How to Get A Building Permit in 11 Simple Steps

Discover the steps involved in obtaining a building permit. Learn how to ensure compliance, safety, and successful construction projects.

Table of Contents

Obtaining a building permit is necessary when constructing a new structure or modifying an existing one. Local government authorities issue building permits to ensure construction projects comply with safety codes, zoning regulations, and other relevant laws.

While the permitting process may be time-consuming in some cases, these permits are essential for maintaining the structural integrity of buildings, protecting public safety, and upholding the overall quality of the building.

Steps to Get a Building Permit

While building permit requirements vary by city jurisdiction, here is a general overview of the common steps to obtaining a building permit.

Step 1: Determine Project Scope and Type

First, identify the nature and scope of your construction project to determine whether a building permit is required and the [type of permit] you may need. [Link: List of permits for construction].

Here are some building projects that typically require a building permit:

  • New constructions, adding structures, and major renovations.
  • Electrical works, solar panel installation, and adding or modifying HVAC systems.
  • Major plumbing works.
  • Demolitions or converting the use of a space.
  • Changing the exterior of a building, such as adding a balcony or altering the façade.

Make sure to identify the government agency responsible for issuing building permits. Below are a few examples for where to look:

It is important to determine the nature and scope of the project well in advance and align it with your goals for the intended project completion date, whether it is the opening of a store or the construction of a new home. The permitting process can be lengthy, so proper planning is essential to ensure your timeline is met.

Step 2: Research Local Regulations

Meet local authorities or licensed professionals, such as building inspectors or zoning officials, to learn about local building codes and regulations that apply to your area. Find out which projects require permitting and seek advice on how to avoid issues that could lead to approval delays.

Make sure to check for special regulations such as historical preservation districts, flood zones, seismic activities, residential vs. commercial rules, and requirements related to structure, electrical, plumbing, and fire safety standards. 

Step 3: Develop Detailed Plans and Compile Application Materials 

Create thorough architectural drawings, engineering plans, and any other necessary documents that outline the project’s specifications, dimensions, and materials. Gather all necessary paperwork, including:

  • Project details: The project’s description, including the scope and purpose of the construction or renovation.
  • Architectural plans: Detailed architectural drawings showcasing the project’s design, layout, and dimensions.
  • Engineering plans: Structural, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing plans detailing technical aspects of the project.
  • Property ownership: Proof of ownership or authorization to undertake the project on the property.
  • Site plan: A site plan indicating the project’s location on the property, setbacks, and proximity to other structures.
  • Zoning Information: Confirmation that the project complies with local zoning laws and regulations.
  • Contractor information: Details about the licensed contractor responsible for the construction.
  • Fees and payments: Payment of applicable permit fees.
  • Code compliance: Assurance that the project adheres to building codes, safety standards, and other regulations.
  • Environmental impact assessment (if applicable): Information about potential environmental effects of the project and proposed mitigation measures.

Step 4: Submit the Application

Submit your completed permit application and supporting materials to the local building department. Depending on the options available in your jurisdiction, you can submit the application yourself or have a licensed permit expeditor do it on your behalf to speed up the approval process.

Here are some examples of checklists of everything needed along with the application (may vary by jurisdiction):

Step 5: Application Review

The building department will review your application for compliance with local codes and regulations. Submitting a complete and accurate application is crucial, as it can significantly reduce the number of comment cycles required during this process. Comment cycles, which involve requests for revisions or additional information, often account for the majority of the time spent in the permitting process. 

Step 6: Pay Fees

Pay the necessary permit fee, which varies based on the project’s complexity, scope, size, valuation, and location. These fees often help cover the review process and building inspection costs. Here are some things to consider:

  • Additional fees such as plan review, permits, and inspections should be considered
  • Make the payment in the designated manner, such as online, in-person, or by mail

Step 7: Await Approval

Wait for the building department to approve your application. The exact time it takes to receive official approval will depend on several factors, including the workload of the department and the complexity of your project.

Step 8: Obtain a Building Permit

Once your permit application is approved and the fees are paid, you will receive the building permit. This document grants you legal permission to proceed with your construction project.

Step 9: Start Construction

With the building permit in hand, you can begin construction according to the approved plans and within the designated timeline. Make sure to:

  • Display the permit prominently at the construction site.
  • Adhere to any specific conditions or restrictions mentioned in the permit.

Step 10: Schedule Inspections

During the construction phase, coordinate inspections with the building department at various stages of the project, such as foundation, framing, electrical, and plumbing. Inspections are necessary to verify that construction adheres to safety codes, building regulations, and quality standards, ensuring the safety of occupants and the structural integrity of the building. They also serve as documentation for legal compliance and property valuation purposes.

Step 11: Final Inspection and Approval

Schedule a final building inspection when your project is complete. If the building department finds everything in order, you will receive a Certificate of Occupancy or Completion, allowing you to use the space. These inspections may be done at various stages of the construction process such as foundation, framing, electrical, plumbing, and fire safety.

Why You Need a Building Permit

A building permit grants official permission from local authorities to proceed with a construction project. The permitting process involves a comprehensive review and adherence to local codes and regulations, ensuring that your building project is conducted safely and does not pose risks to occupants or the general public.

In addition to potential fines and legal complications, constructing or remodeling without a permit can also result in property devaluation. 

Permit-Free Improvement Projects

While most construction or remodeling projects require a permit, building permits may not be required for the following improvement projects:

  • Painting and wallpapering
  • Minor electrical work, such as replacing light fixtures
  • Flooring upgrades
  • Cabinet and countertop replacement
  • Landscaping
  • Installing shelving
  • Minor plumbing changes
  • Replacing windows or doors (provided the replacement does not alter the structural openings)

Who Manages Building Permit Arrangements?

Typically, the project’s contractor handles the permit arrangement and is responsible for ensuring that the construction adheres to local codes.

While property owners can apply for a building permit, they assume liability if any issues arise. Experienced contractors are familiar with the permitting process and can sidestep potential pitfalls that may cause delays.

However, it is worth noting that some contractors charge by the hour, which can make the entire process costly. In such cases, hiring a permit expeditor can help save some money and reduce the time it takes to obtain a permit.

Where to Apply for a Building Permit

Property owners or contractors can apply for a permit at their local municipal, city building department, or online through the department’s website. These offices are responsible for overseeing construction and development within their jurisdiction.

Is It Legal to Build Without a Permit?

If your house improvement project requires a permit, it is best to get one, as building without a permit can lead to serious legal consequences that may extend beyond the initial construction phase. Constructing without a permit might result in fines, forced demolition, and difficulty selling or insuring the property. 


Founded by a team with decades of retail development, AEC, regulatory, and technology experience, GreenLite provides local construction permitting expertise with a national reach. GreenLite’s multi-disciplinary review team coupled with our modern software platform shaves weeks and months off the construction permitting process to allow our customers to focus on their core business. We serve as the connective tissue between those that build and city agencies -- increasing transparency, predictability, and visibility. We have helped global retailers, franchises, EV charging networks, and small businesses, including 5 of the top 10 largest quick-service restaurant brands across all 50 states. Get in touch with us today to learn more about how we can help. 


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