Building Permit – Determining the Need for A Permit

It is an important question when it comes to home improvement.

Building Permit – Any homeowner planning a project needs to determine if a permit is or is not necessary, before proceeding with any work. Home improvement projects that involve structural work, and extensive electrical or plumbing work require a permit. This applies to both do-it-yourself projects as well as any work that is contracted out to a general contractor or trade.

A building permit is a document (a legal piece of paper) that states approval from the local building department has been given to proceed with construction or demolition. This document has a number on it. The number is recorded at the local building department. The document must be posted in a visible location on the job site. It is unlawful to start construction or demolition before a permit is issued.

A permit is necessary for demolition and new construction. It is also required for any addition or renovation to an existing building. In some cities and towns a permit is even required for new fencing, decking, new fireplaces and wood burning appliances.

A homeowner planning to do his or her own construction work may personally apply for any permit. If an interior designer, architect or general contractor is hired to perform the work; they can apply for the permit on the owner’s behalf.

A permit is applied for at the local building department. Local refers to the city, town or municipality in which the work is to take place. A standard form is filled in and submitted.
A drawing for simple projects, or construction drawings for more complex projects must also be submitted. There is a fee for each application.

The local building department reviews the application form and the drawings. They ensure that all building code standards are met before issuing any permit. This procedure is in place for the health and safety of the homeowner and the community. Building methods must comply with the codes for structural safety as well as to avoid fire hazards.

A permit for very simple projects can sometimes be issued within the same day. More complex projects may take weeks or months. This all depends on how busy it is at the local building department. Always check with the local building department for information on submissions, fees and the time involved for a permit to be issued.

Once a permit is obtained, construction work can be started. The local building inspector will visit and inspect the work. He/she checks to ensure that the work complies with the building code standards and with the approved drawings.

The building inspector has the authority to stop work on any job. This happens when a job site is determined to be unsafe or, where a permit is not visible or issued. He/she has the authority to have a portion or all completed work removed. This occurs when the construction does not comply with code regulations or it not visible for inspection. For example, electrical or plumbing work must be inspected before it is enclosed.

It is important to note that the owner of the property is responsible for ensuring that permits are obtained for all permit-required work, whether it is a do-it-yourself project or a contracted project.

Always check with the local building department before proceeding with any home improvement projects. They provide guidance in determining if a permit is or is not necessary.