Building Inspection FAQ’s
This Office is Certified by the International Code Council
1. What is the Permit Application Process?
- When a permit is required, it is necessary to provide at least three (3) sets of plans to the building department for review. After the plans are reviewed and approved, the applicant will get a set returned to him/her which has a stamp of approval from the building department. This approved set of plans must remain on the job site for the duration of the project. These plans must be available to the inspector, or inspections will not be performed. The second set of approved plans is retained by the building department. An additional copy of the floor plan is required and is sent to the assessor’s office for their records.
- Submitted documents shall reflect all proposed work. Plans shall be clear enough such that if you were to hand them to a complete stranger, he/she would be able to construct the project as you intend.
- Most commercial projects, as well as any construction that does not meet the requirements for “Conventional Light-Frame Construction” as specified in Chapter 23 of the California Building Code (CBC), must be designed, and all plans and documents stamped, by a qualified architect or engineer licensed by the State of California.
2. What documents are required for a permit application?
- Three (3) sets of plans, drawn to scale, are required which include the following:
- A site plan showing the location of all property lines and existing and proposed structures. The use of each structure and the distances between them and to the property lines must also be indicated. An arrow indicating “North” is also required.
- A floor plan showing all walls, doors, windows, and the use of each room. Critical dimensions shall be indicated.
- Structural plans which include:
- foundation plan
- wall framing plan including required wall bracing
- floor framing plan
- roof framing plan or truss layout
- cross section(s)
- details of critical connections
- statement of special inspections (if special inspections are required)
- All plans for commercial projects and multifamily dwellings must show compliance with California Disabled Access Regulations. All required access features, with dimensions, shall be clearly indicated on the plans. Certain items must also be addressed when additions, alterations or structural repairs are proposed as well.
- A complete electrical plan. (Residential plans must also show the locations of all required smoke detectors.)
- A complete plumbing and mechanical plan is required for most commercial projects, but not for residential projects unless unusual construction is proposed.
- Two (2) sets of structural calculations are required for most commercial projects and for all projects that are considered non-conventional construction. Unless specifically indicated otherwise by the Building Official, structural calculations shall include a complete vertical and lateral All construction requirements shown in the calculations shall be reflected on the plans. All structural calculations shall be stamped and signed by a qualified architect or engineer licensed by the State of California.
- A foundation and soils investigation is likely required per CBC chapter 18.
- Two (2) sets of (Title 24) Energy Documentation (if required).
- Other information is required such as names and addresses of the owner, contractor, engineer/architect, and the applicant.
- Contractors must provide Worker’s Compensation Insurance information and a valid Contractor’s License.
- This may not be a complete list. Other departments may be involved. Additional items may be required.
3. What if something is built without a permit?
- If work is completed without the benefit of permits, it is a violation. No further permits will be issued for that site until the violation is corrected. Additional fees and/or fines may result and a lien may be placed against the property until the violation is corrected.
- Building permits must be obtained as required for new construction. The work must comply with the applicable codes in effect at the time of application. Therefore, work that may have been legal at the time of construction, may not be acceptable at the time of permitting.
- If the unpermitted work is commercial, a licensed architect or engineer must prepare and certify all plans and documents as indicated in this pamphlet and submit to the Building Official for review and approval. When the plans are approved by the Building Official, a building inspector will perform the normal inspections. However, any construction which the inspector cannot verify must be qualified by a licensed engineer or architect to the satisfaction of the Building Official. This may require expensive testing and/or demolition and often becomes very time consuming.
- If the unpermitted work is residential, you can pay for a building inspector to perform a site inspection and he/she will indicate, in writing, what documents and information must be provided to the building department in order to obtain the building permit. A licensed engineer or architect may be required to certify plans and documents. Again, any work that cannot be verified by the inspector must be qualified by a licensed engineer or architect to the satisfaction of the Building Official.
4. When is a building permit required?
A building permit is required for any construction which physically changes or adds structures to your property or for work regulated by local Codes or Ordinances, such as:
- New Buildings
- Additions-Room additions, patio covers, swimming pools, etc.
- Alterations-Re-roofs, garage conversions, exterior stucco
- Repairs-Replacement of water heaters or other plumbing fixtures, air conditioning units, new electrical service, and rewiring, etc.
- Moving or Demolishing a building
- Installation of heating equipment, such as stoves, wall heaters and fireplaces
5. When is a building permit not required?
A permit is not required for the following:
- One-story detached accessory structures used as tool and storage sheds, playhouses, and similar uses, provided the floor area does not exceed one hundred twenty (120) square feet.
- Fences not over six (6) feet high.
- Movable cases, counters and partitions not over five (5) feet high.
- Retaining walls not over four (4) feet high measured from the bottom of the footing to the top of the wall and not supporting a surcharge or impounding Class I, II, or III-A liquids. Contact your local Building Official for walls retaining soils in close proximity of the property line.
- Water tanks supported directly on grade if the capacity does not exceed five thousand (5000) gallons and the ratio of height to diameter or width does not exceed two to one (2:1).
- Platforms, walks or driveways not more than thirty (30) inches above grade and not over any basement or story below. Contact your local Building Official if the walks or platforms are accessible to the public.
- Painting, papering and similar finish work.
- Temporary motion picture, television, and theater stage sets and scenery.
- Window awnings supported by an exterior wall of Group R-3 or U-1 Occupancy when projecting not more than fifty four (54) inches.
Prefabricated swimming pools accessory to a Group R-3 Occupancy in which the pool walls are entirely above the adjacent grade and if the capacity does not exceed five thousand (5000) gallons. (Note: Associated electrical work does require a permit.
6. Why should I get a building permit?
- A building permit is required by law and is intended to protect life and property.
- When you obtain a building permit, you have the comfort of knowing that your project is being reviewed and inspected by qualified personnel who are trained and experienced in this line of work.
- Most projects begin with a plan review before a permit is issued. A large majority of potential problems are discovered at this stage and resolved before the project even begins. This saves unnecessary construction delays, time, and money, as opposed to discovering the errors in the field after materials are delivered and/or installed.
- During the construction of your project, an experienced building inspector performs periodic inspections to verify the work is properly completed and meets code requirements. The inspector may also be able to provide suggestions or recommendations since they, most likely, have experienced similar situations in the past!
- Plan review and inspection fees for building permits are nominal and are a small price to pay when you consider the alternatives. Wouldn’t you rest assured knowing that your construction project was approved by experts?
If you have any questions or need additional information please don’t hesitate to contact the Building Inspection Department. They’re happy to answer questions and help get your project moving forward.