10.1. Contact the local Building Department having jurisdiction over your site to determine what permits are required for residential construction projects. Identify which "standard" building code has been adopted for your State, and obtain copies of applicable local regulations and ordinances that govern your site. Don’t forget to get a copy of the “Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions” for you lot if these rules by your homeowner’s association govern your site’s development.
10.2. Call your Building Department to request a "Permit Submittal Packet" for residential new construction or remodeling. Gain a full understanding of all documentation required for permit application. Avoid multiple trips to public agencies by utilizing phone, mail, and fax communications! Ask about the possibility of a “pre-application meeting” at the local permit-granting agency. Inquire whether any special conditions exist for your building site such as wetlands, shoreline, or flood plain review
10.3. Collect all documentation required for building permit application. Since some of this documentation is required for "Design Development" you'll need to make duplicate copies so information can be shared with professionals of your project team while you keep the originals. In addition to the building permit, additional permits may be required for septic, electrical, plumbing, gas, and HVAC inspections. Be sure trade contractors take responsibility for securing necessary permits governing their work. Use Francis Ching’s Building Code Illustrated to take the fuzz off a usually boring topic and give it some glitter.
10.4. Submit a complete Building Permit application. Likely, you'll pay an initial plan examination fee on application with the remainder of your fee due when you pickup your permit. Expect your Drawings to be closely scrutinized, and be prepared for corrections or a request for additional information. This is when the assistance of construction professionals may be extremely helpful because Building Department officials respect the expertise of licensed professionals. Be sure to periodically check on your application's progress through the Building Department, and always show a willingness to cooperate.
10.5. Check with the Building Department to ascertain mandatory inspections. The agency having jurisdiction over your locality may have standard procedures for arranging inspections and what critical events require inspection. Be ready to follow their protocols! Other permits requested by trade contractors will require additional inspections, but the person requesting the permit will do coordination of this effort. Just be certain each trade contractor calls for inspection in a timely fashion and you keep possession of any correction notices as well as the final, signed permit. Utilize Kardon's Code Check.
10.6. Call for a final inspection by the Building Department. If you've remained calm and avoided conflict thus far in your project, now isn't the time to lose your temper! Resolve any last minute problems in a diplomatic, rational manner. Be sure that the trade contractor responsible for the error or omission is the one who makes the necessary correction. Take a serious interest in Ferguson’s Better Houses/Better Living.
10.7. Keep signed copies of all permits in a single file in your "Cardboard Box Files." If a newsletter is produced or continuing education classes offered by your local Building Department, attend them to keep abreast of current regulations governing your site.
Permits are a legal consent for construction work to proceed according to approved drawings and specifications. Inspections are a shared responsibility by the local building department, owner, trade contractors, and often times your architect.
What public agencies have jurisdiction over your site?
We identify the critical inspection points to observe as construction work progresses, and give some useful hints for conflict resolution in the Design/Build process.
Ching, Francis. Building Code Illustrated.
New York: Wiley, 2003.
Ferguson, Myron. Better Houses/Better Living.
Bend: Home User Press, 2004.
Kardon, Redwood. Code Check.
Newtown: Tauton, 1995, 2000 3rd.