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Things I Learned From Getting a Building Permit

Recently, I obtained a building permit for a remodel. The reputation of this building department was quite negative, and I had heard stories of people taking years to get permits to build their houses. I was doing a remodel, not a new building, but I wondered if I could even get a building permit by myself.

We decided to try it anyway. I had contacted architects and builders and no one got back with me, and I don’t think they wanted to work on this project. I love the house because my grandpa built it, but it is unique.

So for months, I researched and worked and I came up with my own building plans.

We submitted the plans and I did not expect them to be approved. There were a few different departments who had to review plans. I got one rejection for my site plan, and I immediately called the department and talked to him about a few things and get on the same page.

A while later, I got another rejection. I again picked up my phone and called the health department about my septic system. I gathered up some information and emailed that out.

Then one morning, I got an email. Everything else was approved. I literally did not believe it when I saw that email. I was sure that they would be rejected. I had worked on it for so long, but there things that I was guessing at. And they just approved it.

I resubmitted a site plan. I wasn’t sure they were going to approve the new one, but then they did. The person reviewing the plan called to make sure that I was planning on working on this for 18 months. Yes, the July 2021 date was correct.

After paying my fees, I have a building permit. I am grateful for my sister, Liz, who did a grading plan for us. Besides that, I did it all.

And now, things I’ve learned:

  • Be honest. I tried to be as honest and open about everything about my house. It was tempting at times to try to hide something or stretch the truth, but it was so much easier to be honest. And it worked.
  • Follow the rules. I could have tried to remodel without a building permit, but that wouldn’t have been legal. I tried to do what the county wanted me to do and follow the rules they had to the best of my ability. I looked up building codes and laws and tried my best to follow it all.
  • Being honest and following the rules brings inner peace. I feel at peace with myself and the plans and the project. I have nothing to hide and I have nothing to be ashamed of.
  • Stick yourself out there. I wanted to hide because I didn’t always know what I’m doing, but I didn’t hide. I submitted things. It was scary, but it was okay.
  • Work with people and they will work with you. I think because I called and talked to people on the phone, they actually helped me out and approved things when it wasn’t technically perfect. I would explain my project honestly and what we were planning and doing and then it felt like we were on the same team instead of working against each other.
  • Ask questions when you need to and admit when you don’t know something.
  • You can do more than you think you can. I didn’t think I could do this in the beginning. I did it because I didn’t really have a choice–I wanted to remodel this house and no one would work for me so I had to come up with plans by myself. And I did it.
  • Building isn’t very complicated. Building basic buildings and remodeling does not require you to be an architect or an engineer or have twenty years of experience.
  • You can learn to do just about anything on the internet.

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Loosing and Finding Home


I moved when I was five years old, and then I lived in the same house until I was twenty. I had the same bedroom for over a decade. Home was very much a specific place that I could rely on.

And then I moved out and I moved again and again and again.

We haven’t ever found a singular place to call home. The house I have lived in for the majority of my life still sort of feels like home in a way, but I’m now a visitor there.

For a while, my husband and I wanted to find someplace to call home. With all our moves, we knew that we hadn’t landed yet. We hadn’t found a place where we could settle down and live for years on end without thinking about moving again.

But more than that, I wanted a feeling of home. I wanted that place that was constant and unchanging. A place that felt reliable. A place that was always there. A place that felt more familiar than anything in the world.

I wanted a place where I could always feel like myself. A place I never had to pretend in. Somewhere where it was safe to laugh and safe to cry. Somewhere that would always forgive. A foundation to my life that never shifted.

Going home when I was a child was safety and peace. I was taken care of at home. I didn’t want anything more or less. I was happy.

I wanted that feeling again.

And after years of being an adult, I have realized that that feeling of home only exists when you are a child. Nowhere will ever feel like home quite like it did when you were young.

Because part of home was the fact that I had a mother and a father to take care of me and to take care of the house. Now I’m in charge.

So I’m worried about housing markets, interest rates, insurance, and bills. I’m worried about paint colors and furnishings. I’m worried about what’s for dinner and what I need to clean up next. I can’t ever sit and be completely still in my house again. Home is a feeling that doesn’t contain worry.

I can’t ever be completely at home because I am the one making the home. I am the one providing safety and peace. And while I can enjoy it in some ways, it will never be the same.

But that isn’t a bad thing. I am so grateful that I got that feeling of home when I was younger, because some people never have it in their lives.

And I know that my kids can feel how I did. That makes me happy–a different sort of happiness.

Home is different now. But different isn’t bad.

And I know that when this life ends, I’ll be able to find that feeling of home again, just like I felt as a child. Because I think that what I was feeling when I was kid–that feeling of safety and security and love–that was heaven.