DIY Plumbing and Electrical in Massachusetts

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DIY Plumbing and Electrical in Massachusetts

Postby benM1 on Tue Aug 22, 2006 3:17 pm

Does anyone out there have real-world information on what you can and can't do yourself to your own home in Massachusetts? I believe you can
get a 'homeowner construction supervisor' permit for structural and finish work, and I have also heard that you can do most of your own wiring - but that you CAN'T EVEN LOOK AT A SUPPLY OR DWV LINE UNLESS YOU ARE A LICENSED CONTRACTOR...Is this really true? Is there a certain amount that a homeowner can do without getting in trouble? Can I run most of the pipes myself and have a plumber finish it? It seems like a scam that I would need to pay someone $100/hr to put in a basement sink in my own house, even if I know exactly how to do it...

Thanks,

Ben
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Postby Tujo on Tue Aug 22, 2006 3:27 pm

While there is no rule forbidding a homeowner to work on these items where I am, they can be subject to strict inspections and gruelling tests (like the DWV water test - ARG!).

Definitely check into it all before starting.
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Postby wrenchguy on Tue Aug 22, 2006 5:00 pm

my daughter and husband bought a 100 year old house in north plymouth, ma. and all they had to do is get the permits for roof resheeting/reshingle and a chimmney rebuild. we plan on gutting and replumbing /heating etc. i'm here helping out as i'm a carpenter contractor 35 years from indiana. tanks.
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Postby benM1 on Wed Aug 23, 2006 9:49 am

Ask the local building inspector about doing the plumbing yourself...I wouldn't be surprised if he says you need a journeyman plumber's license to touch any of the pipes...I've been told the license restirction has to do with Title V, which is MA's environmental/health septic systems nightmare law...

If you find out that you can indeed do your own plumbing, I would love to talk to your building inspector to find out how to get the permits myself.

Thanks,

Ben
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Postby Don M on Wed Aug 23, 2006 12:12 pm

I wired my whole house in MA (all electric) with the guidance of a local electrician. He pulled the permit, I did the work and tested all the circuits then he called the inspector; we passed the first time! It was obvious that I had done the work because it was much neater than a licensed electrician would have done. Don
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Postby benM1 on Thu Aug 24, 2006 11:04 am

That's excellent news - I wonder whether many local electricians would do something like that...Was he a personal friend? How much did you have to pay him for the permit? Was the permit in your name or his? Was he claiming to the inspector that he did the work?

Any answers would be greatly appreciated as I think I will probably try to do my own wiring considering that DIY plumbing looks out of the question here in MA...

Thanks,

Ben
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Postby Don M on Thu Aug 24, 2006 11:43 am

Hi Ben,
I did this in 1974 so things may have changed some since then. The electrician worked for the MA Dept of Corrections and "moon lighted" on the side. He didn't have time to physically do the work so said he would oversee my work if I was willing to do it. He pulled the permit but I don't know whose name it was in---it listed our property address. I'm sure he didn't claim the work as his; just that he had over seen my work and was satisfied that I had done it properly according to code. He was a family friend and my mother-in-law asked if he would help us. As I said this was an all electric house; you should have seen the fancy relay system he devised to allow one thermostat to control all 5 electric base board units in the living room! Don
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Postby Crash on Thu Aug 24, 2006 2:45 pm

Electricity's one thing, but on the other hand...

The large suburb of Raleigh, NC called "Cary" put a "Boiled water" only restriction in effect last weekend and basically shut down every resteraunt in town (estimates 4+M in lost revenue for one weekend). Everybody had to jump through hoops for water, especially hospitals.

So the pertinent thing is that they think the fecal bacteria problem entered the water via some unlicensed plumbing work at a residence.
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Postby vito1966 on Thu Aug 24, 2006 8:15 pm

so, I guess, your area should be obliverared?
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Re: DIY Plumbing and Electrical in Massachusetts

Postby cicliste on Wed Jan 31, 2018 3:58 pm

benM1 wrote:Does anyone out there have real-world information on what you can and can't do yourself to your own home in Massachusetts? I believe you can
get a 'homeowner construction supervisor' permit for structural and finish work, and I have also heard that you can do most of your own wiring - but that you CAN'T EVEN LOOK AT A SUPPLY OR DWV LINE UNLESS YOU ARE A LICENSED CONTRACTOR...Is this really true? Is there a certain amount that a homeowner can do without getting in trouble? Can I run most of the pipes myself and have a plumber finish it? It seems like a scam that I would need to pay someone $100/hr to put in a basement sink in my own house, even if I know exactly how to do it...

Thanks,

Ben



You can certainly do electrical. I rewired an 1895 house from stem to stern a few years ago. The inspections are very very tough and the wiring inspector assumes that you know nothing. I had to pay a reinspection fee because I muffed a couple of subtle code issues in the kitchen, but then it passed.

(Side note: it's really good to do this once in your life, because it makes it easy to spot when pro electricians make mistakes. I hired one a few weeks ago and I ever would have spotted his boo-boos unless I'd done some wiring.)

As far as plumbing, in theory this is absolutely forbidden and you can be slapped with a $2500 fine. But it really depends on your relationship with the inspectors. Once you've won the trust of the local building department, they might allow it. I learned to to do PEX (a monkey could, at least working methodically) and do pretty nice work on pvc drainpipes etc. So, I have done a few things. For example I did all the plumbing out the my garage, and I installed a utility sink in the basement from scratch. I spent hours and hours making 100 percent sure I understood the applicable codes. When I was done, I just called the plumbing inspector, apologized for doing the work myself but asked if he would come take a look to make sure I did them properly. He did, and it was a tough inspection but everything passed.

Remember that the plumbing inspector has the right to withhold approval for something as simple as not liking your workmanship -- so it has to be very very tight. Put in lots of cleanouts and pipe hangers, and make sure that the purple primer is easy to see. Do a tidy job -- it takes a lot longer but just do it!

He even let me get away with one slightly non-Code thing: the utility sink went in on the opposite side of my basement from where a horizontal vent pipe that I needed to tap into -- about 5'-6" off the ground -- was. To allow headroom under the new pipe, I angled the connection up so that the vent extends maybe 8" above that horizontal vent pipe. In theory that's not kosher but we discussed it and he was fine with that since it angles down to a drain on either side of where headroom was needed. So a couple ounces of sewer gas could in theory collect in there, but at least any condensation has no problem getting out.

The inspectors are pretty practical-minded when dealing with old houses and they sometimes let you slightly bend the rules. Just be fully, fully transparent with them and also be respectful and they may actually offer some really helpful advice. Where you get into problems is if you try to hide work that's not correct. Plumbers would have you believe otherwise, but doing stuff to code is not rocket science. It just takes a lot planning before you cut any lines or pipes.

I have only read about one person who was actually fined the $2500. That was a guy on Nantucket who did a whole house worth of plumbing. For little things, I seriously doubt you'd have a problem.
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