What, Where, When, and How: Complete Guide to Building Permits
How Much and When You Need a Permit
When Do You Need a Building Permit?
Not every construction project requires a building permit. If you are just repainting your home, putting up a fence, repaving your driveway, or changing your kitchen cabinets or appliances, it is not likely that you will need a building permit; these rules change depending on your area though, so make sure you do not need a permit before you begin your project. For something that will be changing the building’s structure, the use of the building, or changes that have the potential of creating unsafe working conditions, you will need a permit. We have outlined these types of circumstances below.
New Projects or Remodels
- New Construction and Additions: This does not just include building a whole new house, this also includes adding structures to your property, like a garage, shed, or guest house. Adding new rooms to your home as well as constructing a deck or patio is also included in this.
- Major Renovations: This includes restoring your older home or fixer-upper, turning your garage into a living room, or remodeling your kitchen.
Changes to Existing Systems
- Structural Changes: These changes include adding or removing walls, especially if you are changing a load-bearing wall. Finishing your basement or attic is also included in structural changes, as is some sort of demolition.
- Plumbing or Electrical Changes: If you are replacing your garage door, installing some outdoor lighting, or redoing your plumbing, you will most likely need to obtain a permit first. Depending on your area, you may also need special permits for working on your plumbing or electrical.
Why is a Building Permit Required?
Safety is the main reason that building permits are required by law. The safety standards enforced in building permits help to better protect you and future occupants of your building from hazards like structural failure. If you live in an area that is prone to natural disasters, like hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornados, the standards in the building permits are intended to protect structures from failing due to one of these environmental factors. While it is not a complete guarantee that your building will stay standing after a major hurricane, loading the building under the expectation of a major weather event makes it much more likely the structure will endure the storm.
Building Permits Frequently Asked Questions
Getting caught building without a permit can have many consequences. A lot of the time, when you get caught without a permit, it is when you are looking to sell or refinance your home, or when a catastrophe happens as a result of the faulty work. If you are caught having work done without a permit, you will have to pay fines to your city and may have other penalties, depending on your area.
When you get your house appraised in preparation to sell it, the appraiser will look into the property’s history and information through the city. If they see a finished attic, for example, but see no permits or inspections for it, this could lower the value of the property. This can also lead to potential buyers backing out of the deal to purchasing your home.
You also need to have your house appraised in order to refinance it, and it can harm your chances of refinancing your home if you have done work without a permit.
Your insurance can also be unwilling to provide coverage for additions that were built without a permit. If your house has a fire because of faulty wiring from work that was done without a permit, your insurance can refuse to cover the damage.
It is possible to retroactively obtain a building permit, but they can end up being much more expensive than obtaining one before the work starts. If you made an addition, the inspector can require you to tear out walls, so they can inspect the structural integrity of the additions before making a decision. In the end, you may have to make some expensive changes that could have been avoided if you had obtained the permit first.
In order to get a building permit, you or your contractor needs to bring the necessary information to the local government agency that grants building permits. This can be a complicated process. While sometimes your permit can be approved immediately, often they will need you to make changes or to go through an additional review before granting your permit. Do not begin construction before your permit has been granted.
You should be able to obtain a building permit at the offices in your local government.
According to HomeAdvisor members, the average national cost for a building permit is $1,061. On average, a homeowner spends $435 and $1,812 on a permit. This price will vary depending on what you are building and the area you are building in.
The average price of a building permit in the state of California is $2,716. Its range is usually between $2,683 and $2,783.
The average price of a building permit in the state of Florida is $865. Its range is usually between $742 and $1,152.
The average price of a building permit in the state of New York is $1,588. Its range is usually between $655 and $2,833.
The average price of a building permit in the state of Pennsylvania is $478. Its range is usually between $207 and $750.
Sometimes your application for a building permit will be approved right away, but often the office will need more information from you. An additional review can take, on average, approximately two weeks.
The exact time can vary depending on your area, but in general, a building permit can expire if the work has not begun within six months or is not completed within one year.
You can find out if a building permit was obtained by visiting the local government building that you obtain a permit from. They will have records of permits that have been obtained for your property.
If you order your building from General Steel, we can provide the drawings for your permit. If you are working with an architect, they should also be able to provide you with the drawings you need for your permit.
If you are doing the construction yourself, this step-by-step guide can help you draw your own plans.
Once your building plans are complete, you can submit them to your local office to obtain your building permit.
In order to submit plans for a building permit, you need to fill out the appropriate applications required by your local permit office and bring them there to submit them.
If you hire a contractor, it is customary for them to pull the permit, but yes, the homeowner can pull the building permit.
Avoid this Pitfall
If you do not get your final inspection and close your permit, the project will never be marked as finished by your local agency. If it is eventually discovered that the project was never closed, you will need to finish the final inspection and get it closed. However, if there were drastic changes to the building code between the time the permit was originally obtained and when you belatedly close out the permit, you may run into a problem. Something that was up to code when you originally got your permit may no longer be, and depending on what it is, you may have to make changes to the work to get it up to the current code.
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