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Building Permits: Why You Need One and How to Get It

As a home improvement guru and self-styled master of DIY projects, you might have the idea that building permits are a nuisance. After all, shouldn’t you be able to just build what you want, where you want on your property? While it’s true that building permits can be a pain, they actually serve a very important role that makes the process worthwhile. We’ll explain why building permits are a thing, why you need one and how to get one.

Building Permits and Building Codes
To understand why building permits are important, we need to start by talking about building codes. Building codes, simply put, are the standards put in place by local governments to ensure buildings are constructed using the best methods for your area. While some building codes are practically universal, others vary by your local jurisdiction. If you’re building a deck, for example, how deep your footings need to be will be different depending on where you’re building it—in colder environments with a deeper frost line, footings need to be deeper to be considered safe.

In other places, such as coastal areas that regularly deal with high winds, your home’s roof and other features may need to be built using special techniques and materials to ensure they can stand up to the elements. Building codes are put in place to keep our communities safe, and building permits are the way that local governments make sure new buildings are constructed according to those standards.

When You Need a Permit
While you may not need a building permit in some situations, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Generally speaking, building permits will be required in urban and suburban areas more often than rural ones, but that doesn’t mean building codes shouldn’t be adhered to if you live in the country. If you don’t get a permit for construction that requires it, you may be fined, forced to tear down what you’ve built and redo it, or both. Here are some of the most common situations you’d need a building permit for:

  • New Construction: Any time a new building goes up, you can bet it needs a building permit. This goes for any building you can think of, including homes, garages, storage buildings and gazebos.
  • Extensive Renovations: Even if you’re not building a new structure from the ground up, you may need a permit to make sure anything new you put in is up to modern building codes.
  • Home Additions: Adding a new room to your home, or putting in a new deck, porch or patio? You’ll most likely need to get a permit, depending on your area.
  • Changes in Structure: Different from additions or renovations, structural changes usually involve altering the “bones” of your home or other building. This includes things like taking out load-bearing walls.
  • Electrical, Plumbing and More: Whenever you’re dealing with systems like plumbing, electrical or other mechanical systems, building permits will be required. Sometimes separate forms will also be required, so check with your local authority.  

How to Get a Building Permit
Securing a building permit for your project starts with a visit to your city or county’s Permits and Inspections (P&I) Division website. A quick Google search for “building permits” is usually enough to bring up the page you’ll need, although the name of the department might vary depending on your area. From there, you may be able to apply for a permit online, request an inspection and find answers to other questions you may have throughout the process. For more involved projects, you may be required to submit a plan along with your application.

If you want a guide through the permitting process, you can enlist the help of a permit service. These are companies that help you organize the materials you need to get your permit, filling out necessary paperwork and keeping track of the various fees and inspections you’ll need to budget for. Permit services take the guesswork out of permitting, making the process simpler and less stressful for you.

 

Call National Property Inspections Today
Find your local inspector today to schedule a full assessment of your home. NPI inspectors have the training, knowledge and expertise to document the condition of your home’s major systems.

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