While the process of getting a building permit differs with each city, here's a general run-through with some tips on getting the job done a lot easier:
- Check to see if the work you need done requires a permit. Minor repairs, painting, and re-flooring usually won't need permits, whereas more complex projects such as new constructions, remodeling and tenant improvements will. Visiting your locality's website or heading to the local municipal building department will help you find out what requirements you need. Get an application for a building permit while you're there.
- Study, study, study. Read up on building and zoning codes, and all related legal requirements for the kind of construction you'll be having. It'll pay off to know your stuff, even if you've got a contractor helping you out. In the off-chance there's an oversight on the contractor's part, you'll be glad that you caught it. You certainly don't want to have to do things over because of a few broken regulations.
- Draw your plans up. According to the changes that arise from your plans, you may need to obtain additional permits. A contractor can help you out with the specifications if you aren't doing it yourself.
- Make several copies of every drawing and schematic for your construction project and have them sign by a licensed architect. The number of copies will depend on the requirements set by your locality. Again, if you have a contractor helping you out, he can arrange for the architects' signatures. Depending on the size of the job, it may be handy to have a site plan and landscaping drawings prepared as well.
- Take special notice to your exterior. Some localities place restrictions on signs and their placement. Learn what regulations are in place regarding driveways and parking. Review the Americans with Disabilities Act for any requirements needed for your project. All these are essential for obtaining a permit.
- Once you've got everything you need and your building permit application form's filled up, drop by the municipal building department. Make sure you bring everything with you, and have yours and your contractor's names and contact information with you. You'll need to have your contractor's license number, if you're working with one.
- Depending on how thorough you've been, you may be asked for more information. Be prepared for more delays; however, if you're working with a contractor, he can help run things more smoothly for you. Be patient, provide all the information asked of you as truthfully as you can, and you'll eventually have your application approved.
- Now that you've got your permit, you can start the heavy work. Building inspectors will periodically drop by to check up on the construction, depending on the nature of your project. Don't be surprised if the fire marshal, utilities department, and health department do a little investigating of their own. Once construction is done, prepare for a final inspection. If your property passes all regulations, a Certificate of Occupancy will be submitted, granting you access to your building.