What are the Building Permit Procedures?


What are the Building Permit procedures? 

What are the procedures required to obtain a building permit? This is a common question for all individuals considering an addition, a new home or a renovation to their existing home?

First / what is a Building Permit

A Building Permit is a document issued by the local authority (City or Town) that identifies the work, ensures it’s compliance with code and officially permits the applicant to perform the work identified.

What will be required, when applying for my Building Permit

  • There is a fee for the permit which is listed on the Town or Cities website. For discussion purposes, we will use $10 / $1000.00 of work. This means, the permit will cost the applicant $10 for every $1,000.00 worth of work, as valued when the application for the building permit is submitted. Example / a project valued at $200,000.00 will have a Building Permit cost of $2,000.00. In most Cities and Towns, the permit fee reduces the larger the project. So maybe the first $500,000.00 worth of work is valued at $10 / $1000, after the $500,000.00, the fee is reduced by an amount specific to the City or Town.
  • An estimate for the cost of the project will be necessary with the application for the Building Permit. Normally the assigned task of getting the permit is placed on the builder selected for the project. However, if this is not the case, and the responsibility is placed on the homeowner, they will need to generate a cost for the work. As I have indicated numerous times within this website, this is where the professional construction consultant is worth their hourly fee. The consultant is capable, together with the builder, in developing the spreadsheet to identify the cost of the project. Note that the Building Permit fee is a fee for the work, not the general conditions, the cost of the insurance, the overhead nor the profit for the project or what is considered the “soft costs “for the project. Therefore, if your builder is charging $200,000.00 for the project, the cost associated with the Building Permit should be at least 25% less than the actual contract cost.
  • Documents that establish the scope of the work. Depending upon the scope of the work, the individual building departments and the professionals involved in the contract, this requirement could be as simple as a sketch of the deck or whatever the project is, to a full blown set of architectural, structural, mechanical and electrical drawings and specifications.
  • The filled out Building Permit application. This is normally a simple document that will be marked up by the Building Official, which identifies what is required, prior to the formal, approved Building Permit is issued.

Once your application has been applied for, how do I get the actual approved Building Permit?

  • This is, once again, totally dependent upon the City or Town; however in most locations the following could be required.
  • Planning and Zoning approval : The project must comply with the planning and zoning regulations and this check off on the application is required prior to issuance of a Building Permit
  • Public Works : This check off, is from the highway department, to ensure that the access into the project is legal, and the curb-cut from the roadway is per specifications
  • Sewer Department : This check off, is to ensure that the sanitary line is either shown to be properly tied into the sewer, or there is an approved septic plan for the projects waste.
  • Water Department: This check off, is to ensure the proper water authority is notified and the design and tie in to the water system, is proper and per code and specifications.
  • Fire Department : This check off, is to ensure that all the proper exiting from the project is designed per the Fire codes. If there is a sprinkler system required, the approval of the system, stairway construction, window and door accessibilities.
  • Health Department : This check off, is to ensure that any hazardous or environmental issues are complied with, and any asbestos, PCB’s etc are properly abated prior to any demolition.

Each project is different, so upon application for the Building Permit, you or your designated professional, who is applying for the permit, will be informed of the various departments that a check off, prior to Building Permit issuance is required.

Once all the required check offs from the various departments are obtained, the application is returned to the Building Department for the official Building Department review of the project, and the final award of the permit.

What the Building Department will check for, prior to the actual issuance of the Building Permit

  • Check for the fee
  • Proper approvals by the appropriate departments in terms of sign off and signed documents
  • Building code issues such as width and height of doorways, egress windows, glass specifications, sanitary accommodations, etc.
  • Any special fees or additional applications required to comply with the City or Town requirements for Building Permits. These are constantly being revised based upon the political structure of the bureaucracy, so the applicant is cautioned that PATIENCE is a virtue!

Once the Building Department is satisfied that all requirements are approved and per Town, State and Federal guidelines, an approved Building Permit will be issued to either you, or your designated professional.

What documents should I expect to be given to me, as an approved Building Permit?

  • The signed Building Permit which is normally a cardboard, single piece of paper, that is expected to be posted in CLEAR view on the jobsite.
  • A list of inspections that will be required as the project progresses, these inspections will include but not necessarily be limited to:
  • Footing inspection; this will include the inspection of the bottom of the footing trenches or excavations to ensure proper bearing and lack of mud or water in the bottom of the footing.
  • Reinforcing bar inspection; this will include any rebar that is necessary in the footing, foundation walls, piers, columns, etc.
  • Foundation waterproofing and drainage inspection prior to backfilling and covering the concrete work.
  • Under-slab mechanical and electrical inspection; this is the sub base under the concrete slab, on grade, normally in the basement. This is an inspection of all the underground piping, conduit, etc. that will be covered by the basement concrete slab.
  • Rough framing inspection ; this is the inspection of the rough framing, which will include the proper construction of door and window headers, the proper placement of the studs, ceiling joists, roof rafter, floor joist, bridging, fire stopping, etc.
  • Insulation inspection; this is to ensure that the proper insulation has been installed prior to the sheetrock or plaster application. The windows will require caulking and sealing, etc.
  • Rough electrical inspection; this will be an inspection of all the rough wiring, back boxes and switchgear for the project.
  • Rough mechanical inspection; this will be an inspection of all the rough piping within the structure, including cleanouts, fixture roughing, etc.
  • Final electrical inspection; this will ensure that all faceplates, switches, light fixtures, appliance tie ins, etc. are properly installed and completed.
  • Final mechanical inspection ; this will ensure that all piping has been terminated, heating and cooling equipment properly installed, etc.
  • Fire alarm inspection (if applicable); Fire Department will inspect the alarm and sprinkler systems, if required to ensure compliance with code, specifications, etc.
  • Final Building Inspections ; this is when the Building official will walk the entire project, making sure that all the inspections have been performed and the Building Application card properly filled out.

Only after the Building Inspector is satisfied that all inspections have been performed and that the structure is in total compliance with all the codes and specifications will the Building Official issue a Certificate of Occupancy.

Special Issues

  • If there is demolition involved the project will require a demolition permit prior to the issuance of a building permit. This demolition permit will require a hazardous environmental inspection and remediation of any issues discovered by this inspection. This is discussed within a separate topic within this website.
  • If there are wetlands on the site the project will require a special wetlands permit. This permit will require the staking out of the wetlands on the site and the continued insurance that this wetlands demarcation is kept and no construction crosses over the stacked boundary. In addition specialized erosion control measures will be required to accommodate the requirements of the wetlands permit.
  • Special Zoning Approval such as fire range, golf courses, landfills, etc. all require special application, compliance with the codes and the specifications and numerous other inspections. This is totally dependent upon the special use of the property as well as the locale that the project is located.

In summary, the application and the securing of the Building Permit can be a project on its own. Again, I state the obvious, I recommend that a construction professional consultant be hired to guide you, the owner, in the application for the Building Permit. In many cases, either the architect or the successful builder can assist in the process.

It is very important that the application be accompanied by PATIENCE and TIME. The application of Building Permits has taken on an entirely different meaning with Towns and Cities. It used to be that a multi-million dollar project would take days to secure the permit, now the simple application for a single family home may take over one month to obtain.

Let the professionals who have been there before apply, and obtain the permit.

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