Are you planning on installing a new roof or driveway? Maybe you’re adding to your family and need more space. Or, you’re finally ready to create that man-cave or she-shed you’ve been dreaming about.
Wait one minute before you start running electricity to your new space, or start nailing down shingles! Have you applied for your building permit?
While not all renovation projects need a permit, if you start demolishing or adding to parts of your home without one, you may incur the wrath of the building department.
Save yourself time and money by reading our guide to the necessary steps you should take when applying for a homeowner’s permit.
Do You Need a Building Permit?
The first thing you should determine is whether your project requires a permit. Most cities list building permit requirements on their website. If not, a phone call to the Building Department is in order.
Generally, cosmetic work you perform inside your home doesn’t need a permit. Things like painting, flooring updates, and updating bathroom fixtures don’t usually require special permission.
Any major remodel to a kitchen or bathroom may need one, especially if you move plumbing, electric, or gas lines. If you want to finish a basement—permit required!
Outside work such as roofing projects and siding need a permit.
Decks sometimes confuse homeowners. Most cities require permits for a deck attached to a home, or a 30-inch or higher unattached deck. If the deck is not attached to a building and is 30 inches or higher it will require a permit.
To avoid confusion over whether or not you need a permit, take a few minutes and do your due diligence. Building without one could cause trouble down the road in the way of code violations and fines.
What Is Your Plan?
Every project starts with a budget and a plan. You might be able to apply for a renovation permit without a budget, but you won’t get too far without a project plan.
The project plan outlines everything about your project, including changes you propose to make to the mechanicals, electric, and plumbing. Plans should include the following information:
- You contact information
- Address and/or assessor’s parcel number
- Description of work
- Architect and/or engineer
- Name of general contractor
- Project timeline
Once complete, you should take the project plan to the city and request a review before you submit the permit application.
Get a Preliminary Review
You’ll save time (and possibly money) if you visit your local building department before submitting your formal application for a permit.
This gives them a chance to look over your proposed project and make sure it falls within their guidelines. After a preliminary review, staff may refer you to other departments for approvals. Some cities require planning approvals for certain projects, and you’ll need them before you can apply for a building permit.
The preliminary review is the time to clarify what documents you’ll need to accompany your application. It’s also the time to find out if you’ve missed any other local requirements.
Building department staff might also have ideas you can use to make the application process go more smoothly.
Submit Your Permit Application
Now you’re ready to submit your application. Filling out a building permit application is fairly straight forward but if you have questions, don’t hesitate to go back to the building department and ask.
Most cities offer downloadable forms as well as printed packets that include all application forms. The forms each have instructions, and if you follow them to a T, you shouldn’t have any issues.
If you live in a planned community, condo, or townhome, you may need a letter from your homeowner’s association approving your project. Verify this before submitting your application because if you don’t include it, you’ll delay permit approval.
Once you’ve completed your required documents, attached your project plan and permit fees, then, submit the application packet. The countdown to building starts now!
Wait for the Building Department
After they receive your application, the building department reviews your project plan and your application.
Depending on the complexity of your project and the number of applications they have under review, you may wait several weeks for an answer. Be prepared for the building department to ask for more information during their review process. They may also request that you revise your plans.
While a well-developed project plan certainly helps push through an application, there’s always a chance for you to miss something the building department deems important. To avoid this issue, many homeowners hire a professional engineer or architect.
If Your Plan Does Not Meet Requirements
When you get the rejection letter from the building department, don’t panic—you’ll have a chance to comply.
When they deny a permit application, the building department will issue a letter and include the following information:
- Review comments
- Instructions for resubmitting your application
- Resubmittal date
Read the letter carefully and pay attention to the resubmittal date. Building departments give you a certain number of days to get your application approved before it expires.
You must respond to each review comment in writing and explain how you’ll address each issue. Work with your PE to respond correctly.
Permission to Build Granted
Congratulations! Permit approved—let the project begin. It’s exciting, yes, but don’t forget about the inspections.
For some homeowners, the most stressful part of a renovation project is the building inspection. Remember, your project must comply with building codes, so you should expect a building department inspector to come out at least once during the building process.
For projects like re-roofing and siding, most departments only do one inspection. However, if you’re doing a major construction project like finishing a basement or an addition to your home, you’ll likely have multiple inspections.
Either you or your contractor should schedule your inspections based on the project phase. Be sure you don’t move on to the next step in your project without the proper inspections.
When you complete the project, you’ll have a final inspection, which means you’re finished.
Ready to Apply for a Building Permit?
Preparing for a home renovation project is exciting, tedious, and sometimes confusing. Most projects require a significant amount of planning, various application documents, and often, the assistance of professional contractors.
If you’re considering a home renovation project, have you thought about who will draw up your building plans and project drawings? This is a job for a professional engineer or PE!
For more information on how a PE service can help with your building permit process, contact us today.