Permitting requirements for vinyl siding vary widely across the country. Contractors in Woodbury, Minn., for instance, can apply for a permit issued across the desk or by mail, with the fee determined by the value of labor and materials in the job. Campbell County, in southern Virginia, on the other hand, requires no permit. Alturas, Calif., requires contractors to pull a permit for vinyl siding installation, with application to include “a copy of the manufacturer's recommended installation instructions and an aerial drawing of the home indicating the dimensions.” The procedure requires a pre-inspection and a final inspection. How complicated is a permit-mandated siding inspection? In Ambler, Pa., which requires permits, building inspector Lee Denner says work is inspected for proper detailing such as sealed penetrations, suitable ventilation, and appropriate workmanship.

Two Sides of the Argument Many reputable siding contractors who work in areas requiring no permits are frankly delighted, viewing permit requirements as an unnecessary expense and a schedule snag. Jim Corridon, president of Metropolitan Contractors in Fairfax, Va., says the fact that his municipality hasn't required permits for the last four years makes his life easier, since inspectors couldn't keep up with the volume of jobs, and waiting for inspections would bring his production to a halt.

On the other hand, in Haddon Heights, N.J., contractors can be fined up to $10,000 for working without a permit. “I pull a permit on every job,” says Joe Iuvara, owner of Iuvara Windows and Siding. “It only requires a description of the work and $60.” Mandating permits and requiring contractors to be licensed with the state's Consumer Protection Agency “protects the homeowner and separates the reputable contractor from fly-by-nights,” he says.

What and Why The 2003 International Residential Code, developed by the International Code Council, is ambiguous on the subject of vinyl siding. Replacing vinyl siding is neither called out as requiring a permit, nor stated as something that doesn't require a permit.

Generally, building projects that are not new construction require permits when load-bearing structures (walls, decks) or mechanical systems are involved. Permitting is something local governments offer to guard citizens against shoddy workmanship and unscrupulous contractors. In the absence of permitting, Corridon says, “it comes down to an ethical relationship between customer and contractor.” And, doing good work for a good price, he points out, is the key to leads and referrals. —Mark Clement is a freelance writer and former contractor.