Determine whether you need a building permit and the type of permit you need. If you are just doing minor repairs and painting/wallpapering/floor coverings for your building, you will probably not need a permit. For more complex types of construction, you will need a permit. This includes new construction, additions, remodeling, tenant improvements, and changes in use (for example, a change in an office from retail to professional office space).
- Read all you can about the building codes, zoning restrictions, and related local ordinances for the type of construction you will be doing. Even if you are planning to have a contractor do the work, be sure you know the restrictions and requirements. For example, be aware of setback restrictions (how close to the end of the property a building can be located). You don't want to start construction and find out that your building is too close to the road! Also be aware of height restrictions for buildings, railings, and other structures.
- Find a general contractor and draw up plans. If changes are being made to plumbing, electrical, sewer/septic, additional permits may be needed. If you re doing the general contracting yourself, you will need to draw up the specifications yourself.
- Prepare drawings and schematics and make several copies (the number depends on the requirements of your locality). All drawings must be signed by a licenses architect. (If your changes are minor, this requirement may not be necessary.) If you are using a contractor, the contractor will arrange for the signatures on the drawings and schematics (plumbing, electrical). You may also have to prepare land use and landscaping drawings and a general site plan, depending on the size and complexity of the changes.
- If you will need exterior signs, check your locality's restrictions on size and placement before you order the signs. Some locations heavily regulate sign size and placement, while others do not.
- Learn about your locality's requirements for driveways and for parking (number of parking places, number of disabled parking spots) and the signs required for parking. Also be sure you know the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act for public access. Major construction requires making changes such as widening doors, changing restrooms, and adding ramps.
- Submit the building permit application to your locality's building department. You will need your name and contact information and the name of the contractor, with contact information and license number.
- Be prepared for questions, requests for more information, and other delays. If you have a contractor at this stage, he or she can help move the process through more quickly.
- After your application has been approved, construction can begin. Inspections will be scheduled at various points during the process, depending on the project. Toward the end, you may be inspected by the fire marshall, health department, and utilities department too.
- At the end, after the final inspection, a Certificate of Occupancy is submitted, giving you access to the property. (It may be called something else in your location.) Now you are finally able to occupy the building!
- Before you submit your application, go to the website of your locality to find the application before you submit, so you can be sure you are including all the necessary information. You will also need to submit the blueprints, schematics, and drawings noted above.
- You may want to do some of the work yourself, but you might get a contractor for electrical or plumbing work. Many localities have unions and they require that this work be done by union members. In smaller towns, this may not be a problem.
- Don't ever assume that a contractor knows the law. Do your own research on things like ADA requirements, sign height and size restrictions, parking space requirements, landscaping, and setbacks.
What You Need
- A copy of the abstract of title or a drawing of the property
- A lot of patience!