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Old 10-01-2015, 05:37 PM
1,339 posts, read 2,969,595 times
Reputation: 2220



I am planning on finishing my basement (framing, electrical as well as plumbing work) and I asked my handyman if he can do it. He said that since I plan to apply for permits, he cannot work because he's not a licensed plumber or an electrician. I thanked him for his honesty and started getting quotes from licensed general contractors.

Now, my neighbor is also finishing the basement, and when I told him what my handyman had said, he said that was wrong. What my neighbor is doing is that he (neighbor himself) applied for the permits without mentioning who the contractor is. In reality, my neighbor and his friend are finishing the basement even though they are not licensed at all. He said that they are doing all the work as per the building code and standards. And when the permit inspector comes for checking, he/she is not going to ask whether it was done by a licensed individual. Their job is to make sure the work is as per the code, and if it isn't provide what needs to be fixed. And then my neighbor and in friend will fix it.

Is he correct? And is that legal what he's doing? Are there any gotchas in here? The reason I ask is because I'd like my handyman to finish my basement... ...not because he would charge less, but because he's worked for me for over 10 years so I know his work quality.

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Old 10-02-2015, 07:07 AM
Location: Savannah, GA
650 posts, read 411,432 times
Reputation: 517
Thought about going the same route in the past myself and based on what I had heard from friends who did the same, as well as having had read up some on this topic, it seems perfectly legit to do all of the work by yourself or with a handyman, licensed or not, as long as the proper permits are in place and the work is inspected at the required stages. That is my understanding. Look at the county regulations for your area.
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Old 10-02-2015, 12:42 PM
10,606 posts, read 12,138,982 times
Reputation: 6500
My husband is a licensed electrician (commercial) but did finish the based on his own. Many people I know did their own basements. You don't need a license in any of the trades; you just need to follow the code and get inspected during each step of the way to make sure you are up to code.
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Old 10-02-2015, 01:58 PM
2,675 posts, read 4,537,581 times
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I wonder if your county (or the state) makes a distinction between homeowners doing the work themselves, and someone getting paid by others to do it. I believe the govt requires people in the business (or someone in the company, in the case of contractors) to hold a license to do certain types of work, in order to protect the safety, etc., of the public. Also, if a contracting business doesn't have a contractor's license, s/he can't put a lien on your house for payment, for example. But you don't have to have a license to do work on your own house.
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Old 10-02-2015, 02:10 PM
Location: State of Waiting
607 posts, read 762,979 times
Reputation: 1392
Default You want the work permitted and inspected

It will be noted in the tax records, and you can run into issues when/if you want to sell your house later. The buyers will ask about permits, etc., and you want to have them to show!

Each county is different (I think) - we lived in Prince William and you were not permitted to finish a basement that had no egress to the outside - fire safety code. Fortunately, we had a walk out basement so there was no problem.

I would not fool around with it - get licensed contractor to bid on the work.
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Old 10-02-2015, 03:34 PM
Location: Arlington, VA
349 posts, read 1,293,184 times
Reputation: 217
Most places you can do plumbing or electrical on your own house according to code without a license, but need a license to do it on others homes. That's why your handyman can't do electrical or plumbing. You could have him do all the other work (i.e. framing, drywall, finishing, etc.), and hire a licensed electrician and plumber to do their specific trades.
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Old 10-02-2015, 05:25 PM
4,044 posts, read 4,854,880 times
Reputation: 10640
My contractor had to get a plumber in to do some work on my kitchen remodel since he didn't have a plumber's trade card. He's perfectly capable of doing it, but I wanted the kitchen permitted since I've changed things up quite a bit from similar houses in my neighborhood, and b/c of the permits, my contractor had to get a licensed plumber in. Technically, since I wasn't changing the number of sinks or drains, I didn't really need the plumbing permit, but I didn't want to hurt a future sale.
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Old 10-05-2015, 07:42 AM
170 posts, read 146,108 times
Reputation: 275
Why not just call the local government for the jurisdiction you live in?
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Old 10-05-2015, 08:12 AM
2,563 posts, read 2,791,070 times
Reputation: 3479
One time I finished a basement and did all the work myself, including the electrical. I probably should have had the electrical inspected, but I didn't. I think that's all you usually have to do, though. Make sure the work is up to code and have it inspected.
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Old 10-07-2015, 04:19 AM
1,339 posts, read 2,969,595 times
Reputation: 2220
OP here. Thank you everyone for your replies. I called Fairfax County Govt and they confirmed that I can also get my work done by my handyman (unlicensed contractor) so long as the work is up to the building code and standards. The permit would have my name as the contractor since I was the one putting together a team.

Any legal implications for this in the future when I sell my house?

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