November 7, 2021

Starting Out: Permit Application 101

Starting Out: Permit Application 101

Applying for a construction permit can feel overwhelming. By preparing well and enlisting the right support, you can have a good experience and stay in control of your process.

When Should You Start Your Permit Application?

It's important to apply at the right time during your project's life cycle. If you apply too early and parts of your project scope change, you may be forced to submit an all new application and face delays. If you apply too late, the permit processing times might surpass your start date. The best time to apply for a permit is once the major scope items are finalized, meaning decisions regarding floor plan changes and major MEP elements are locked in.

Do Your Research

Once you have a good understanding of the scope of your project, start at your local building department's website. Most municipalities have helpful resources for a few different project types: bathroom and kitchen remodels, accessory dwelling units, deck repairs, etc. Make a list of different forms that are required for your project and write down any questions you have.  

Call a Permit Tech!

There is nothing better than getting in touch with someone who knows the ins and outs of the building department! Once you are acquainted with the different forms you might have to fill out, you probably still have some questions. Permit Technicians will be the ones reviewing your application, so it is important to make sure you understand what they're looking for before you apply. Their contact information is usually found on the Building Department Website or you can place a call to the general line and they will connect you with the right person.

When calling or emailing, present your project in a way that will help the technician understand your scope of work. Start with a general description (kitchen or bath remodel, etc) and describe any floor plan changes (moving walls or plumbing fixtures such as toilets or bathtubs). Call out any major changes such as removals of load bearing walls or replacements of windows.

During your conversation or email, make sure these questions are answered:

  1. Is the project address is under this Building Department's jurisdiction? Quickly verify with the Tech that they service your address.
  2. What type of permit is this project? Can it be issued over-the-counter or will it require intake or plan review?
  3. If it is not over-the-counter (same day approval), what are the current approximate plan review times for projects of this scope?
  4. Compile a list of forms that need to be completed and ask any questions about the forms that you are unsure of. Make sure you have the right idea of what you need to submit.
  5. Does my project require plans to be submitted?

a. If yes, what information needs to be on the plans for your project's scope? Existing and proposed floor plans, site plans, etc.

b. What signatures do plans require? Do they need to be wet signatures or is a digital signature ok?

c. If plans are submitted in person, how many copies and what size plans are required?

Give Yourself Extra Time

Make sure you have a good understanding of the potential timeline of your project's permit, especially if you need to submit it for review. Building departments experience delays and backlogs for many different reasons, and you don't want these to affect your project's schedule. Allow a 2 week buffer for most residential alteration projects. If your project involves a structural wall removal with engineering calculations, you should budget time for one round of comments and other delays.  

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