Building Permits

As a homeowner it is likely that you have not needed a building permit or know where to start.

Consider the Needs of Your Home

Why do I need a permit?  Local laws and regulations stipulate the basic health, safety, and structural soundness of building codes.  It also assures that you comply with zoning regulations and other issues. 

When should I get a permit?

Usually if you are having renovations completed like an addition, moving walls, changing door or window openings, a building permit will be necessary.  Also if you are dealing with electrical or plumbing, those may be necessary but need separate applications.  Some things like a roof replacement, interior changes like new cabinets, etc. won’t need permits.  Depending on your municipality, you may or may not need a permit for demolition like a shed, tree pruning, etc.  Discuss the changes with your contractor and he or she will be able to advise you accordingly.

What will I need?

It will depend on the project and the municipality.  For small projects, usually they will only need a scale floor plan.  For larger endeavors like additions or structural issues, they will probably ask for a full set of plans.  If it involves variance or zoning issues, you may be asked for more documentation. 

Who should apply?

Me or the contractor? As the homeowner, you are the responsible party and it will be issued in your name.  However, most contractors can take care of this for you, but will probably need a letter of authorization.  The contract between you and the renovator should specify who will obtain the permits.  

When are they issued?

Someone in the appropriate office(s) will review your plans and drawings and then issue a permit.  Simple or routine projects are usually approved within a day or so.  Larger projects will take more time, possibly several weeks.

What then

After the work begins, an inspector will come to the site to review the work in progress.  Separate electrical and plumbing inspections may be necessary.  At the end a final inspection will be conducted. 

What if I don’t get the permit?

If you start a renovation project without the appropriate permits, the municipality will stop all the work.  You will not be able to resume until all appropriate permits are in place.  If the work does not meet code, you will probably have to redo the work at your own expense.  If it is serious, you may need to demolish any changes and return the home to its previous condition.  Working without a valid permit also means problems with your insurance carrier.  In fact, it is a good idea to check with your carrier before you start to be sure you have adequate coverage.