Demystifying the Building Permit

From on March 11, 2008 in General

Building Permits

The building permit is that mysterious piece of paper that can make or break your project. What information is actually included in the permit, and what is entailed in obtaining it?

Before you can acquire a permit, you will need to submit the following information: a completed application stating your proposed project, the contractor performing the work, and a completed set of detailed plans. Before you can receive a permit, your application has to be approved by local fire officials for proper set-backs, the planning department for an approved plot map and zoning requirements, and any city or subdivision committees. After passing all inspections, you will be required to pay fees. Although each area is different, fees can include dues to local police and fire departments, subdivision dues, school fees, and a fee for processing your application.

Building requirements differ significantly by state and county. It is your or your contractor’s responsibility to research what is required in your county before beginning your project. A generic example of when a building permit would be required would be for the following reasons:

  • Any new construction.
  • Repairs, alterations, demolition, or additions to a structure.
  • Construction or demolition of ducts, sprinkler systems, or standpipe systems.
  • Changes to the occupancy classification.
  • For exceptions to permit requirements.
  • Any plumbing or electrical work.

The typical information included on a permit would be:

  • Location of the property and the owner’s contact information.
  • The contractor or builder’s personal information, including license number.
  • Start date of project.
  • Inspections data, such as when each inspection has been passed or failed.
  • Expiration date of the permit.

With growing attention being brought to energy conservation and green building, new building requirements are sprouting up to reflect these changes. The Department of Energy Web site has some useful information regarding these new codes. When trying to determine what is required for your county, it is helpful to first look up your state’s building commission, and then your county Web site. The California Building Standards Commission is one example of what you’ll find.

Completing the permit process is necessary to ensuring your project is completed to code and done correctly. Building codes serve an important purpose, taking into account and avoiding potential threats to your structure, such as an earthquake or hurricane damage. The inspection process will hold your contractor to a high standard of quality. Hiring a professional contractor will save you the headache of learning the many building requirements. An experienced contractor should be well-versed in the newest codes and regulations.