Do I Need A Permit To Divide A Room? (Find Out Now!)

Jessica Allen
by Jessica Allen

Dividing a room is an excellent way to make the most of your space and create areas for various activities. There are many different ways to divide rooms, from building a new wall to putting up temporary folding partitions. If you’re planning to divide a room in your home, you might be wondering whether you’ll need a permit.

You’ll need a permit if you’re building a new wall, but not for cosmetic division methods like curtains or partitions. Permits are required for any renovations that change the home’s structure or the floor plan layout. You’ll also need a permit if you’re adding a window or doing electrical or plumbing work in the new room.

Below, learn more about whether permits are necessary for dividing a room. We’ll also talk about what could happen if you add a new wall to your home without a permit. Then, we’ll share a few ideas for inventive ways of dividing rooms.

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Is A Permit Necessary For Dividing A Room?

Whether you need a permit to divide a room depends on a couple of things:

  • The rules and regulations in the area where you live
  • The method you’re using to divide the room

In general, if the work you’re doing could affect public or private safety, then you need a permit. It’s always recommended to check with your local jurisdiction when planning home renovations.

Rules can vary quite a bit from state to state, and they can also change over time. Just because a certain project didn’t require a permit in the past doesn’t mean the same holds true today.

Adding A New Wall

One situation that typically requires a permit is changing the layout of your home’s floor plan. Therefore, if you’re adding a new wall, you’ll most likely need a permit. Installing insulation and drywall and putting in replacement windows are also situations in which you’ll almost surely need a permit.

Creating A Habitable Room

There is a caveat here, however. If you’re building a non-bearing partition, it doesn’t require a permit unless it’s creating a habitable room. A habitable room is a room used for sleeping, cooking, eating, or living. Generally, the only spaces that don’t count as habitable rooms are bathrooms, hallways, and storage spaces.

So if you’re building a non-bearing partition to create a bedroom or living room, for example, you’ll need a permit. If you’re making a hallway or storage space, you probably won’t need a permit.

But if you’re creating a new bathroom, you’ll run into a different situation. You may not need a building permit for the wall, but you’ll need other permits for the plumbing and electrical.

Other Methods Of Room Division

Let’s say you’re not building a new wall. Instead, you’re simply using temporary partitions or hanging curtains from the ceiling. This is a purely cosmetic change that doesn’t affect the structure of your home, so it doesn’t require a permit.

International Building Code

According to the IBC (International Building Code), you need a permit for any addition or structural modification to your living space. You also need a permit for plumbing work, electrical changes, mechanical system installations, and window modifications.

What Happens If I Divide A Room Without A Permit?

In some cases, you might be permitted to divide a room without a permit. Generally, this refers to making cosmetic changes in order to divide the room. In most situations, building a new wall to divide a room will require a permit.

If you build a new wall without a permit, you may face various consequences down the line.


First, you could run into fines. Since you’re breaking local laws and regulations, you may be fined for your unpermitted project.

Tear Down Or Redo Work

Second, you may have to tear down the wall for safety reasons. Then you’ll need to pay to have the project redone if you still want to have the room divided.

Problems Selling The House

You could also run into issues if you want to sell the house in the future. When future buyers get a home inspection, they’ll likely discover your unauthorized work. This is especially true if they seek out public records related to home improvements.

Trouble With Insurance Coverage

Undocumented work can also affect the process of obtaining home insurance coverage. Since permits are there to ensure safety, work done without permits is usually deemed unsafe. Because of this, the majority of insurance companies won’t be willing to insure a home with potentially hazardous renovation work.

Ways To Divide A Room

There are many different ways to divide a room!

  • Build a new wall
  • Hang curtains from the ceiling
  • Purchase folding partitions or room dividers
  • Repurpose a clothing rack to separate two areas
  • Use a bookshelf as a partition
  • Implement custom window shutters or a barn door
  • Employ strategic furniture placement to create different zones
  • Stack multiple shelves to create a partition
  • Section off an area with a rug
  • Hang a beaded curtain or wall hanging

Of all of these methods of dividing a room, only one of them requires a permit: building a new wall. Otherwise, these are mainly cosmetic changes that you won’t need to get a permit for.

Do You Need a Permit Service?

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Related Questions

Can you divide a room with curtains?

Yes, you can divide a room with curtains. Hanging curtains from the ceiling is an easy and effective way to divide the space. This method is often used to separate multiple sleeping areas. A benefit of using curtains is that you can open and close them as needed.

Can you divide a room with one window?

You can divide a room with one window depending on what its intended use is. For example, all bedrooms must have their own window for safety reasons. However, you don’t need windows for hallways or storage spaces.

What is the point of a room divider?

A room divider is a form of decor that can be used to split a room into separate sections. Using a room divider is an effective way of making your space more multifunctional.

Jessica Allen
Jessica Allen

With a lifelong passion for writing plus strong enthusiasm for home improvement and DIY projects, joining the team at Upgraded Home was an easy choice. Jessica Allen likes to share helpful information with current and aspiring homeowners. Aside from writing, Jessica loves doing yoga, playing the piano, and dabbling in graphic design.

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