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Construction work often affects more than the person who is going to use the structure. Counties and state governments want to know that anyone performing the work will be qualified, prepared and aware of the current standards before they hammer so much as one nail.

Different types of jobs will require different permits, and not every job will actually need a permit. To help you stay organized and keep tabs on all the different requirements, here are the general situations in which you will need a permit:

New Construction

The most clear cut example of a situation where a permit is required is with completely new construction. Buildings constructed from the ground up will need to present plans and submit to inspections periodically while new systems are installed.

Separate permits may be required for excavation, foundation pouring and framing in addition to general construction. Distinctions are made between buildings intended for commercial, residential or agricultural purposes.

Additions will almost always require an addition permit or a special type of new construction permit. Creating an addition often means submitting to new code standards even if the existing structure was previously exempted because of a “grandfather” clause.

The only type of new construction that will never require a permit is a detached storage shed covering less than 200 square feet.


Complete destruction of a structure like a building or a swimming pool will require the contractor or property owner to submit a demolition permit.


Some renovations may require a permit if the structural elements of the home or building are being modified. Other times, any type of work will need a permit outside minor repairs and finishing work like cabinet installation.

Right-of-Way Permit

Property owners that wish to extend or modify their driveway, sidewalk and other elements near the street will likely have to file a right-of-way permit since this will be modifying city property.

Trade Permit

  • Electrical permits are needed for anything other than minor repair work like replacing a receptacle.
  • Plumbing permits are needed outside leak repairs and minor jobs like valve replacement.
  • Mechanical permits are required for installation or heavy modification of systems like HVAC, boilers, furnaces, commercial refrigeration, ventilation/exhaust and, in some areas, hot water heaters.
  • Elevator permits are required for installation of new elevator systems or heavy modification of existing systems.
  • Fire protection system permits are needed when installing components like sprinkler systems or commercial kitchen hoods.
  • Septic system installation or removal requires a permit.
  • Constructing, removing or modifying retaining walls over four feet tall often requires a permit.
  • Pool installation or demolition requires a permit, as do other water structures like ponds in many areas.
  • Construction or renovations for buildings lying in designated floodplains will require a special permit.
  • Parking and anchoring a mobile home usually requires a permit.

Due Diligence

Always assume your project will require a permit, especially if you are unfamiliar with the area in which you are working. Even modifications that may seem minor like cutting a bar window into a kitchen dividing wall can require construction, electrical or plumbing permits based on the scope of work.

Check with the local county or city planning office in the area you will be performing work in and have details ready regarding the scope-of-work for the project you are inquiring about. Ask about their permit requirements, which will often include producing existing plans or drafting new ones.

Also check to see what insurance requirements are needed to perform work. By being cautious in this way, you can avoid liability or having penalties levied against you, including legal repercussions.