How to Get the Approvals Before Remodeling a Home in California

What should you do to ensure that your residential construction project is compliant?

If you are planning on undertaking a home renovation or improvement project, then receiving a building code violation notice can throw a wrench in your plans. Unfortunately, many homeowners do not realize that anyone, from their neighbors to their HOA representative, can report them for code enforcement. If your building plans have been derailed, then you need to take certain steps to ensure residential construction project compliance. Here is what you need to do to get your home building project approved by your city.

Code Violations 

There are several reasons why your residential construction project might be reported for code violations [1]. For instance, your project can be reported as an unsafe building if it is structurally unsafe or poses a danger to public health and safety. You can also receive a code violation if you attempt to construct, alter, demolish, or grade your residential property without the required permits and approvals. Finally, even if you have secured the proper building permits, you can receive a violation if your project has progressed without undergoing required inspections from a city building official. 

Construction Project Compliance

There are certain steps that you can take to ensure that your residential construction project remains in compliance with your city’s building codes. Please keep in mind that every municipality has its own zoning and building specifications, so you will need to refer to your city’s guidelines for specifics. However, the general construction project compliance process requires the following steps. 

Securing Building Permits

Building permits are authorizations issued by your city that approve different aspects of your residential construction or remodelling project [2]. The permit system exists to ensure that projects are undertaken in a safe manner and are in compliance with city building, construction, and zoning codes. Most residential construction work will require building permits, including plans to add or tear down walls, reroute plumbing, change the use of a room (for example, convert a garage into a bedroom), build an addition, or demolish a portion of your home [2].
While the process of securing a permit will differ slightly based on your location, the typical steps include:

  • Completing a permit application– Your city will have its own permit application forms and requirements. You will also likely have to pay a permit fee at this time. Permit fees will vary depending on the of your overall construction project [3]. Please get into contact with your city’s Building Department for more information on your application process. 
  • Preparing a site plan– Many cities in California will require you to submit a detailed site plan so they can ensure that it will meet building and zoning codes [4]. You should work with an architect or another construction professional to create your plan. 
  • Scheduling an appointment for plan approval– If your project is relatively straightforward, then you likely will not need to take this step. However, this step could take a significant amount of time for more extensive projects [5]. During your appointment, city building officials will notify you if corrections or changes to your building plan are required. You will resubmit your plans for review until you receive official approval from your city [5][6].
  • Receiving the permit– Once your residential construction project satisfies all your city’s building requirements, you will be issued a permit and construction may begin. Please keep in mind that all permits will have a built-in expiration date. Construction must begin and inspections must be scheduled by certain deadlines to ensure that your building permit remains valid [7]. 

Scheduling Official Inspections
After receiving a building permit for your project, you are free to begin construction. However, you must undergo official inspections before the project progresses to the point where work has been covered or concealed. You cannot continue construction until your site has been inspected and approved [8]. 

During your inspection, the inspector will check and make sure that construction work is being performed in accordance with relevant codes and standards [8]. Depending on the scope of your project, you may have to receive multiple inspections. Common areas of inspection include the following [8] [9]:

  • Gas lines
  • Electrical work
  • Plumbing work (water and sewer services)
  • Structural work
  • Concrete work
  • Grading (soil, foundations, excavations, and fills)
  • Fire safety
  • Earthquake safety
  • Ventilation equipment

Many residential property owners are concerned about the possibility of a surprise inspection. However, all residential construction inspections will be scheduled by you or your contractor, so they will only take place when you are ready to receive them [10]. Every city has its own scheduling procedures, but many municipalities offer the ability to schedule online or over the phone. If your building permit has expired, then you will not be able to schedule an inspection until you have renewed it. Typically, you will need to provide the following information when scheduling your inspection [9]: 

  • Permit number(s)
  • Property address
  • Date(s) of inspection(s)
  • Type(s) of inspection (shown on your Building Card that was issued at the time of permit approval)
  • Building plans 
  • Your name and contact telephone/fax/e-mail

If you do not pass your inspection, then your inspector will issue a notice detailing what needs to be corrected. Once you have addressed these issues, you can schedule a new inspection. Of course, once you pass inspection, construction can resume as planned [11]. Once your project is complete, you will have to pass a final inspection before your city will issue an Occupancy Permit or Certificate of Occupancy [8]. These forms declare that the residential structure is in compliance with building and safety codes and is suitable for residents to live in it [12].
These are some of the steps that you will need to take to ensure residential construction project compliance. If you are currently attempting to tackle a home improvement or renovation project and need some assistance, then contact the experts at Design Everest. Our dedicated team can provide you with structural engineering advice and help with building permit and inspection requirements. Give us a call today and receive your free quote! (877) 704-5727

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