What is a building permit and why should I get one?

What is a building permit?
Whenever you start a construction or remodeling project, a building permit is required to ensure your structure complies with local standards. This includes everything from earthquake safety standards to tree protection. The permit also improves the safety of everyone involved both during and after construction.
When do I need a permit?
The types of projects you need a building permit for vary depending on local governments. A good rule of thumb to follow is that if your type of project is not explicitly stated as being exempt from needing a building permit, then you’ll need one.Generally, cities require a permit when you are constructing a new building, adding rooms, or remodeling. Demolishing a structure may also require one. Mechanical, electrical, and plumbing work may be included with the building permit or may require a separate permit issued to a licensed professional.

Some structures may require a permit if they reach a certain size. Taller fences may require a permit, but ones shorter than six feet may not. Smaller sheds, decks, tree houses, and playhouses may not need a permit to build either. Simple repairs like fixing a leaky faucet, repainting walls, and installing new carpets do not need a permit.

Contact your city for confirmation that you need a permit for your particular project. You may find a list of exempted structures on the city’s website, like on the Los Angeles County site, but as codes change regularly (California updates them roughly every three years), it is always advisable to check with the city first.

Why get a building permit?
The most significant reason to get a building permit is that it is illegal to build structures without one. Cities often apply daily penalties, such as fines, until you have a permit for your project. You may even be required to tear down the structure if you do not obtain a permit within a certain timeline.

Having a building permit comes with a multitude of benefits. Not only do you ensure the safety of the workers constructing your project, you also ensure your own safety, as well as that of your friends, family, and future owners. It prevents them from cutting corners during the process, which lowers hazards and risks while applying reliable construction practices. You also have solid plans for your project, so you can rest assured that the work being done is up to, if not beyond, code.

Without a permit, you may run into some additional troubles. You are likely to run into difficulties if you ever look to sell your house and work was done on it without a permit. For instance, you may be instructed to tear down and redo the work (this time with a permit), which will cost much more as a result. Another issue you could run into is damage to your house due to the work that was done without a permit. More often than not, your insurance will decline to cover the damage. Thus, it is in your best interest to obtain a permit at the start of your project.

The permitting process 

1. Research the local process to obtain a permit 

Usually a quick search through your city’s website will provide the information you need to know. You can also call the city or visit in person, which has the added benefit of letting you get all your questions answered at once. Some cities may require several permits depending on the type and scale of your project. As mentioned above, along with a building permit, you may need separate permits for plumbing, electrical, or heating/cooling work.

2. Prepare your permit application

Some cities will require plans of your proposed project in addition to the application forms. Depending on the size of the project, your plans may be a full set of blueprints for a new building, or a simple sketch for the installation of a new door.

3. Submit your application and pay any application fees 

The costs of submitting the permit are for the people paid to review your application and who come out to inspect your property, and may depend on the size and value of your project. The reviewers will look over your application to determine if it complies with local standards, and if it doesn’t, they will suggest ways to correct it. The review process may take up to several weeks, so factor that into your timeline. There may also be several rounds of review, and providing solid plans from the start will streamline the process.

4. Receive and display the permit certificate

You now have legal permission to start constructing your project. The timeframe within which your permit is valid depends on your local government, but can depend on the size and cost of your project. It is best to start construction right away to avoid having to renew your permit.


5. Schedule inspections

Inspections ensure the work is going according to plan at various steps of construction (foundation, framing, roofing, etc.), and that if a problem or mistake occurs it is fixed quickly, preventing costly repairs. Your contractor can assist with scheduling timely inspections. When construction is complete, it is important to schedule a final inspection to check that everything is functioning as intended and is safe for inhabiting. If you do not, you may have to get an entirely new permit, or even rebuild some parts of your project to comply with new codes. Contact Design Everest’s licensed and expert engineers for a structural evaluation.

Here at Design Everest, we are committed to making the construction process as streamlined as possible. Our experts provide assistance throughout the permitting process, providing updates to design documents as they are commented on and reviewed by the building department. Call us at 877-704-5727 today to start planning your project!

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