Making It Yours

You’ve moved into your home, now it’s time to customize it to your liking and maintain your investment. From renovation loans and incentives to historic tax credits and choosing a contractor, find out what you need to know to make your home perfect for you.

Where to Begin?

So you’ve mentally prepared yourself to spend your weekends at the hardware store. What’s next? Your first step in the renovation process depends a lot on whether you choose to go the DIY route or hire a contractor. Lucky for Baltimoreans, there are a number of local nonprofits dedicated to making home improvement accessible to the average homeowner. The Station North Tool Library, The Loading Dock, and Second Chance are great resources for small home improvement projects and general home maintenance. Connect with them to borrow tools, use professional equipment, or find secondhand materials to repurpose in your project.


Some projects will require a permit before being able to legally begin work or construction. Permits and inspection requests for construction, alteration, electrical, mechanical and plumbing work can be secured through Baltimore City’s Department of Housing and Community Development. A licensed contractor will often pull permits for your project themselves but residents can also submit their own applications.

Choosing a Contractor

More involved projects require additional know-how. If you’re considering starting a larger renovation project such as digging out a basement, putting on an addition, or adding a rooftop deck you’ll want to seek out an expert. While many people turn to their neighbors and neighborhood associations for recommendations, you’ll also want to research your contractor’s qualifications. Before signing a contract, make sure any contractor you employ is licensed by the Maryland Home Improvement Commission and check for complaints on the Better Business Bureau’s website.

Rooftop Decks

Rooftop decks are a common upgrade to homes in Baltimore, but before setting out to build the rooftop deck of your dreams there are a few things you’ll need to do.

  1. Secure drawings or design plans from an architect or structural engineer. You must submit these plans to Baltimore City to obtain a permit. A contractor may have someone on their team to complete this step for you. They may also be able to handle submitting your permit application.
  2. Double-check clearance, height and setback requirements as defined in the Baltimore City Code here. Got wires hanging over your patio? You may need to contact individual utility companies to have those removed or rerouted.
  3. Get your roof inspected. It’s a good idea to handle necessary repairs before beginning construction on your deck. Little leaks can become larger problems when masked by a permanent structure.

Historic Homes

It’s a good idea to find out if you live in a historic district before beginning your renovation. In addition to potentially qualifying for tax credits, like the Historic Restoration and Rehabilitation Property Tax Credit, or financial incentives to make your renovation more affordable, there may be local historic guidelines you will have to consider when modifying your historic home. Additionally, your neighbors, Community Organization, or historic review committee may be able to recommend trusted or approved contractors to complete the work. Just purchased your home and not sure where to start? Baltimore City’s Commission for the Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) is a good resource. Find a full list of historic districts here.

Buying a fixer-upper?

Have more questions about renovating your home in Baltimore City?

We’re here to help. Send us an email or call 410-637-3750 for one-on-one assistance.