A Step-by-Step Guide to the Building Permit Process

It is very important for the homeowners to be aware of the process of how to prepare the paperwork and plans for their new building permit.

Even if the homeowner is hiring a contractor or architect to handle the paperwork for him. It is so beneficial to learn about the process and to know what to expect.

What is a building permit?

A building permit is document that gives a homeowner or/and contractor permission to start construction whether it is a new building or a remodel.

Applicant is subject to regular building inspections for every phase of constructions to ensure the project is being build up to the most recent building codes.

Building Permit Process

Check the local requirements

Hire an architect familiar with your neighborhood and the local city or county requirements, some communities are stricter than the others.

It is very important to identify the following before starting your new project, that will help you to stay within your budget and to know what to expect throughout the construction period.

A lot of property owners delay or stop the constructions just because they are out of money because they were not aware of certain local requirements.

For example they have to buy a wood windows instead of vinyl because they live in a historical area. BIG difference in price, So please aware of the following,

1. Property setbacks

Some local agencies have a setbacks requirements from the rear, sides and front of your property lot lines. By knowing the building lot limitations that will help you to identify the square footage of your new building or your addition.

2. Building height limitations

For example if your neighborhood is a single story house, its unlikely for the planning department to approve a two stories house within a single story zone.

Same scenario if you building a commercial building within a residential area. Planning department tries to have consistency within the same zone.

3. Type of materials

Decide on what kind of materials you planning to use on the roof ( singles, tile, metal, etc.) and what type of siding, are going to do plaster or wood siding or do you prefer bricks?

4. Windows type

Identify the window frame material such as (Vinyl frame, wood frame). size of the windows for every room and its type sliding, single casement, fixed, etc.

5. Building colors

Identify the colors you planning to use it on the building walls, roof material colors, windows and doors framing colors.

6. The building style

Plan ahead for the customization of your new home, do you want typical home style or do have something in mind for new dream home. Better checking with the local agencies before moving forward with the design to get pre-approval.

Prepare the plans

Now after identifying the size of the building, the materials type and colors, it is time to prepare the plan for submittal to the local governments for approval. The set of plans will include the following sheets,

Site plan – It shows the outline of your building and property lines.

Floor plan– The layout of the building from inside for example bedroom, laundry room, bathroom, hallway, etc.

floor plan

Architect sheets – Building elevation and side views to show how the building will look like when its finished including the material type, and windows locations.

Structural sheets – Usually its done by structural engineer. It is a guide for the contractor or the homeowner builder which will include footing size , slab thickness, framing member size, and its connections details

Electrical floor plan – It will show the layout of the light fixtures, light switches locations, outlets location, and type of the outlet.

Electrical Floor Plan
Electrical Floor Plan

Plumbing sheets – Sewer size and its direction, the layout of the building drain, water line diagram, and the gas line diagram.

Energy rating sheet– The insulation R-value typically the thickness of the insulation will go inside the walls and ceiling, roofs, and it will also have the information for the size of the Air condition unit and its duct, windows glass insulation and heat transfer rate (SHGC) – solar heat gain coefficient -of how much glass transfer heat or cold in and outside the building.

Apply for building permits

Now your set of of plans are ready for submittal to get the local authority approval. It is very unlikely the submitted plans to get approved from first submittal.

First submittal usually comes back with a list of corrections and it get send back to the applicant to get it ready for a re-submittal.

Every time you submit plans for review, it takes up to two to three weeks to review, it depends on how busy the local government. After getting the plans approved. it’s time to apply for building permit and permit for the electrical , plumbing and mechanical as well.

Plan usually submitted to four different departments, it varies depending on the type of the project,

Building department – Plans is always has to be reviewed by the building department.

Planning department – 90% of the time, plans will be reviewed by the planning department.

Public works department – Only if the any work is being done outside the property line (Public right of way).

Fire department– For fire sprinkler approval- Emergency lighting, and fire extinguisher locations.

Start Constructions

After applying for building permit and paying for building permit fees, now you are ready to start construction. This is not the last of the local authorities approval.

Constructions are subject to regular inspections starting from the underground pipes and footing to finish. Check with the assigned inspector for the required inspections list.

How much building permit cost?

There is not set cost for a building permit. Building permits fee schedule usually set by the local building official after it is reviewed and approved by the local councils and mayor. Here are the factor affecting the cost increase of the building permit,

  • The square footage of the new construction (new house, addition), bigger addition higher building permit fees.
  • The complexity of the remodel (mechanical, electrical, plumbing).
  • Local authorities fees (permit processing fees, inspections fees, etc.)
  • Number of permits required.
  • The valuation of the project ( How much will it cost to build, remodel ?) including labor, material, plans, etc.

Be aware that plans review fees are usually separate than the building permit fees and it will be paid prior submitting the plans. Building permit fees will be collected after plans are approved.

Summary of the building permit process

  • Hire an architect or contractor.
  • Check the local requirements.
  • Prepare the project plans.
  • Submit the plan for approval.
  • Apply for building permit.
  • Pay all government fees.
  • Start the construction.
  • Call for regular inspections.

One Reply to “A Step-by-Step Guide to the Building Permit Process”

  1. I’m glad you mentioned knowing what colors to use for the walls as well as the door frame colors. My brother is wanting to start building a new apartment complex next month and he still needs the building permits for it. He should review his standards and make sure they match up with the local building requirements.

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