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The Building Permit Process, Simplified

By on February 28, 2017

City of chicago building permits

Do you have a home project but feel intimidated by the residential building permits process? We understand why; many state permit offices seem like a cloud of mystery. However, when you dive in, you’ll find that it’s often not as intimidating as it first seemed. In fact, if you just can’t wrap your head around the process, there are even permit expediting services that do the work for you, in shorter time frames than you could do it yourself (we’ll cover permit expediting services below). The point is, you should never delay a home project because you don’t feel like going through the red tape to get the permits.


The exact process to get your building permit depends on the area you live in and the type of project you’re doing, but we outlined the basic process you’ll go through, below:


Six Steps to Get a Residential Building Permit

  1. Understand Your Zoning Requirements

    While the overall goal of building permits is to ensure that structures are built safely for being used and occupied by people, the zoning requirements for your property vary vastly depending on the land use designation your land is in. For example, if you are in an area that is designated “Low Intensity Rural,” you might not be able to put more than one living structure per three acres of land. If you are in an urban area, you will be subject to stipulations such as how far away from the road you have to set a structure, as well as the height and visibility of the structure.


    The point is, you can’t really make extensive building plans without understanding your zoning requirements. So before you make any plans for your residential building project, make sure to contact your area’s zoning and planning department and get a picture of the requirements you’re working with.

  2. Plan Out Your Project

    If your building plans are extensive (such as building a home from scratch or doing extensive renovations) you’ll need to provide a physical copy of the plans to the permit office. These plans would need to include:
    • An overview of the land you’re building on
    • A floor plan for what you’re planning to build that includes details about the foundation, structure framing and truss plans, wall sections, and roofing details
    • Details about area, such as washes that cross the plot and the elevation.

    If your home project is relatively minor, such as making a change to the electrical setup of an existing structure, you won’t need as much documentation. You’ll just want to contact your building department to find out what information you’ll need to provide about your project plans.


  3. Submit a Permit Application

    Once you know the guidelines your project must follow (step one) and the plan you have for your project (step two), it’s time to put your money where your mouth is and send in the application. In most areas, you can get a copy of the application you need to fill out on your local government website, and return it electronically as well. For an extensive project, you might find it beneficial to take your application in in person, just to ensure you’ve included all of the necessary paperwork. If you’re more of a builder and less of a businessman, this is where permit expediting services are valuable. In addition to getting you the permit you need faster, permit expediting services do the tedious bureaucratic work for you.

  4. Get Inspections and Pay the Fees

    After your application has been reviewed, your local Building Office will contact you with a time frame that they inspectors will come look at the lot in person and go over your plans. At this time, you’ll also pay the permit fees. These fees vary based on the appraisal of the property and the type of permit you need.
  5. Do the Approved Work

    With the permit application approved, it’s time to get started on your project, following the plans that were approved by the permit office.

  6. Get a Final Inspection and Certification

    When the project is complete, the Permit Office who approved your application will send out an inspector to look over the completed work and make sure it is all in accordance with the guidelines of your permit. If there aren’t any issues, they’ll give their stamp of approval and you’re home free!

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