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Building Permits

The home building process, like everything else in modern life is pretty heavily regulated. Once your construction loan has been secured, it is time to get your building permits.

picture of a building permitAs an Owner Builder, the burden is on you to secure all the building permits required to build your new home - or to make sure those subs responsible for providing their own permits have done so.

If you are home building in a rural area or a small town, you may find that there is no building department, no inspections, no permits!

But make
absolutely sure.

Check with the city (town), county, and possibly even the state before you begin home building without any permits.

We are not familiar with any states that regulate code enforcement at the state level, but then again, we haven't checked them all.

You’ve probably already located the proper places and gotten familiar with the home building permit process when you were investigating the lot and preparing your plans. You certainly found out all there was to know about building permit fees when you did your cost estimate. Right?

Here are some of the building permits which may be required. There may be others . . .

Mechanical (HVAC)*
Septic Tank
Water Tap
Sewer Tap
Tree Clearing
Curb Cut



The building permits marked with the asterisk will probably be secured by the sub who does the work. Make sure you know when you will need each permit - generally before any work begins on that part of the home affected by the permit.

Leave yourself plenty of time. Some building permits may require exhibits (plans and specifications) or testing (perk test for the septic tank). If a plan review is required, it may take a week or more before your building permit(s) is issued.

When getting your permits, ask again what permits are required so that you don’t miss any. It’s possible a new one has been instituted that you haven’t heard about!

When you get your building permits, be sure and find out what inspections are required. Make a note of the inspections required on your Construction Check Lists, so that you don’t forget.

Be sure to ask and understand what the inspectors will be looking for and what cannot be built until the area in question has passed inspection. For example, the rough electrical inspection must be done before the wall insulation can be installed.

Be sure to note how long each building permit is good for. Some building permits expire after a certain time period. In other words, you can’t get a permit to build a home and sit on it for five years!

Know what the requirements are for posting the building permits on your property.

Septic Tank Permit

One item of interest concerns the septic tank building permit. On a lot requiring a septic tank (one not served by a municipal sewer line), a building permit cannot normally be secured until the septic tank is approved.

picture of septic tank installationThe agency responsible for septic tanks will not issue a permit unless it determines that the lot is suitable for a septic tank and drain field.

We have seen cases where the agency would not agree to permitting the lot for a septic tank, but said they would issue a permit if the builder could get a suitable system installed.

This places the burden on the builder. He has to be willing to take the risk and spend the money to try to get a septic tank and drain field into a marginal lot.

Usually the only time this situation arises is when a builder buys several lots together as a group - taking the bad with the good.

He may end up with one or more lots that present difficulties, but that were so inexpensive that he can afford to spend a few extra thousand dollars getting a septic tank in, and still have a buildable lot.

We have included this information just so that you will know that if the health department says the lot is not suitable for a septic tank, you may still have other alternatives. If this happens to you with a lot you are really interested in, talk to several septic tank contractors about the feasibility and cost of getting a system installed on the lot.

Building Permit

This is the "Biggie!" And the most expensive. City and county officials often tack all sorts of things - that they see as related to providing services for the area in which you are building (or not!) - to the cost of a building permit.

Things like special added fees for road construction or improvement, the local school district, etc. I once paid over $14,000 for a building permit in Colorado.

And I'm sure that's nowhere near the record. Knowing this tidbit of information before you commit to a lot, may make you think twice about some subdivisions or jurisdictions.

wavy brickThe main construction building permit is one that will certainly require a plan review.

What the Building Inspector (plan reviewer in larger jurisdictions) will be looking for is that what you plan to build is in compliance with the Building Codes and other requirements they have adopted.

I once had to provide samples of the brick and paint colors I planned to use. No joke!

The building permit is one that will have to be "posted" on the property so that the inspectors can see it when they come to the site and mark it as to what has previously passed inspection.

For additional insight to planning your construction schedule,
see Lesson Thirteen of our online course
Successful Home Contracting

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