Chances are, you’ve at least heard of building permits even if you haven’t applied for one yourself. Going by their name alone, you can probably guess the general gist of what these permits are used for. You might be surprised to find out that a lot of homeowners don’t really know that much about building permits, especially when it comes to details such as when you need to apply for one. It can actually get kind of confusing at times, so here’s a rundown of the basics of building permits so you won’t be left scratching your head the next time you’re considering a new project around the house.
What Are Building Permits?
As the name implies, a building permit is a written permission granted by a municipality or other governing body that allows you to build something within the body’s jurisdiction. That’s a fancy way of saying that the city or other area you live in gave you permission to build within the city or county limits. This helps to ensure that the work you’re doing is safe and falls within the guidelines established by local building and construction codes. Since these codes can be different depending on the location where you live, building permits help to ensure that everything complies with all local regulations.
Applying for a Permit
In most areas, applying for a building permit is a pretty straightforward process. You fill out an application, prepare a site plan that details what you’ll be building, and schedule an appointment to have the plan approved. Once your permit is approved, you may need to schedule inspections of the works site as well to ensure that things are following the plan that was laid out in your application. Bear in mind that the specific process and any fees or other costs associated with the application process will vary depending on local zoning rules and other legal specifics of the area where you live.
Building Permit Changes
Once you have a building permit, you’re free to go ahead with your building project. What happens if your plans change during the building process, though? The answer depends on the nature of your change. Depending on the jurisdiction you’re in, you may be free to continue your project if the changes are relatively minor or still in the spirit of the original permit. If there are major deviations from what you specified in your original application, however, you’ll almost certainly need to either have your permit amended or apply for a new permit to cover the project as it now stands. Bear in mind that this depends heavily on the jurisdiction that issues the permit, so be sure to check and see how that affects your permit before making major changes to your project.
Do You Need a Permit?
One bit of good news is that not all construction projects require you to apply for a building permit. While this depends largely on the specifics of local building codes, you typically won’t need a building permit for small projects or projects that don’t make structural changes to your home. And you may not need one for some significant modifications, such as replacing plumbing or electrical wiring. As an example, you’re likely not going to need a building permit to paint your house or install a small fence around your backyard, though you may still need to clear those changes with your homeowner’s association if you’re in one. However, should you decide to add walls, convert your garage to a living room, or build a new exterior building, you could very well need a permit depending on where you live.