Building Permit: Do You Need One?


Do you want to build a fence around your yard? Maybe you’re more ambitious and would like to convert your home to a retail shop or just need space in your home to facilitate a small business. Perhaps your family is growing and you need to add an extra bedroom or bathroom. As you may have surmised, you’ll need a permit for these types of revisions or conversions but what if you want to simply move your bathroom sink or toilet, or remove a wall from your family room, or want to install a new window or door?

“Do I need a building permit?” is an important permis de construire question to ask if you’re planning any kind of building, construction or remodeling of your home or property.

This article will help you decide.

What is a Building Permit?

As the name suggests, a building permit gives the holder permission to build, construct, add-on, or renovate a structure in accordance with the specific designs or changes desired. “Specific” is the key term and should be taken quite literally. For example, If you have a building permit to move your toilet but not your sink then you should only move your toilet and not your sink!

In addition to the basic concept described above, permits are also designed to help protect us from dangerous construction. Although it may sometimes seem like the government simply wants to torture us with red tape and regulations, there is truly a method to this madness. Permits actually help to ensure that a property is designed to limit serious injuries due to the improper use of construction materials and procedures. This practice is especially important in California and other areas where earthquakes and other earth movement can have a significant effect on a home or business. Permits also protect us from unscrupulous contractors who cut corners by using sub-standard materials and unlicensed tradesmen.

How do I pull a permit?

Obtaining a permit from the city or county can be a daunting task. It is also a task that is taken very seriously by the government. If the process is done incorrectly, it could potentially add up to many hours and thousands of hard earned dollars wasted.

The first step is to determine which type of permit you need. There are several different types and your construction project may require just one or perhaps all of them. Here is a list of many of the different types which may be required:


  • Electrical
  • Mechanical
  • Plumbing
  • Sewer
  • Drainage & Grading
  • Zoning

Once the type of permit or permits required is determined, the next step is to either call your city or county Building and Safety office or check out their website to begin the process of obtaining the permit. If this is new to you, be prepared to spend quite a bit of time reading and researching. City and county building codes are not simple and there are often lengthy pages of information to wade through. Keep in mind that every city and county has their own set of laws and codes so you’ll need to be sure that you’re in compliance with each. Also note that you may be required to meet both city and county requirements.