Building permits are issued to allow a home owner, business or building contractor to make additions or changes to a home or building. Building permits are issued for new construction projects for private or public use. Building permits may be issued by a county or city and the main purpose is to ensure that any changes, additions or new construction meets the requirements of the location.
When applying for a building permit a home owner or contractor is required to submit a detailed plan of the work they are planning to do. A fee is usually charged for the permit or permits needed and this fee will depend on the issuing authority and the type of work being done. Permits normally have a set amount of time allotted for project completion and any required inspections are normally included in the permit fees.
The primary purpose of a building permit is to ensure that all work is performed to national code requirements or more stringent local codes for safety. While some areas do not enforce all building codes most areas meet or exceed national requirements. Improperly performed electrical work can have tragic results. Natural gas modifications must be done correctly to prevent explosions and fire. The framing and foundation of a building must meet requirements to reduce the possibility of building collapse. In addition, for public buildings, access must be provided for users of wheelchairs.
While there are national codes for most construction work done in the U.S. there are areas that add further requirements. As an example, California has more requirements in place for earthquake safety measures. Areas subject to damage from hurricanes or tornadoes may add additional requirements for building construction.
Permits ensure that any zoning requirements are also met. In many areas the mixing of business and residential construction is not allowed. Building size may have minimum or maximum requirements. Distances between buildings and offsets from streets can be required for fire safety and other reasons. Even the types of materials that are used in the building construction can be regulated by the county or city.
Once a project has been completed the homeowner or contractor needs to call the building department that issued the permit to request an inspection of the work done. With new commercial buildings or homes many inspections may be required during the progression of the project. Intermediate inspections allow for the repair of unsatisfactory work before the construction has progressed too far. Electrical and plumbing problems need to be fixed before the drywall is installed. The permit holder is allowed a time period to correct any areas in need and have a follow up inspection performed.
Electrical and fire safety are the primary concerns of most building codes. In addition building codes and permits help to ensure that all work is done in a professional way with quality materials to maximize safety.