How to Get Building Plans Approved

Someone looking at building plans.

While building a home or making changes to one is an exciting venture, it’s also one that can come with many steps to take, boxes to check, and obstacles to overcome. One of those obstacles is getting building plans approved by the city. This is a big step, and it can feel like an intimidating one. Depending on where you live, you’ll require different permits and permission for different types of construction. To help you navigate this tricky topic, below is a guide with tips and tricks to getting this done without a headache.

Understand When Permits Are Required

Mudding drywall.

The first step to getting building plans approved with the proper permits is to gain an understanding of when these permits are even required. The general rule of thumb is that when there are simple interior cosmetic changes being made, no permit is required. This applies to projects like repainting or installing carpet. Remodels that add square footage to your home or that encompass structural modifications require a permit. However, if you’re making simple changes to your home’s landscape, it’s likely that you would not need a permit.

Know Who to Ask

Another important part of getting approval from the city for your building plans is to know who to ask. If you’re questioning whether a permit is even needed, visit your local building jurisdiction to inquire. Alternatively, enlist the help of an architect who has likely dealt with these questions before.

Construct Your Plans

Perhaps the most important part of this process is constructing your building plans. These should be carefully crafted and, again, the help of a professional is encouraged. Understand building codes set by your jurisdiction in order to plan to meet them as you draw up sketches to make your vision become a reality. At this point, you’ll also want to make a comprehensive list of the changes you are looking to make to your home. Separate these items into groups of “structural,” “electrical,” and “mechanical” modifications to ensure that every listed change is planned in a way that meets the necessary codes.

Follow the IBC

The International Building Code (IBC) is most typically the baseline for the do’s and don’ts of the building or remodeling process. Although individual governing agencies have the right to interpret or modify these codes as they see fit, this is a good guideline to go by. Contractors that you are working with should be well-versed in your governing city’s codes and regulations, but the IBC is a good guide to utilize as you prepare to submit your building plans.

Complete the Submittal Process

Looking at a building plan in an office setting.

Next comes the submittal process. Determine the scope of your project, using the help of your designer or architect if you have one. Develop a clear plan of what the project will entail logistically.

You’ll also need to take into consideration your homeowner association, if you belong to one. If so, you’ll need their approval before you can go to the city to receive building plan approval. Speak with the president of your homeowner association in order to determine how to get approval from this board, as going to the city without that will result in a setback.

Submit your plans to your city’s planning department and await their approval. Next, your plans will be routed to the building department to ensure that they adhere to building codes. As you develop your building plans, go over everything with a fine-toothed comb to ensure that they meet the standards set by your city for building regulations to avoid the building department coming back with any questions. They will also examine plans for any structural, electrical, and mechanical modifications.

Whenever you’re making changes to your home that go beyond cosmetics, it’s important to understand what building plans to prepare for submission and what permits to acquire. While this process certainly may seem a bit daunting, these tips prove that it’s simpler than it appears at first glance, as long as you’re willing to do your due diligence and put in some work to get it done.

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