UPDATED, July 27, 2022
Undertaking a building project, whether it’s a retail space or home improvement, requires a building permit. In order to ensure the safety of all occupants, as well as current and future property owners, it is parative to comply with your city and/or county building policies.
To help you have a better understanding of how the building permit process works, we’re going to guide you through the basics of a building permit, applying for the right permit, how long it will take to receive the permit and completing the process––including potential consequences if you build without a permit when you should in fact have one.
Let’s go over what exactly a proper building permit is, and why it is required.
What A Building Permit Is
A building permit is a type of authorization given by a government or other regulatory body to do construction to a new or existing building (1). These authorizations need to meet certain building codes to confirm that the structure is built safely with taking every precaution into consideration, so it is ever so important to know these codes and abide by them.
According to the International Code Council, the definition of building codes are (2):
“Codes are a jurisdiction’s official statement on building safety. They are a set of minimum standards to ensure the health, safety and welfare of the people. Codes address all aspects of building construction––fire, life safety, structural, plumbing, electrical, and mechanical. The regulation of building construction can be traced through history for more than 4,000 years. Through time, people have become increasingly aware of ways to make buildings safer for occupants and avoid catastrophic consequences of building-construction failures.”
When Is A Building Permit Required
You should be aware that not all construction requires a building permit. It really depends on your local building code. The building code reflects regional issues, so it is common that you will find different code requirements for different areas.
Projects that require a building permit include the restructuring of a building like removing walls, changing piping, and demolishing a structure. Also, sheds, covered patios, and carports that are greater than 120 square feet require a proper permit as well.
Projects that do not require a building permit include home remodel tasks like changing cabinets, replacing appliances, adding a small fence, as well as sheds, covered patios, and carports that are less than 120 square feet.
Take note that you may need to obtain certain system permits, such as electrical, mechanical and plumbing. Be sure to consult your city building and permit office to ensure you’re getting the permits you need before doing any sort of construction.
How To Get A Building Permit
Hiring an engineer to arrange the building permit maybe your best option because the person who arranges the permit is responsible for following specific codes for construction. If you arrange for a permit yourself, you are posing as your own contractor and will be held completely responsible if anything goes wrong with the construction.
Something also to consider––hiring an engineer can help you more than you think. The engineer should be extremely familiar with obtaining a permit process from beginning to end with established relationships with city inspectors so that preexisting relationships can help work in your favor.
Before Applying For A Permit
Make sure you submit all the recommended documents and applications before applying for a building permit. We recommend following up with your city’s development guidelines to make sure your project aligns properly. Depending on your project, the city may require you to receive Planning approvals prior to applying for a building permit. You should seek proper guidance, so you can avoid lost time and increased costs later on.
If the city requires you to obtain Planning approval, you must file a separate Planning application and pay additional fees to the Planning Department. These fees are separate from the building permit fees that you are required to pay. Once you receive the Planning approval, you will then be able to apply for a building permit.
In addition, you may also want to get in touch with your local fire and health department in case there are other particular guidelines you must follow as well.
Hiring A Licensed Professional
As you can see so far, applying for a building permit can be a grueling process especially if you don’t know what you’re doing. As the permit process can be quite elaborate and depending on your project size, you may need to hire multiple professionals to comply with your city’s requirements, as well as your own needs. Considering your state’s requisites, portions of your building permit application is required to be signed off by a licensed engineer or architect.
Hiring a licensed professional should not have to be a grueling process as well. With 30 years of experience, Pasquini Engineering, Inc. not only has the expertise for all of your civil, structural, mechanical, electrical, surveying, and zoning needs but we are also licensed design professionals. Combine all of your required professionals and avoid playing the middleman of communication with Pasquini Engineering, Inc. as being your full-service building design and engineering firm.
Having specialized in commercial and residential projects, we will survey and develop your land, engineer your structure, meet all building codes, manage construction, ensure structural integrity and design it all for you. With over 9,000 completed projects, there’s not much we have not seen. And with a license to work all over California, Oregon, Florida, Arizona, Nevada and Texas, there’s nowhere we won’t go to help you build your dream.
Building Permit Review Process
Once you have submitted your permit application to the city, your application will be reviewed by many different departments. They will review all of your building structure, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, disabled accessibility compliance, energy conservation, storm water control regulations, etc. Furthermore, your local fire department will be called to analyze your application, as well as other public health and safety organizations.
Time It Takes To Get A Permit
The length of review will be determined by the completeness of your application. The accuracy of your application and requirements may reduce time and resubmissions.
Building Permit Changes And Revisions
Once your permit application has been reviewed, you will be notified with approval or changes that will need to be addressed on your project. Necessary changes will be listed for you from the departments that reviewed your application. Minor changes to your submitted permit application are acceptable; however, major or many changes to your project will call for a resubmission. Once you resubmit your changes, they will be reanalyzed by the appointed departments.
Under the guidance of Pasquini Engineering, Inc., our professionals continue a consistent form of communication and relationship with the city/county professionals, so you will stay up-to-date and will be notified as soon as anything needs to be corrected. With the recommended corrections from the city/county, Pasquini Engineering, Inc. will also manage all new corrections to your plans.
Building Permit And Inspection
As your project gets approved, receives its building permit and continues on with constructing, an inspection will be done throughout the length of your construction to make sure all continues to comply with the approved plans and building standards code.
Building Without A Permit
We do not suggest skipping any steps in the building permit process as there are consequences of building without a permit in California. For example, getting caught remodeling without a permit may lead to significant damages and financial setbacks that can be completely debilitating. The city may be authorized to double your permit fees or, even worse, shut down your project and tear down the entire structure you’ve built.
Using this guide to the building permit process can be a very useful tool. Always remember to do your research for building permits, hiring an engineering professional, and completing the entire process, so you can feel rest assured that your structure is built well and is safe.
If you have more questions, be sure to contact Pasquini Engineering, Inc. for all of your design and engineering needs, and we will be more than happy to assist you!