Otherwise your neighborhood could look like this:
Most of the time the projects I design fall within the boundaries of the local codes. On a few occasions, I have been asked why we have to follow all the rules. These requirements increase the cost of the project and in some cases make a project impossible. I have had more than one headache from dealing with codes from each of the communities we have preformed work in. There are 2 categories these rules fall into, Building Codes and Zoning Regulations.
Most Building Codes have requirements that involve everything from regulating the amount of insulation in the walls and will the roof hold all the snow that will land on it, to will it catch on fire if the house next to it goes up in flames. Generally the building code is not flexible. This is due to what could happen if a building fails. Safety is the reason there are building codes and building permits. It allows the community that you live in to protect you and your family from faulty building practices.
Zoning is a little more “fluid”. Zoning involves how the structure will be used and where it is located on the property. There are setbacks for each side of a property that determine the distance from the property line a structure can be located. Zoning regulations prevent a gas station or fast food restaurant from building next door to you or your neighbor building a garage on your property line.
Every so often, I need some special permission to make a project work for the owner. Examples of an exception I might seek would be: siting a proposed addition 12″ closer to the property line that usually allowed to get the maximum use out of the plan for the owner or in the case of a recent project, previous owner violations of setbacks. Its very frustrating when you purchase a home that violates the setbacks on all 4 sides of the house. This requires a visit to the Board of Adjustment. The Board of Adjustment examines the situation and decides if it will provide a variance or exception for your project.
To obtain a building permit a project must pass all of the Building and Zoning requirements. Having this system also helps property values to remain the same or increase, this is good news if you are preparing to sell your home. There is no danger of a shopping center that is 32 stories tall with a bar that is open to the public at all hours popping up next to your property. That would definitely wreak havoc on the area! Part of my job is to make sure that each project we design and build meets all of the governing codes and regulations.
Do all projects require a Building Permit? No, generally if you are updating what is already there and not changing any plumbing, electrical or structural items, you do not have to obtain a permit. If you are taking out bearing walls, relocating the Kitchen and vaulting a ceiling, you will need a permit and multiple inspections throughout the project to ensure it complies. What many people do not realize is that a permit is required for a deck. It needs to be stable to support a lot of people and the footings have to be deep enough so it does not heave when the ground freezes and thaws. (move up and down)
Are you planning a project? I suggest a visit to your local building department.
Pictures: (these are NOT my projects!!!)