what to expect with after-the-fact bathroom remodel

marymason2September 11, 2013

We remodeled an existing bathroom, keeping the overall footprint the same. But we did move and replace all fixtures and a window. We did not pull permits, but we want to now. What can we expect in terms of what the inspector will want/need to uncover to do his/her inspection?

We have a tiled shower/tub combo, tiled floor, tiled sink wall. Can the bathroom be inspected without ripping out tile?

Some electrical work was done, but we did have the whole house rewired (with permit) before the bathroom was done.

We used a licensed contractor, and we believe everything is up to code. I do not want the contractor to get in trouble. If we proceed with after-the-fact permits, is it possible the city could force us to rat him out?

The houses in our area have a limited set of models, and my understanding is that the inspector knows the neighborhood pretty well. He will notice that things were moved around, so for that reason (and I really don't want to lie), it's not feasible to hope he won't notice.

We would like to do more remodeling with permits and want to get this sorted before we proceed. Don't want to get in a situation where we do more and more stuff without permits because we are afraid they will rip apart our bathroom and it will cost thousands to put right again.


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This is in Southern California, by the way.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2013 at 2:00PM
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No way to know without going to the department and asking. Every place is different.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2013 at 2:04PM
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Inspections have steps, some of which require open walls. Do you have pictures of the plumbing and electrical work behind the walls that you can show them? If not, now isn't really the time to find out they need to see in the walls. I'd leave it be, but do it properly onward.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2013 at 2:15PM
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Thanks for the responses. My concern is that the bathroom remodel will be discovered when the inspector comes for any future projects. As I said, the houses in my neighborhood are pretty cookie cutter and many are identical. The new layout will be noticed as the inspector walks past the bathroom to inspect any newly-permitted work.

I don't have pictures.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2013 at 2:45PM
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As long as your permit covers work in progress, not likely to be an issue.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2013 at 2:51PM
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Sophie Wheeler

There is no way to know what can happen. Different inspectors in different offices have different tolerances for those who haven't complied. If they've had a bad day---or a good day----or the previous person was a jerk....there's no telling.

Your best bet is to be as nice as you can, and try to make up for all of the a-hole builders that they deal with. "I'm sorry, I didn't know, but now I want to make it right. Help me figure out how to do that. What is your suggestion here?" Respect and being humble go a long way towards gaining good will.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2013 at 8:20PM
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Adding to that, I agree about being nice, offer a cup of coffee, etc. but certainly don't bring up the bathroom unless it were to become an issue for them. If you were to mention it, you've put them in a bad position needlessly. Better they don't know to begin with (even if they do notice and say nothing). And if it were to come up, such as "nice bathroom, when did you get that", don't spill the beans unless you must. Just be pleasant.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2013 at 8:45PM
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I'd just keep the bathroom door closed whenever inspector
shows for the rest of the remodel.

more to the point...why were permits not pulled in
the first place for the bathroom remodel??

best of luck.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2013 at 10:21PM
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I agree with Energy Rater LA. Keep the bathroom door closed. Some people do this all the time anyway. Draw permits on any work in the future. If the bathroom remodel is discovered and the inspector insists on inspecting it at that time, fine. Respectfully do whatever you need to do at that time. If you need to pay a fine, pay; tear out work, do it.

The difference between coming clean now and going in to the building department, admitting the error, and doing whatever they demand now and what I suggest above is:
1. Inspector may not see or care about the bathroom when in to inspect future work. In that case, you saved the trouble and cost of fessing up on your own.
2. If you have to tear the bathroom out in either instance, at least you are doing it later if you don't fess up. You got more "use" out of your materials and you get to replace those materials with ones that are more modern and in the "style" of at least a few years later if you wait for the inspector to find it.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2013 at 1:47PM
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