What is a Building Permit?

A building permit is a license, which grants legal permission to start construction of a building project.

What Construction Projects Need Building Permits?

Building permits are typically required for the following:

  • New buildings
  • Additions
  • Fences
  • Renovations
  • Demolitions
  • Prefabricated structures
  • Temporary buildings
  • Mobile homes
  • Electrical systems
  • Plumbing systems
  • HVAC systems (heating, ventilating, air conditioning)
  • Miscellaneous residential (fireplace, pools, decks, etc.)
  • Miscellaneous commercial (parking, health, food handling, etc.)
  • Grading

In Bucks County, all earth distrubances of more than 1,000 square feet require a plan to be submitted to the Bucks County Conservation District for review and approval. Plans of less than 1,000 square feet only require that an erosion and sediment control plan is on site during the disturbance.

The Purpose of Permits.

Permits allow the enforcement of codes, which have been adopted as law by a state, county, township or city. No matter what the specific project may be, the enforcement of codes is carried out to protect the public health, safety and welfare. The unit of government which enforces the code is acting to assure safe construction.

The Use of Permits.

Code officials and inspectors use building permits as a vital step in their enforcement of codes. You have an investment in the home or business you are about to build or remodel. When that home or business structure does not comply with the codes, your investment could be reduced. Applying for a building permit notifies the Code Official that you are constructing or remodeling a building so he or she can ensure code compliance.

Why A Building Permit?

Building permits provide the means for Code Officials to protect us by reducing the potential hazards of unsafe construction and thereby ensuring the public health, safety and welfare. The building permit process helps us understand what local laws and ordinances . Before any construction or remodeling work begins, application for a permit should be made. Building permits provide the means for Code Officials to inspect construction to ensure that minimum standards are met and appropriate materials are used.

The Permit Process.

  1. Visit or Call your Local Code Official. The Code Official will ask "What are you planning to do?" and "Where are you planning to do it?" Then, the Code Official will explain the requirements (codes/ordinances) regarding your project. An application for a building permit will be given to you at this time. This initial contact will provide the resources and information you will need to make your project a success and avoid potential problems, which could cost you time and money.

  2. Submit Application. The permit application requires information about the construction project. You'll be asked to document "who" will perform the work, "what" work will be done, "where'' the work will be done, "when" the work will be done and "how" the work will be done. Sketches, drawings, plans or other documentation of the proposed work will have to be submitted for review. A fee will be collected at this time. The permit fee helps defray the cost of the Code Official's time spent in the application process, the review process, and the on-site inspection process. The fee also gives you access to the Code Official's knowledge and experience when and if you have any questions about your construction project.

  3. Wait During Review Process. The majority of permit applications are processed with little delay. The Code Official will determine if your project is in compliance with the construction codes, with the zoning ordinance, and with other municipal or state ordinances and statutes.

  4. Receive Results of Review Process. If compliance with the code, zoning ordinance and other applicable regulations is determined, the application is approved and a permit issued. If compliance is not determined, your application as submitted will be denied. If you are refused a building permit, you can correct the code violations or appeal the decision.

  5. Receive Permit. The building permit is the document granting legal permission to start construction. You must proceed as approved in the review process. Inspections required for your project will be indicated on the permit. Most building departments require you to post the building permit in a window or other prominent place at the construction site, keep a copy of the building plans at the site, and bring any proposed changes to the attention of the Code Official immediately. Changes will require a review and approval in the same manner as the original application.

  6. Arrange Inspection Visits. Each major phase of construction must be inspected by the Code Official to make certain the work conforms to the code, the building permit and the approved plan. The person responsible for the construction project must request each inspection. Normally, 24 to 48 hours advance notice is required. If an inspector finds that some work does not conform to approved plans, the inspector will advise (and possibly provide written notice) that the situation is to be remedied. If the violation is serious, a stop work order may be posted until the problem is resolved. Another inspection may be necessary before work is resumed.

  7. Receive Certificate of Occupancy. When code compliance is determined, the inspector issues a certificate of occupancy. This certificate is the formal document which marks the compltetion of your construction project and gives you permission to occupy your new or renovated building with the knowledge that it has met the safety standards in your community.