How to identify do-it-yourselfer construction and/ or unpermitted projects


While most homes are constructed in regions where it is almost impossible to build a home without a building permit, in some instances do-it-yourselfers find a way to slip through the cracks.

Before we dive into this article it is very important to understand the design and building process and the necessary steps required in order to ensure proper building practices and a safe and sound structure.

1/ Design– Every home must have an architect or draftsperson design the home using the most up to date design practices and building codes. This design will be incorporated onto a site plan or plat provided by the local government or survey provided by a licensed professional Surveyor.

2/ Engineering– The designer must then have the design reviewed by the appropriate professional engineers (structural, mechanical and electrical) and certify that the design meets the most current engineering requirements outlined by the State or Federal authority.

3/ Permitting– The certified construction drawings must then be submitted to the local Building Department for review and issuance of a building permit.

4/ Construction– Following the issuance of the building permit, construction may commence with building inspections being performed by a County or local building official at the following stages of construction.

  • Excavation inspection prior to installation of footing construction.
  • Foundation inspection prior to covering below ground utilities.
  • Framing, Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing inspection prior to installation of drywall on the interior.
  • Final inspection and Certificate of Occupancy (CO)

If any of these steps are missed or ignored the end result is a compromised and possibly unsafe structure and/ or house as a system. If you encounter 1 or more of the following major concerns detailed below there is a definite possibility that the Seller has not followed the process detailed above.

All of the major concerns listed below were found in a single family home built in 2005 and are all indications of a do-it-yourselfer project with very little building experience and would not pass a local authority building inspection.

Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency is critical with the home as a system, it is very important proper methods are used and steps are not overlooked throughout the construction process. The items listed below are major concerns that will effect the energy efficiency of the home tremendously. No insulation below the home may be an indicator that the DIYer also may have overlooked wall insulation, interior vapor barrier, and exterior house wrap, all things critically important in the house system.

Structural (Roof System)

Typical roof truss design and elements-

As seen above truss webbing must transfer roof load directly on top of truss bottom cord, and thus the top chord must transfer roof load directly on top of the truss webbing. Below is a DIY roof truss, red arrows show truss webbing at the side of the top and bottom chords which are transferring the roof load to single nail through the side of the truss web.

Structural (Floor System)

Floor systems consist of floor joists supported by beams, and beams which are supported by columns or piers, which are supported by a foundation. Any number of methods can be used to construct a floor system however, it is fundamental that the above basic principles are followed. Below are a couple examples of a floor system that has not been engineered or built correctly and will result in the inevitable failure of the floor system.


S&!t goes down hill, get paid on Friday is the term used when defining a Plumber. Residential plumbing is not very sophisticated however, if the installer does not obey the laws of gravity and path of least resistance there will most certainly be problems. Below are a few examples of plumbing concerns found at this house of horrors.


Electrical wiring for the most part is pretty basic, understanding wire sizes and their respective amperages vs amperage requirements for major appliances are among the most overlooked items a Myrtle Beach Home Inspector will find during the electrical inspection. There are many safety measures that need to be observed when installing certain electrical points ie. GFCI outlets must be installed in all wet or exterior locations and all electrical fixtures must have a power control device or disconnect. Below are a few examples of what a DIYer will likely overlook during the installation of the electrical system.

Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning

HVAC design is all about static pressure balance, air exchanges and routine maintenance. Proper design, testing and balancing are vital to the overall performance of the HVAC system and maintenance of course will determine the lifespan. However, in a case like this the DIYer did not consult an engineer for the design, was unable to perform any type of testing and balancing which makes the system completely ineffective, factor in the underlying insulation issues in the home, this home is one problem on top of another.

If you factor in that all the patent defects are not only lacking design, proper installation and building code violations, they are also lacking common sense in which case it needs to be assumed that there are potentially many latent defects that cannot be seen by the myrtle beach home inspector. In any scenario like this the potential buyer will almost always ask how much it would cost to repair these items, at which point we will always explain that they should not be concerned about the cost of repairs, they should be concerned with the latent defects, inconvenience of repairs and resale potential of the home, and in other words why they should “RUN”.

We hope you enjoyed this article.


This experience was created by;

Darren Dawson- Certified Master Inspector

Myrtle Beach, SC

(352) 665- 9900

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