Some Tips on Building Permits

Do I need a permit for my project?

In many cases you are required to obtain a permit from your local city or county building department. Larger projects like adding a home addition or a complete home renovation not only require a permit, but also a complete set of construction documents (building plans). Smaller projects like patio covers or minor interior remodeling projects like a bathroom remodel do not necessarily require a permit, but if you have any questions you should call your local building department and ask them, just to be sure.

How long does it take to get a permit?

This can vary from city to city depending on where your home is located. The City of San Diego can be as fast as over-the-counter for some single story additions, or it can be a few months. Most cities can have a permit ready within a week or two for a single story addition. And keep in mind that local building departments are constantly adding and changing their systems. So don’t assume that just because last year you were able to get a permit over-the-counter that you can expect the same this year.

Whose name should the Permit be in?

A big reason why permits are so important (aside from local government offices making money off your remodel) is for the protection of you the homeowner and your home. Without a permit, there’s really nowhere for you to go should the project go wrong or your contractor walk off the job or go out of business mid-remodel. You can try to hire another contractor to come and finish the first contractor’s mess, but without a permit, it could be challenging to find a decent contractor to get involved and take liability for the first contractor’s work. Or said another way, the only contractor who would be willing to do that is probably just as desperate for the job as the first contractor was. In which case, there’s really no liability at all because the chances are that contractor will be out of business very soon as well. So the permit is there for your protection. And the name that gets filed at the city when the permit is issued will be the name of the party responsible for the project. This is ultimately up to you as the homeowner. We generally recommend that the permit be in the contractor’s name to ensure the project is the contractor’s responsibility. And if you already have a permit in your name, you can always change it at the city at a later time.

How much will the permit for my room addition cost?

There’s no set amount for how much a permit will cost. In general, city and county building departments use formulas to calculating the cost of your permit and the formulas are based on the estimated value that the project will bring to the home. A second story addition with a view of the ocean would cost more than a first story bedroom addition, even though they may be similar in shape and size. Also, depending on where your property is located and the age of your home, there are additional costs that may incur. Costs like: Historical Review (for homes deemed to be historical), Brush Management and Hillside Review (for properties in potential fire and canyon zones), etc. And depending on the complexity of the project being built, one of the biggest costs during the permit process is Plan Review. There will always be the initial Plan Review cost, but depending on the number of corrections needed to be made on the building plans, you could be submitting to Plan Review 2 or 3 times, if not more. All-in-all, we typically pay $1500-$3000 for single story room additions, and $4000-$7000. This does not include the cost for the building plans, engineering, and any additional School Fees that need to be paid. School Fees are added on to any room addition over 500 square feet and are typically around $2/sq. ft. So a 1000 sq. ft. addition would be around $2000 to the San Diego School District.

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