The chicken vs the egg in building permits.
You need permits to do most home projects but you need to know IF the town will allow you do the project before doing the work to obtain the permits. SO you need to draw up plans to show what you want to do before they can tell you if you can do it.
So which to do first?
We suggest calling the town with a basic description of what you want to do to ask their recommendation. Obviously any big addition will need plans but the confusion starts with small jobs. See the NJ Permit website site http://www.njpermits.com/faqs.asp for specific NJ rules for permits. It lists what the difference between minor work, repairs and major jobs. Some times all it involves is going before the town to ask for an exception to the zoning rules. This is called a variance. But it takes time to get approval just to start the permit process. Typical variances are when you are too close to the borders of your property or you are making a larger addition which is too close to the mathematical formula they use to say how much building you can have on your lot. See your town’s website to see their specifics and if they don’t have an up-to-date website you should call them..
Each town has different rules and regulations regarding permits and what you can do to your home.
A good list to consider for almost every town is:
1. Either a sealed plan from an architect or engineer or a drawing by the homeowner of what they are planning on doing to the home.
The seal and signature of the registered architect or licensed engineer who prepared the plans is on every page of the plan. Some towns and some jobs only require the homeowner to prepare the plan. It’s taking ownership of the design and mechanics of the change.
2. Survey of your land including location of septic tank and well if appropriate. It will include your lot & block number which will now become how everyone in the town will refer to your project. Together with the plan they can determine if you need to go before the town to get a variance which is an official exception to a zoning rule.
3. The official forms from the town. Some have them online but some still require you to visit them and get their paperwork.
4. You will need licensed professionals to fill out the forms if you are not personally doing the work. Also you need the prices because the town bases their fee for the permits on that price.
5. This process can take 2 weeks to 3 months depending on lots of factors and each is different. Lesson learned is factor in 3-4 visit’s to the building department, 4-5 weeks of time and become very friendly with the people behind the desk at the building department. They are a very useful resource of information and procedure but they are to be respected and listened to when telling you what you need to do. They are just enforcing the rules. It’s not personal until you make it personal. Keep you frustration under control and they can be your best allies to get your through the red tape.
None of this is to scare you off doing your home improvement project but to make you aware of how complicated it is just to get your ducks in a row to start. It’s just the beginning of a long complicated process that will be over before you know it and you can be enjoying your home the way you always wanted it to be. We’ve done it before and can help you
get started on your way.