Do You Need a Permit to Finish a Basement in Michigan


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Michigan requires a permit for basement finishes that involve cutting into walls and structural beams, alterations to points of egress, and moving or installing new electrical and plumbing systems.

Although building permits can seem like a hassle, they are vital to following the law and ensuring your home is safe for its residents and guests. If you are looking to finish a basement in Michigan, a permit could be required. 

It is always better to check if a permit is required rather than making the assumption that it is not. I have written an article on What Happens if I Finish My Basement Without a Permit, which proves it’s better to ask permission than forgiveness in this case! Now, let’s look a Michigan’s approach to building permits for finishing a basement.

When Michigan Requires Permit for Basement Finishes

As far as general repairs and aesthetic refinishes go, Michigan does not require a permit, whether they are in the basement or not.

If walls or structural beams are being cut into, points of egress being altered in some way, or if any sort of replacement or relocation of devices that could be a threat to general safety is being done (e.g., standpipe relocation), a permit is required.

Engineer working in structure at Construction Site

If you finish your basement without a permit when you actually did need one, you may be subject to heavy fines, safety issues, insurance issues, and more.

However, I do want to say that the more extreme repercussions are also the most rarely implemented. For the most part, you will just be required to apply for a retroactive permit, pay the fee, and submit to an inspection.

Permit Application and Expiration

If your basement project falls under the actions above and you are based in Michigan, you must apply for a building permit before construction can begin. 

The building permit is a relatively simple, 3-paged document linked here

As far as the expiration of a permit, it is open as long as work is being done on your project and the required inspections are requested and carried out. 

When work is not done within 180 days after the issuance of the permit, the permit becomes invalid and expires.

This also applies to situations where the work has started but then halts for 180 days. After the 180 days of lack of progress, the permit expires.

Be mindful of these deadlines, since a closed permit costs $100 to reopen, and expired permits are non-refundable. 

Cost of a Building Permit in Michigan

To calculate the cost of your specific building permit, you must first estimate the total cost of your improvement project. Once this cost is found, you can calculate the fee for your building permit.

Total Cost of ImprovementBuilding Permit Fee
<$1,000$75.00
$1,000 – $10,000$75.00 + $10 per $1,000 over $1,000
$10,001 – $100,000$165.00 + $3 per $1,000 over $10,000
$100,001 – $500,000$435.00 + $2 per $1,000 over $100,000
$500,000+$1,235.00 + $3 per $1,000 over $500,000

Supporting Permit Application Documents/Information

In addition to your permit, construction documents must be sent as well. 

These construction documents must be signed and sealed by a professional engineer or architect unless you fall under the specifications for which the seal and signature are not required. These specifications are a one or two-family home with less than 3500 square feet of floor area where construction costs would be less than $15,000. 

Construction drawings and floor plans are also important to send with your permit application. 

How to Submit a Permit Application

Who Should Apply?

This might vary by your location or the opinions of the contractors you are working with.

Some contractors will prefer to do it themselves while others may leave it up to you.

As far as location goes, let’s take two cities in Michigan, Novi and Muskegon, and their differences in procedure.

In Novi, in order for the contractor to submit the permit application, they must be registered with the City of Novi. The homeowner may also submit the permit application, but must also sign a “Homeowner Form.”

In Muskegon, it is highly suggested that the contractor applies for the permits, rather than the homeowner. 

Where Does the Application Go?

The application should be sent as a paper copy (it must be printed even though the application is in a digital format) to the Bureau of Construction Codes/Building and Permits Division P.O. Box 30255, Lansing, MI 48909. This is the address on the application document. 

Composition of white printer and black computer in modern office

When Will I Find out if My Permit Is Approved?

You will be notified of an approved building permit through the mail. The permit is issued within a 10 working day period after the appropriate documents and fees have been received. 

If your permit is denied, your application will be sent back to you through the mail with a denial stamp and reason for denial. 

Sources

https://www.michigan.gov/lara/0,4601,7-154-89334_10575_17394_81069-428633–,00.html

https://www.muskegon-mi.gov/cresources/Building-Guide-Basement-Finish-Muskegon.pdf

https://cityofnovi.org/services/community-development/information-requirements-sheets,-checklists,-manua/bldg-finishedbasementreqirements.aspx

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