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What Do I Need to Get a Building Permit?

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So you’ve decided that you’re going to build something, and the property you’re building on falls within your city’s zoning jurisdiction. Whether it’s a new house, a garage, a shed, or just a small addition to your home’s structure, odds are that you’ll need to apply for a building permit from your city’s building or permit department.

Every city or municipality has different rules and regulations you’ll need to follow to get your permit, but there are some things that you can expect to find pretty much everywhere. Below you’ll find some of these general requirements. They’ll get you started, and then you can contact your local building permit-granting organization to learn any area-specific requirements.

You need a site plan. First and foremost, you’ll need to have site map created for the area you where you want to build, and you have a few options on how to get it made.

You can attempt to survey the site yourself, but this can take up a lot of your time if you aren’t a pro. A professional surveyor can come to your property and do the work for you, though many people find the cost prohibitive.

MySitePlan offers an alternative that is not only much less expensive, but also faster and easier for you. Just let us know what you want a site plan of and we’ll use satellites to provide you with one that’s both accurate and meets your municipality’s requirements.

You need to apply using the proper forms. As noted earlier, every city has its own set of unique rules when it comes to getting a permit, but all will require a form or application to be filled out as part of the permit process.

Depending on where you live, the number of forms you have to deal with for your building project will vary, so get in touch with your city’s building department and find out what you need well in advance of the planned project.

You need to manage your time well. It can take days or, in all likelihood, weeks for your building permit to be fully approved and issued to you. Take this into account when planning your project, so you can avoid finding yourself in the awkward position of getting all your materials, tools, and workers together only be forced to wait for your permit application to pass the last few checks in the process.

And don’t be tempted to cut corners when it comes to the timing of your permit to build, as the fines for building without a permit or before your permit is issued can be fairly high. Normally, it’s best to aim to have your permit a couple weeks before any work on the project is set to begin.

You need to pay the permit fees. This may seem obvious, but you definitely need to pay your permit fees. As mentioned above, the cost of a fine, or multiple fines, can take a considerable chunk out of your project’s budget. And permit fees are much, much lower than the costs of fines for violations, so paying your application fee is definitely the lesser of two evils when it comes to the overall cost of your building project.

An important note: the cost of fees usually corresponds to the overall cost of the proposed building operation, so the higher your project’s cost, the higher the fee will be. 

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  • Ryan Crownholm
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