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Remodeling University: Permits and your remodeling project

Let’s talk a little bit about the roll of the city in your project. When are permits required? When are plans a necessity? What kind of inspections would be needed? And more.

So here are some highlights to consider:
1. Permits are typically die for any project inspections would be required for. If you are painting your home or redoing your driveway there is nothing a city inspector will look at. Correspondingly, a permit is not required. Projects that have any structural, electrical, plumbing or mechanical elements to them will typically need to be inspected (unless minimal finish work, such as replacing an old faucet with a new one, is what’s done).
2. If you are in doubt about the inspection issue, call your local department of Building & Safety ahead of the work.
3. As far as the city is concerned, plans are needed anytime your remodeling project involves structural work and/or changes to the building envelop, layout or use.
4. If you project is a kitchen remodeling or a room addition in Los Angeles (for example), multiple inspections would be required during the work. In general inspections would be needed as follows – before footings or slabs are poured, before walls, floors and roofs are covered, after insulation is set, after drywall and exterior lathing are nailed and at work completion. Note that this is NOT a complete list and you should consult with your local B & S department.

In addition to the cost of architectural design and drafting and structural engineering, some plans will also involve a survey, grading plan, soil study, energy calculations and more. Each of the involved consultants is an additional ‘soft’ cost that you need to be aware of and budget for.

In some instances, you will also need to clear additional planning hurdles. There might be a Home Owners’ Association whose approval you’ll need to secure (even before the city’s) or some planning commission (such as the Coastal Commission in Los Angels and others). These type of approvals will often include requests for artist renderings of the project and attending public hearings to present the project.

Last, let’s not forget the ‘official’ costs involved. These vary based on location, but would include a plan check fee, permit fees (for building, electrical, plumbing and mechanical permits) and, in California, a special tax for all addition over 500SF to support our wonderful public schools system (take shelter, this one is a whopper).

In addition to consulting with your local B & S, you should have a conversation about these issues with your architect, designer and/or your general contractor. Los Angeles can be a daunting place to get plans approved, but it is routinely done. All you might need is some professional help.

Happy remodeling!

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