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Do You Need a Permit to Finish a Basement in Maryland

If you’re reading through this post, it means you have finally taken the plunge and decided to tackle the task of finishing your basement. Your mind is filled with paint ideas, plumbers’ contact details, and the increasing budget. However, you cannot forget the important step of seeing if you need to apply for a permit in order to start construction because there are some severe potential repercussions attached to unpermitted work.

Each municipality within the state of Maryland has its own requirements and regulations when it comes to permits, so be sure to check out your government website to see if you will need a permit or not and what their process is. However, you don’t have to fret; the application processes for finished basements are similar across the country, not just in Maryland.

Permits are required for finishing a basement in Maryland. This is to ensure the work is done according to the safety ideals set out in the building and residential codes. Permit application processes may differ according to municipality. Permits can cost up to ±$400.

Yes, a Permit Is Required in Maryland

It might not be what you wanted to hear (you probably wanted to skip the admin work and get right into the construction) but you are required to obtain a permit in Maryland in order to finish your basement. To be fair, Maryland officials are not being difficult; most states require permits for finishing a basement.

Reasons Why the Permit Is Necessary

Permits are not just there to give you extra work and make you fill in paperwork for the government’s satisfaction; they are actually extremely important in a construction project.

Usually, if you are making minor alterations such as adding a fresh coat of paint or finishing the floors you probably won’t need a permit as these tasks pose very little risk to health and safety.

However, construction that comes with finishing a basement, such as any structural alterations (e.g., adding or moving walls), electrical and plumbing additions, or the addition of egress points must be regulated for health and safety reasons.

Incorrect or faulty wiring could create potential electrical fires, and the removal of certain windows or faulty plumbing could prove hazardous to one’s health.

And when it comes to adding or removing walls, well, the last thing you need is for your new dividing wall in your basement to come crashing down or half of your house sinking into the ground because you removed a supporting wall!

Engineer pleading ignorance or a crack in a wall behind him raising his hands to show he doesn't know what happened

The process of obtaining a permit allows government officials to evaluate whether your construction will be up to local health and safety regulations as well as laws and building codes. This is a vital step in ensuring your basement will be a safe space for you to enjoy.

Do I Have to Pay for a Permit?

You will need to budget for all the permits necessary to start your construction.

Firstly, you can expect to pay about $85 for a general permit that will allow you to begin construction to finish your basement, as well as an additional $60-$85 for your electrical permit, which will allow you to conduct any electrical alterations.

If you are going to be installing or adjusting your HVAC system, you will need another permit which will cost you another $60.

For any plumbing work you plan on doing to your basement, you should also budget around $90 for a permit.

You Need to Submit Your Plans With the Application

In order for the county officials to truly evaluate whether your potential construction project will be up to all codes and regulations, you will need to submit specific plans along with your various permit applications.

You will be required to submit two extremely detailed and clearly legible construction drawings, drawn to scale and which include the following components:

  • Detailed floor plan of the basement.
  • Accurate measurements of the total square footage of the basement.
  • Locations and measurements of windows and doors.
  • Locations of necessary egress points.
  • The height of the basement ceiling once construction has been completed.

The officials will analyze the drawings and their various components in order to make a decision on whether to grant you your permits or not. If your plans are done to code, you are a-for-away!

How Long You Will Wait to Be Approved/Denied

After you have completed all of the necessary applications for your construction project, and submitted them along with your two drawing plans to the appropriate office, you can expect to wait anywhere from 10 to 21 days to receive feedback.

However, you may be lucky enough to get a same-day permit if the plans you have to finish your basement are small and deemed simple enough by the county’s official.

Nevertheless, you need to plan for the waiting time for permit approval in your construction process as you cannot start building until your permits get approved.

Now, if your web search was in the hopes that it is easier to ask forgiveness than permission, in other words, you have already finished your basement, then you should read through my post on retroactive basement-finishing permits and processes.


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