journeymen that may do most work, but only the Contractor can officially file for the permit.
Once a permit is applied for and initial plan review is done and approved, the permit is considered Issued. That means the Contractor can legally start work (doesn't mean most Contractors may get a small head start before full issuance... gasp!). After they get initial work done, they call for Rough inspections and then Final inspections. Rough inspections happen before walls are closed up, electric is actually on and the water meter is set (in our case, we have a water meter in place, but we've turned the water off at the street for safety). After Rough inspections are passed, we're free to drywall and finish up the house. Final inspections are done after the house is drywalled and lights, switches, sockets and plumbing fixtures are installed. In New Construction, the Finals would hopefully result in a Certificate of Occupancy. For a Remodel, at least without a Building Permit required, that's not the case.
Some special items require special permits and inspections - we didn't even know about these until far into the process. For instance, any time a gas service connection is reset or installed by ONG, the Plumber has to file for a Gas Meter Reset permit. If the gas lines internally are being replaced or extended, the Plumber also has to file for a Gas Extension permit. Both permits require pressure testing of the gas lines to ensure that they will not leak. In our case, the Plumber thought he only needed the Meter Reset permit, but the inspector rejected it and said he also needed a Gas Extension permit. Additionally, the plumbing inspector noted that the furnace needed inspection and permitting before he'd allow gas to be turned on. AND, he said that the City wouldn't allow this to go to ONG for new gas service until the water heater was removed because it was unsafe (which we knew, and hadn't gotten around to yet).
Another special item permit is called Construction Heat. The permit allows the furnace and mechanical system to be operated at a minimum level to keep the construction site at a reasonably comfortable temperature for the workers inside. Our Mechanical contractor applied for this permit, but the inspector rejected it saying he need a Rough Inspection first (which the City office had said he didn't need when he originally applied for the Construction Heat permit).
One interesting thing I learned this week - Electricians are required to include bathroom vent fans in their plans, but they are not required (or even allowed, maybe) to run the actual vent ducts. The Mechanical contractor, however, is required to run bathroom vent ducts, but does not install the fan. Therefore, if you ever want to legally install a new bathroom vent, you'll technically need two licensed contractors and two City permits.
We are still going through the process; Mechanical Rough and Construction Heat were both PASSED today. Next up is a re-inspection for the Gas permits, and hopefully that passes so we can get ONG in and turn the heat on before we drywall. The Electric Rough inspection should be done soon (the optimist in me hopes for Friday of this week), and then it's on to more Plumbing needs and then working towards the Final inspections.