Guide to Obtaining a Construction or Renovation Permit in the US

If you’re planning to build or renovate a home in the United States, you’ll need to obtain a construction permit to legally carry out any changes and avoid future issues. The process is based on city approval, as each state has its own regulatory code, which regulates neighborhood life and ensures your stay is safe and pleasant. This process can be lengthy and tedious if you’re unsure where to go and what steps to follow. This guide will help you navigate the process with ease.

What is a Construction Permit?

A construction permit is an official document that authorizes the start of residential construction or any renovation. Each state, county, city, and town has its own jurisdiction and, therefore, has different parameters regarding the issuance of permits and fees related to the type of construction or renovation. The Permit and Inspection Board or the Construction and Zoning Board are responsible for reviewing construction plans and determining whether or not they can issue the permit after the regulatory fees have been paid. Subsequently, the agency visits the construction site to ensure that the owner follows the code.

Types of Permits

There are two types of permits:

  1. Residential Buildings: This includes constructions, renovations, expansions, and removals of family spaces intended to be inhabited.
  2. Commercial Buildings: This includes constructions, renovations, expansions, and removals of spaces intended for the representation of a profit-making business.

Why Do I Need a Permit?

Issues such as public safety, uniformity in construction quality, health, and property appraisal are some of the reasons why official permits are needed. Buildings that are poorly constructed, with inadequate wiring or plumbing, can pose a danger to the owner and neighbors. These conditions can lead to imminent risks of fires, collapses, or diseases from poorly installed pipes, among other impacts. Therefore, permits are issued only to those who comply with all the construction requirements established in each code, according to the needs of each neighborhood.

How to Determine if You Need a Permit?

This depends on the construction code of your locality, but generally, urban and suburban areas usually require more permits than rural areas. However, here is a list of cases where a permit is necessary:

  • New Construction: The construction of a new residence always requires a permit. This category also includes the construction of guest houses, storage buildings, gazebos, and garages.
  • New Rooms or Conversions: This includes not only new bedrooms but also glazed terraces, patios, and porches.
  • Major Renovations: From the restoration of a very old house to the remodeling of a bathroom or a kitchen are considered major renovations and, therefore, require a permit.
  • Structural Alterations: This implies changes in the structure of a residence, either by the addition or removal of walls, as well as in the finishing of spaces in the basement and attic.
  • Mechanical, Plumbing, and Electrical Works: These three aspects encompass a large number of potential renovation and construction works; many of which may require a permit.

Approximate Costs

The costs always depend on the type of project you wish to carry out, as well as its complexities. However, it is estimated that the average cost of a permit usually ranges between $1,200 and $1,500, although costs often also range between $440 and $2,000. In some smaller cities and counties, only $100 is charged for obtaining a permit, while in large cities such as Chicago and New York, costs can rise to thousands of dollars.

How to Apply for a Permit and How Long Does the Process Take?

The first step is to complete an appropriate form for the type of construction and return it with its due fees to the local

body responsible for issuing permits. This process can be virtually immediate, require changes, or undergo a deeper review. During this step, it is not possible to start the construction project.

After submitting the application, residential properties usually take up to two weeks to receive their permit, while commercial properties could take up to four weeks to be approved. For some small projects, the permit can even be issued on the same day it is requested.

Permit Service

This procedure is usually carried out easily and quickly. The administrative procedures do not take longer than the stipulated time for each case. However, you will need to approach your local offices to get more information about the time when your permit will be issued and the exact amounts you need to pay according to the type of project to be implemented.

Remember that this procedure is necessary and that, if not complied with, you may be forced to shut down your construction project, in addition to paying substantial fines for non-compliance with this rule. Don’t skip this important step that is designed to maintain your safety and that of your community.

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