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How To Get A Building Permit

Getting ready to begin a new home improvement project? Here are the ins and outs of building permits. Learn how to get a building permit and how to know if you need one for your project.

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Whether you’re connecting with a contractor or tackling a DIY remodel project, it’s a good idea to find out what the local codes are. If you’re adding a new structure to your property, adding on to an existing one, or just investing in a remodel, you might need a building permit. Find out more about how to get a building permit below.

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What Is A Building Permit?

A building permit is an official piece of paper that indicates the local government has approved your project. The reasons for building permits are to ensure that people are building new things and modifying old structures in accordance with local codes and zoning requirements and that projects are being conducted in a way that is safe for nearby residents.

Do I Need A Building Permit?

You don’t need a permit for every task you tackle within or without your home. For example, if you are putting in a new toilet, you typically don’t need one. But if you’re repiping your entire house, you might.

As a general rule, if you’re changing the actual structure of a building, you need a permit. By that standard, taking out a wall in your home, adding an exterior door to a room without one, converting a bedroom into a kitchen, or even reroofing the entire home might require a permit. But painting your house or swapping out kitchen cabinets or countertops likely won’t.

Whether you need a permit when making changes within your home depends on the laws of your jurisdiction, so it’s a good idea to check with the municipal agency in charge of such matters in your city or county.

You also often need a permit when you’re adding a new structure to your property. If you’re adding on an entire room or a garage, chances are strong a permit is required. But not every structure requires one; here are some common questions about exterior projects and permits.

Do I Need A Permit To Build A Deck?

It often depends on the size and style of the deck. If you’re pouring a bit of cement for a small patio, a permit might not be required. But many locations require one if you’re building a raised deck of any size. Check with your local government office.

Do I Need A Permit To Build A Shed?

If you’re building or installing a store-bought shed that’s fairly small, you usually don’t need a permit. However, if the structure is large or will have water or power running to it, the chances are higher you'll need a permit. Again, check with your local authorities, because the rules are different in every location.

Do I Need A Permit to Build a Fence?

Again, it depends on your jurisdiction. It also probably depends on what type of fence you want to build, whether it will abut another property, and whether it’s for safety or other public functional purposes. In some cases, you may need a zoning permit but not a building permit to build a new fence.

How Much Is A Building Permit?

Building permit costs can range from around $10 to more than $2,000. In some locations, the cost of the permit is a percent of the total estimated cost of the project. In other locations, permit fees are charged by project type. Either way, it’s still an important expense to factor in when planning for your project.

How To Get A Building Permit

When you work with a contractor, you typically don’t have to worry about this step. The contractor works on your behalf to ensure the appropriate permits are obtained.

If you do have to get a building permit, the exact steps will depend on your location. But common steps include:

  • Completing an application with the appropri te government agency.
  • Meeting any requirements for preparation, such as having plans drawn up for approval or hiring inspectors to ensure the project won’t impact essential services such as sewer, water, or electrical lines.
  • Addressing any concerns that come up during the permitting process, such as providing a plan for wastewater runoff in line with county requirements if you’re adding new structures to your property.
  • Paying for and obtaining the permit. In cases where your project may potentially impact public infrastructure, such as a new driveway that enters an existing road, you may also need to put up money for a bond.
  • Completing your project and going through any additional inspection processes that are required. Depending on what type of project you’re involved in, you may need to get the city or county to approve it upon completion, especially if you put up a bond and want your money back.

How Long Does It Take To Get A Building Permit?

It depends on your location, how busy the local office is, and whether your project is complex and requires inspections. Typically, you can get a permit in about two weeks in many cases. But ensure when handling pre-project research that you consider the requirements of your specific permit and include plenty of time to receive it.

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