All About Codes and Permits!


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What is the building code?

An agreed upon and legally adopted set of standards and practices.

The most widely accepted set of standards and practices is known as the International Building Code (IBC), developed by the International Code Council (ICC), an organi-zation with over 500 staff members currently operating in 55 countries which results in the code itself influencing the lives of nearly 2 billion people worldwide.

The International Code Council creates “model” codes - meaning they are not designed for any one government and the council has no financial stake or authority to enforce any of the codes it creates. What happens is a country like the US, instead taking on the cost of writing its own build-ing code from scratch, elects to adopt the International Building Code model. Then each state, instead of taking on the cost of writing its own building code from scratch, adopts and adapts the model to its own needs and makes it law. Then under the umbrella of state the state code each county, city and local government adds their own provisions. So this explains how the western world is now working from the same general playbook (the International Building Code) while at the same time certain facets of that playbook differ from country to country, state to state and even town to town.

It’s far from perfect but this system of code development has provided the highest level of public safety in the history of the world for more than 90 years.

The code is constantly being changed and updated but changes don’t occur randomly at any given time. The IBC is updated in three year cycles, the next of which is 2021.

Why permits?

Your city is required by state law to enforce Federal, State and local regulations to insure that your project is safe and is an asset to the community. So, whenever you con-struct, enlarge, alter, repair, move, remove, improve, convert, or demolish a building or other structure you must obtain a permit.

What needs a permit? It’s easier to list what doesn’t …

• Most fencing

• Minor electrical and plumbing repairs that don’t involve removing wiring or piping.

• Painting, wall papering, tiling, carpeting, cabinetry, countertops and similar finish work

• Single story detached buildings used for storage or a children’s playhouse with a floor area less than 120 square feet and no electricity, plumbing, or heating.

• Retaining wall up to 4 feet high measured from the bottom of the footing and not retaining sloping ground or a nearby foundation.

Who can get a building permit?

Only licensed contractors and property owners (Owner/Builder).

Owner/Builders assume full responsibility for the work and their workers ’safety and are assumed to have the same knowledge of codes and construction methods as licensed contractors. Owner/Builders must do the work by themselves or with immediate family, employees, or licensed subcontractors.

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Permits - The Process

Over-the-Counter permits v. Plan Submittal

Step 1: The Planning Department

  • General zoning
  • Specialized zones (ie: Coastal Commission)
  • HOA’s
  • CC&R’s
  • Applying for a variance

Step 2: Plans

California Business and Professions Code requires the plans for all buildings and structures shall be prepared and signed by a person licensed by the State of California as a civil engineer, structural engineer, or architect.

Exemptions: Single-family dwellings of woodframe construction not more than two stories and basement in height.

Who can draw your plans?

You, an architect, a designer, a draftsperson … basically anyone under 3 stories

Your plans will consist of …

  1. Architectural pages
  2. Engineering - structural (always) sometimes electrical, mechanical & plumbing
  3. Title 24 - energy calcs, Green building compliance, etc.

Step 3: Plan Check & Fees

  • Find out how long your plans are likely to be in plan check
  • Some cities have in-house plan checkers, some contract it out
  • The mark up set and corrections sheet
  • Re-submittal

Step 4: Sign-off from ancillary entities - ie: Fire Dept., Public Works (curb cut), Utilities, etc.

Step 5: Permit fees and other taxes

  • What is valuation?
  • Counting fixtures

Step 6: Permit Issuance with Stamped Plan Set and Inspection Cards

Permit Expediters

Building Inspections

  • Call ahead to request inspection
  • Call morning of to get a narrower window
  • Typical inspections
    • ok to pour foundation
      • Deputy Inspectors provide a service to builders who require continuous inspection for time periods that Building and Safety Inspectors cannot oth-erwise fulfill. ... Building and Safety certifies Deputy Inspectors through a rigorous examination and interview process.
    • ok to insulate
    • ok to close walls
    • ok to cover roof
    • ok to mud walls, stucco or siding
    • all rough electrical, mechanical, and plumbing complete
      • C of O - The Certificate of Occupancy