Everything You Need to Know About Building Permits
“Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.” Laurence J. Peter - The Peter Principle
When you get a great deal on something, especially when it comes to cars and HVACs, you’re naturally a little curious. How do you know if your contractor knows what they’re doing? Though often tedious, the permit process is a system of checks and balances for your home, providing you with peace of mind about the installation of new upgrades.
Although contractors are typically the ones pulling a permit, there is plenty of information the homeowners need to know. In fact, we've had a number of homeowners attempt to navigate the permit process themselves and call our Permit Coordinator, Mike, for help. It's a tricky process! We sat down with Mike and discussed the common issues surrounding permits, so you know what to expect from your upgrade project.
Why Do I Need a Permit?
Permits were created to keep companies and homeowners responsible for the changes they make to their properties and local facilities. However, not every job requires a permit. Each city and county has a list of projects that require a permit, based on the nature of the job. For instance, if you are getting the glass in one of your windows replaced (an "IGU"), you don't need a permit. But if you wanted a bigger window and enlarged the opening in the wall - even just an inch - you need a permit. In some cities, you may even need a permit for replacing the trim!
Why do Permits take so long?
When it comes to pulling a permit, you need to know one thing: "We are working with government agencies." As the one who handles all our permits, Mike explains that, "every effort will be made on our end to make it as painless as possible, but we are at the mercy of the cities and counties." There are often long lists of documents the agency needs to even consider issuing a permit. To get approved: "Everything has to be perfect." Depending on the scope of work, there can be 10 or more items that need to be submitted before a permit is issued. "This can include HOA approvals (a whole separate process), engineered drawings for solar installations, spec data sheets on various products, Title 24 documents, extensive photo evidence, the list goes on and on." On top of that, every city and county has a completely different set of requirements. "It takes a great deal of time to assemble all of this information so a permit can be approved on the first try."
What can i do?
"Things get super difficult when information and documents cannot be easily scanned and emailed." If you don't have the facilities to email the necessary paperwork, that means delays in your project. In fact, Mike has experienced this issue enough to know "failure to have this option can spread a job out from a week to a month or more." This is especially vital for the Final Inspection. "Many times homeowners try to read the correction notice to us and things get lost in translation... This prevents us from making the corrections in a timely manner, and causes the homeowner to stay home for another inspection."
What is a "Final Inspection"?
Once your permit is created and filed, you have a set amount of time to have it approved or "finaled." Both city and county Building Inspectors are thoroughly trained and up-to-date on current regulations, codes, and standards, so you can feel peace of mind upon approval. However, when it comes to scheduling the Final Inspection, Mike warns "government agencies make no apologies for not setting appointment times... Prepare yourself to be available all day the day of your final inspection." In addition, if you don’t immediately hand over all the permit paperwork when the inspector finally arrives, you'll fail automatically. Suffice to say it's a tedious process, but we work hard to make sure it goes smoothly for you!
What if I want to pull the Permit Myself?
If you're going the DIY route, understand it's a tedious process. "Do extensive research, make phone calls, and expect to be waiting in building department lobbies."