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9 Types of Construction Permits

In Construction by Giovanni ValleLeave a Comment

Before you build anything, you will need a construction permit to guide your project. Even if you are remodeling an existing structure, you still need a permit. But what types of construction permits are there, and for which project do you need a permit?

The types of construction permits you might need include commercial and residential building permits, electrical and plumbing permits, and multi-family housing permits. You may need special hazard permits for special-use buildings, and you will need electrical and plumbing permits.

Before taking on any building project, read on for the type of permit you may need.

Why Do You Need Construction Permits?

Building permits are thought to be an annoying nuisance put in place to stop ordinary people from building what they like with their properties. However, that’s not accurate, as building permits are meant to keep you and everyone else safe.

A Brief History on Permits

Construction permits were often required in response to a disaster, such as a hurricane or a fire, because of the level of destruction due to shoddy construction practices. In 1992, when Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida, the devastation was magnified due to inadequate codes and a lack of enforcement of building codes.

Fires in Chicago, London, and New York each created stricter fire building codes to limit the destruction in future fires. Comprehensive building permits and codes are put in place throughout Europe and America for safety purposes.

Insurance Companies Require Construction Permits

To get any type of insurance for your project, you need a construction permit. Insurance companies will not issue policies if you cannot prove you have a permit. The reason for this is that they want to make sure the building is safe and is built to code before they can insure it. If something were to happen to someone else on your property, and it’s a result of shoddy work, you will be liable for any damages.

Your Contractor Will be Required to Do the Job Right

Frequently, to save money on jobs, contractors will hide mistakes in the walls and floors. A permit requires you to have regular inspections by a certified building inspector so that these cost-cutting mistakes can be found and rectified before completion.

Your contractor will need to be honest when an inspector is there to make sure things are built to code.

The Construction Permit Transfers to New Owners

When you sell your house or business property, it becomes more valuable when potential buyers know it is built to code. And because the permit applies to the building or property and not to present owners, the new owners will not need to get any new permits, unless they want to add to the property.

Commercial Permits Cover a Wide Range of Purposes

Commercial construction permits allow any commercial property to be built, renovated, or added to. They also allow for construction trailers to be placed at a site during the build. Commercial construction refers to any buildings erected to earn a return on your investment, which does not allow for residential purposes.

New Commercial Property Permits

These permits are only for new construction types, and for those properties where the tenants are known. In other words, a new supermarket or other commercial property built for a known business.

Foundation Only

If you’re only laying a foundation at your site, for now, you can get a “foundation only” permit. If you’re still trying to get the building plans approved, you can get started on your project for an additional 25% of the building fee.

Remodel a Commercial Property

Perhaps you have a building already, but you want to make significant changes to the exterior and interior. If the occupancy doesn’t change, you need to get a remodel permit before you do anything else.

Construction Trailers

Your construction crew must have a permit to park their trailers on your property during the project’s length. These permits only allow construction personnel to use the trailers, with absolutely no public access.

Adding a Solar Component to an Existing Structure

When looking for environmentally friendly and sustainable sources of power, many businesses opt for solar power. Before adding solar to your existing building, you will need to get a solar permit to proceed.

Vanilla Box Permits for No Known Occupancy

A vanilla box permit is issued to construct a commercial property when the occupancy is not known. In other words, a general building permit is issued for unknown use of the property.

Multi-Family Permits Includes Hotels

Any commercial enterprise that involves residents in the property requires a multi-family construction permit. Apartment buildings, condos, duplexes, hotels, and duplexes can bring a return on investment, but because people live in the properties, a multi-family permit is required before starting the building process.

Apartment Buildings

Buildings with more than two dwelling units and that do not meet the Townhouse definition need an Apartment building permit. The dwelling units must be rented and not owned by the tenants.


A building with multiple units, much like an apartment building, requires a condo permit. Most often, the dwelling units are owned by the residents.

Foundation Only Permits

As with commercial building permits, when you’re still finalizing your construction plans and approval for the permit, you can get a foundation only permit so you can get started on your project.

Hotels and Motels, Including Extended Stay Hotels

Though hotels, motels, and extended stay hotels are commercial enterprises, they fall under the multi-family building permit because tenants stay on the property and rent dwelling units for a short time. The interior doors typically face an interior hallway.

Townhouses and Duplexes

Townhouses are defined as “any single-family dwelling unit constructed in a group of three or more units attached. The units must extend from the foundation to roof with a yard on both sides.” The units can either be rented or owned.

Residential for All Additions and Subtractions

Single houses or other residential properties that are either built or remodeled require the owner to pull a permit for any changes. New construction permits are required when building from new, while an interior remodel permit is required when you plan on completely changing the structure of your home.

Demolition of Any Structure or Interior

Any significant remodel requires some sort of demolition. In addition to an interior remodel permit, you also need a demolition permit to make sure you’re not unknowingly letting asbestos into the environment. The inspector also needs to make sure you’re disposing of the debris properly.

Interior Remodel

A significant remodel on the interior of your house will need a remodel permit. While you may not need a permit to paint or wallpaper the walls, you will need a permit to redo the kitchen or bathroom, especially if it involves re-working the electrical or plumbing.

Additions of Rooms or Other Spaces

You will need a construction permit if you plan on adding any spaces or rooms to your house. Again, the reason is that you want to make sure all the work is done right, and if you’re doing it yourself, you have a guide to follow, and you’ll pass inspections better when you do.

Decks Without a Roof

Any deck you build without a roof still needs a permit, especially if it will be off the ground several feet. If one of your guests were to fall off the deck due to shoddy quality, and you didn’t have a permit, you will be liable for any medical bills your guest may need–not your insurance.

