Homeowners Guide to Building Permits & Blueprints

Welcome to the ultimate Homeowners Guide to Building Permits & Blueprints – Please note that this guide is a work in progress and will often be updated to include more information as we write more and more on the topic.

Let’s start with building permits: Building permits require blueprints submission first.

When you (the homeowner) or your agent (could be an architect or a designer) submit blueprints to the building or planning department, the city department will conduct a plan check or a plan review.

This plan check (review) has fees prior to the permit fees. Yup, you read that right: there are fees associated with the plan check, and a separate set of fees associated with pulling the building permit.

You won’t be able to pull a building permit prior to passing the plan check.

Will put this in context again, a plan check is the process where a city employee reviews the blueprints representing the project you are planning.

This city employee is often called a “plan checker” or “planning associate” or else depending on your city building department.

In rare occasions, a plan checker will approve the project from the 1st trial or 1st submission. The realistic scenario is where plan checker reviews the project several times until he/she is satisfied that you are meeting the local building & planning codes among other codes required.

Essentially, the process goes something like this: you or your agent submit the first time, the plan checker reviews the project in couple weeks, issues comments, and then you return to pick up (or receive an email) with the comments and what needs to be done to proceed.

Often, the instructions from the plan checker might sound very technical and beyond a home owner comprehension – the reason being is that plan checker use terms that are familiar to design & building professional and might sound foreign to others.

Once you or your agent address the comments, you will resubmit the drawing set (or blueprints) for another plan check.

Essentially, you will keeping re submitting the drawings until all the comments are addressed and the plan checker is satisfied the project meets the local codes.

Note that some projects might never be approved if certain conditions are not met – for example, you can never convert your house into a restaurant – Even if Frank Ghery himself drew the drawing plans – will not be approved simply because the zone does not allow for such a use.