Question: My husband and I are fixing up our house this winter. He thinks he will be able to handle most of the work, by himself (he is not a contractor). How do we know what work will require a building permit?

Answer: You may want to start off by telling him that all large at home repairs require a building permit. As a matter in fact, the Massachusetts Building Code deals with much of the heavier construction work.

The Massachusetts Building Code, in specific, also requires building permits be acquired to “construct, re-construct, repair, alter, remove, or demolish a structure or building; or to change the use or occupancy of a structure or building; or to install or alter any equipment for which specification is made or the installation of which is managed by the Massachusetts State Building Code.”

On the other hand, the code does not require a permit for “maintenance in which does not affect the structure of the building, egress, fire ratings, fire protection systems, energy conservation provisions, sanitary, plumbing, electrical, gas, or other utilities.” Feel free to do construction work in your household by tiling, painting, landscaping, building a relatively small shed that is one floor, working on your gutters, fixing up your driveway, building a small retaining wall, or even constructing a fence that is under 6 feet tall. All of these building activities will not require you to have a building permit.

The code allows individual municipalities to enact stricter codes, so be sure to first check with your city or town building department. Of course, use your head when it comes to repairs which could negatively impact the safety of your home for years to come. The building department exists to oversee projects for compliance with the code, essentially for safety’s sake.

Do you have other questions about real estate law? Contact Priority Law to schedule an appointment.

This article originally appeared in the Lowell Sun.