Adding a Roof Over a Deck or Patio

While you may think that building a roof over your deck wouldn’t need a construction permit, it does. So if your plans include a roof or a trellis over your deck or patio, you should first pull a permit.

When Adding a Pool, Hot Tub, or Spa to Your Property

Pools, spas, and hot tubs need a building permit when they are a permanent part of the property. Otherwise, you will not need a permit for temporary pools or hot tubs. Inflatable hot tubs can be set up without a building permit, but those that are permanent do.

Home Daycare Permits

When you run a daycare out of your home, certain things need to be in place to be secure and safe for young children. States have their own rules and regulations for home daycares, so check with your state before starting a daycare. However, certain regulations are standard in all states.

Fire Safety Measures Are in Place

Any property used for commercial ventures, such as a daycare, must have certain fire prevention and containment measures. Smoke detectors and fire extinguishers are the minimum things you need before you can get a daycare license. Building permits are required to ensure you’re doing things right. Before you get licensed, the fire inspector will make sure all things are in place.

Playgrounds Are Safe

Backyard playgrounds for home daycares must meet standard requirements for fencing, equipment, and limited access to the public. Fall zones must be adequate to protect children from getting seriously hurt, and maintenance must be kept up, so the equipment doesn’t fall apart.

Permits Ensure Compliance With Building Codes

Even if you’re not building from new, to get a license to operate a home daycare, certain building codes must be met. An existing structure must meet codes, or any deficiencies must be corrected according to code before getting a license. These codes address the electrical system, plumbing facilities, fire safety rules, and air circulation of the home.

Zoning Approval May or May Not Be Necessary

If your home already exists, you will most likely not need to worry about zoning issues. However, if you’re looking to build a daycare facility, check with zoning laws and get approved for the area you’re looking to build. However, few states require any zoning approval for daycares. Check with your state before getting started.

Single Family Dwelling Permits for Homes and Structures

If building permits are required for multi-family homes, then it stands to reason that you will need a construction permit for a single-family dwelling. Most home building companies build multiple homes the same way, i.e., cookie-cutter homes. They must get a master plan permit, so the plans can be approved before the building process begins.

Reviewing a Master Plan

As mentioned above, a master plan construction permit is needed so that a certified inspector can approve that home plan. All homes built from this plan must meet established building codes.

Building a Production Home

Production homes are those that are built according to an approved master plan. Production homes require a different building permit than if you were building a custom home because the master plan has already been approved.

Building a Custom Home

When you want to build a custom home, you will need a custom home permit. The house will only be built once, so a construction permit for a custom home will apply only to that one house.

A Foundation Only Permit

As with the commercial and multi-family construction permits, if you plan on placing a manufactured home over a foundation or working on getting your plan approved, you can get a foundation only building permit, which will cost about 25% of the building permit fee.

Electrical Permits in Addition to Building Permits

In addition to a construction permit, you will need to get an electrical permit, as that requires a different set of knowledge and procedures. An electrician must be licensed and bonded, and getting an electrical permit requires that the person you hire must show proof of this.

And don’t think that you can just get one standard permit–residential and commercial electrical permits are not the same. Read on to learn why.

Residential Electrical Permits

Because residential electrical work only goes up to 220 volts, there is not the level of knowledge required that a commercial property might need. Seek out a licensed and bonded residential electrician before pulling an electrical permit.

Commercial Electrical Permits

Because commercial properties can include industrial businesses, the electrical requirements are higher and more powerful, which requires an electrician trained in 3-phase electrical work. The voltage is higher, which means a residential electrician may not be able to do the work properly.

A commercial electrical permit will ensure you’re getting the right type of work done for safety purposes.

Plumbing Permits

In addition to construction and electrical permits, you will need a plumbing permit to ensure the plumbing is done correctly and safely. The permit ensures you have a certified plumber to complete the work.

Residential Plumbing Permits

Residential plumbing permits are needed if the work is not done during initial construction, or with any additions. For example, if you are putting in a new sink in the bathroom or a new tub/shower combination, you need a plumbing permit.

Commercial Plumbing Permits

Commercial plumbing requires several different features more advanced than what you would find in residential plumbing. For one, there are more power-flush toilets and stricter anti-siphon features that are not required in residential areas. A commercial plumber needs to understand how to make these work properly, and a commercial plumbing permit ensures everything is set up correctly.

Special Hazard Permits for Special Purposes

For any property, including commercial, you will need a few special permits in special situations. For example, a hospital will need generators should the power go out, so they will need an Emergency and Standby power systems permit to add the commercial generators. They also will need a Medical Gas Systems permit for the operation of medical gasses.

If you’re unsure about which special hazard permits you need, check with your local zoning and building office before proceeding with your project.

Fire Suppression Systems

Finally, any fire suppression systems you add to your property may need a special permit. Even if you’re setting up a temporary structure for amusement purposes, you will need a permit to ensure that there are fire exits and suppression systems in place.

You may also need a special permit to burn things to ensure that the fire doesn’t get out of control. If you have a warehouse, you may need a special fire permit to stack pallets higher than 12 feet. Another fire suppression permit you might need is one that allows for egress lighting of a pathway, or around your house or property.


Construction permits vary according to the building project and vary by state and municipality. However, most codes are universal and will be the same no matter where you’re located, but be sure to check before you start your project.

The types of permits that were not discussed are important to remember about residential construction permits. There are occupancy permits that a residential building must have to show that it is safe for the residents. Then there are development permits that address community planning, land use, bylaws, and compatibility issues. They are used for new construction or additions to a structure.


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