What’s the deal with Building Permits?

When you decide it’s time to do some work on your home you may not think of everything. But make sure you understand whether or not you need a building permit from your local construction department. Let’s take a look at when you may or may not need a permit to perform the work required…

Ordinary maintenance does not require a permit. What is considered “ordinary maintenance?”

Painting, wall papering, wall repair as long as it is less than 25% of the wall area in a given room (so if you are re-drywalling an entire room you need a permit!) is all considered ordinary maintenance as is exterior and interior trim, but guess what? Paneling is not considered ordinary maintenance!

Windows, doors and garage doors are all considered ordinary maintenance but have some caveats with them. The glass in the windows and doors need to conform to the building codes and window replacement cannot reduce the existing opening size of the pre-existing unit. The same rule applies if the door you are replacing is an egress door, the width cannot be reduced.

Flooring replacement also considered ordinary maintenance however roofing and siding are not unless it is less than 25% of the entire structure. Other exterior work includes gutter replacement, porch repair (as long as it is not supporting a roof structure) and window screens (you probably thought I would have forgotten about that).

If you are doing any plumbing work, make sure your plumber knows when and when it is considered ordinary work. Even if you do not need a permit you are still required to replace certain fixture with code compliant ones. Same goes for any electrical work, make sure your electrician is familiar with what is considered ordinary maintenance!

Fire and smoke detectors no permit required and many heating and cooling repairs are considered ordinary maintenance. Wow, you can do a lot of work in your home without going through the process of obtaining a permit!

So what does need a permit? Everything else!! The New Jersey Administrative Code Section 5:23-2.14 explains in details when a permit is required. The following is a brief summary for those who are not interested in reading all of it…

If you plan to construct, enlarge, repair (unless it is an ordinary maintenance repair), renovate, alter, reconstruct or demolish a structure then you need a permit. So any work you plan on hiring an architect will most likely need a permit. What do you need to obtain the permit? The New Jersey Administrative Code Section 5:23-2.15A Construction permit of a single-family residence will cover this. Basically you need a minimum of two signed a sealed sets of documents from your architect (should you decide to go the route of using a design professional – I highly recommend this!) conforming with all the plans and details conforming to the New Jersey Uniform Construction Code along with all additional applicable codes. The above-referenced section lists all the required documentation required to submit. Your architect is not required to provide all the information required. The state allows your sub-contractors to submit information. Item permitted are Plumbing plans, electrical plans and mechanical plans which may be prepared by licensed plumbers, licensed electrical contractors and mechanical contractors, respectively, in accordance with these regulations. In addition, Energy subcode compliance documentation may be submitted by your mechanical contractor.

If the work is minor the Code Official can waive some of these requirements.

After you get all the required documentation into the town they have 20 business days to review and grant the permit. If they see any deficiencies in the submission they shall notify you in writing citing the appropriate code sections they are concerned with. You shall then address those concerns with a letter or revised drawings and then the town official will have another 7 business days to review and issue your permit. Grab your hammer and get started!

So that is, in general, the “deal” regarding permits!