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Tell me about Building Permits

WHAT’S A BUILDING PERMIT?

A building permit gives you legal permission to start construction of a building project in accordance with approved drawings and specifications.

WHEN DO YOU NEED A PERMIT?

The best way to find out if you need a permit is to call your local building department. Discuss your plans with the code official before beginning construction to determine whether you need a permit. Even if a permit is not needed, the code official will answer construction questions and may provide valuable advice.

PERMITS ARE USUALLY REQUIRED FOR THE FOLLOWING:

  • New buildings
  • Additions (bedrooms, bathrooms, family rooms, etc.)
  • Residential work (decks, garages, fences, fireplaces, pools, water heaters, etc.)
  • Renovations (garage conversions, basement furnishings, kitchen expansions, reroofing, etc.)
  • Electrical systems
  • Plumbing systems
  • HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning) systems
  • Changes to existing site drainage and grading

Your home or business is an investment. If your construction project does not comply with the codes adopted by your community, the value of your investment could be reduced. Property insurers may not cover work done without permits and inspections. If you decide to sell a home or building that has had modifications without a permit, you may be required to tear down the addition, leave it unoccupied, or make costly repairs.

A property owner who can show that code requirements were strictly and consistently met––as demonstrated by a code official’s carefully maintained records––has a strong ally if something happens to trigger a potentially destructive lawsuit.

Your permit also allows the code official to protect the public by reducing the potential hazards of unsafe construction and ensuring public health, safety, and welfare. By following code guidelines, the completed project will meet minimum standards of safety and will be less likely to cause injury to you, your family, your friends, or future owners.

THE SIMPLE PERMIT PROCESS

TALK TO YOUR LOCAL CODE OFFICIAL

Your code official wants your project to be a success and will help you avoid potential problems that could cost you time and money. You will be asked some basic questions (What are you planning to do? Where?), advised of any requirements, and, if necessary, referred to other departments for their approval. The code official will provide you with the resources and information needed for compliance with the applicable building codes. You will then receive an application for a building permit.

SUBMIT APPLICATION

At this stage you will document the “Who, What, When, Where, and How” of the job, along with any sketches or plans of the proposed work.

REVIEW PROCESS

In a brief amount of time, the code official will review your plans and determine if your project is in compliance with local requirements. If your plans meet these requirements, a permit is issued. If not, the code official may suggest solutions to help correct the problem.

RECEIVE PERMIT

Now that you have been approved for a permit, you have legal permission to start construction. A fee, based on the size of the job, is collected to cover the cost of the application, the review, and the inspection process. An experienced code official is available to you should you have any questions concerning your project. You should consider your code official as an ally who will help you make your project a success. Separate permits are typically required for electrical, plumbing, and heating or air conditioning work.

JOB-SITE VISITS

On-site inspections will be required to make certain the work conforms to the permit, local codes, and plans. Again, you will have access to the expertise of the code official to help you with questions or concerns regarding the project and to minimize potentially costly mistakes. The code official will let you know approximately how many inspections may be needed for your project. Usually, a one- or two-day notice is needed when requesting visits.

FINAL APPROVAL

The code official will provide documentation when construction is complete and code compliance is determined. You will then have the personal satisfaction of a job done right. Enjoy your new surroundings with the peace of mind and the knowledge that they meet the safety standards in your community.

It takes everyone in a community to keep our homes, schools, offices, stores, and other buildings safe for public use. Your safe construction practices help protect you, your family, your friends, and your investment. Be sure to get your local code official involved with your project, because the building department is an important ally, from start to finish.

WHEN IS A BUILDING PERMIT REQUIRED?

When is a building permit required? Title 26, Section 106.1, Permits Required

A building permit is required to construct, enlarge, remodel, repair, move, remove, convert, or demolish any building or structure, or portions thereof. This includes garages, patios, carports, storage sheds, pools, retaining walls, fences, the addition or removal of interior or exterior walls, etc. A separate permit is required for each separate building or structure.

The building permit does not cover any plumbing, sewer, electrical, HVAC, fire protection system, drainage, grading or landscaping to be performed in association with the work described on the building permit. Separate permits shall be obtained for each of these items. In addition to construction of new buildings/additions and remodeling of existing buildings, some examples of work that requires a permit are: roofing/reroofing, stucco, window and door change-outs, closing or sealing off windows and doors, drywall replacement, fire damage repairs, adding and removing partition walls, and enclosing patios.

This means most home improvement projects and commercial tenant improvements will require a building permit, unless the proposed work is specifically exempt from a permit. Please contact your local district office if you have any questions. When is a building permit not required? Title 26, Section 106.3 Work Exempted. A building permit is not required for the following items listed below. Unless otherwise exempted, separate plumbing, electrical, and mechanical permits may still be required, as well as compliance with local zoning regulations and other applicable laws or ordinances:

One-story detached accessory buildings used as tool and storage sheds, playhouses and similar uses, provided the gross floor area does not exceed 120 square feet, the plate height does not exceed 12 feet in height above the grade plane at any point, and the maximum roof projection does not exceed 24 inches.

Fences not over 6 feet in height. (Fences less than 6 feet in height may not be exempted in certain jurisdictions. Verify requirements with the local building departments.)

Steel tanks supported on a foundation not more than two feet above grade when the height does not exceed 1 1/2 times the diameter.

Gantry cranes and similar equipment.

Retaining walls that retain not over 4 feet in height measured from the bottom of the footing to the top of the wall, unless supporting a surcharge or impounding a Class I, II, or III-A liquids.

Motion picture, television and theater stage sets and scenery, except when used as a building.

Radio and television antennae towers which do not exceed 45 feet in height and ground support dish antennas not exceeding 15 feet in height above finished grade in any position.

Light standards which do not exceed 30 feet in height.

Flagpoles not erected upon a building and not more than 15 feet high.

A tree house provided that:

  • It does not exceed 64 square feet in area not 8 feet in height from floor to roof. The ceiling height as established by door height or plate line does not exceed 6 feet.
  • Canopies or awnings attached to a Group R-3 or U Occupancy and extending not more than 54 inches from the exterior wall of the building.
  • Sheds, office or storage buildings, and other structures incidental to and work authorized by a valid grading or building permit. Such structures must be removed upon expiration of the permit or completion of the work covered by the permit.
  • A portable metal hanger located on County-owned airports, provided that:
  • It is less than 2,000 square feet in area,
  • It is used exclusively for the parking of aircraft,
  • It bears the Department of Motor Vehicles, State of California insignia of approval for movement on any highway,
  • It incorporates as an integral part of its basic construction a hitch or coupling device for towing,
  • It can accommodate, without further structural change, wheel and axle assemblies to provide a safe means of portability,
  • It is equipped with permanent ventilation to prevent the accumulation of combustible gases, and
  • It is not provided with water or sanitary facilities.

Oil derricks.

Platforms, walks and driveways not more than 30 inches above grade and not over any basement or story below, and which are not part of an accessible route.

Prefabricated swimming pools accessory to a Group R-3 Occupancy in which the pool walls are entirely above the adjacent grade and if the capacity does not exceed 5,000 gallons.

Fences, gates, door alarms, and other protection devices that are accessory to the prefabricated swimming pool are not exempt from permit requirements.

Playground equipment.

WHERE DO I OBTAIN A BUILDING PERMIT?

Building permits need to be obtained from the local Building and Safety district office that serves the proposed project address. Use the visit our Find a local office feature to find the district office that serves the proposed project location.

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