A Homeowner’s Guide to Building Permits

  • Dec 31, 2021

You’ve put away remodeling your home for quite some time and are finally ready to tackle the project – the right way! The only issue is that you need to comply with Houston’s building codes. If we are being honest, this is a complicated matter for even the most experienced of homeowners. In this homeowner’s guide to building permits, we will discuss the topic of applying for the mentioned to the most basic level. Upon reading, you should be knowledgeable enough to understand what documents you might need and whom to contact.

A Homeowner’s Guide to Building Permits That Will Ensure You Start the Remodeling Project on the Right Foot

You’ve already bought a home in Texas, intending to start over here with your whole family just as soon as you’ve adapted the place to suit your needs. You had the entire moving to Texas process figured out, from planning to choosing the movers and packing. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. For your plan to work out just as intended, first, construction must take place. Construction that complies with local regulations.

Do You Need a Permit?

Lucky for you, not all construction projects require a permit. It is, nevertheless, essential to recognize the ones that do. Chances are that if the changes you are interested in making are minor, you’ll be ok to make them in the eyes of the law. With that in mind, let’s cover the possible situations in which you DO NOT need a permit.

  • ●   Finishing work that includes applying paint, tiling, flooring, carpeting, and similar
  • ●   Interior trim installation
  • ●   Building an uncovered wooden deck, as long as its height doesn’t exceed 30 inches
  • ●   Building a shed smaller than 200 square feet
  • ●   Covering the roof, provided it’s not bigger than 100 square feet
  • ●   Repairing siding
  • ●   Building a metal or wooden fence around the house that isn’t higher than 8 feet

If you are looking to make adjustments that weren’t listed above, then according to the city of Houston’s building code, you’ll most probably be required to apply for a permit. The typical construction projects that need to be approved beforehand include:

  • ●  Major remodeling projects, with the exclusion of the aforementioned ones
  • ●  Building addition or construction of a separate building
  • ●  Structural damage repairs
A contractor working on site
Whether or not a permit is required is the question of the size of the project, in most cases. Smaller ones typically tend not to require a permit, while the major ones do.

Can You Get a Permit Without a License?

In typical situations, the answer to this question is yes. As with everything, though, there are exceptions. Houston requires its roofing contractors to get licensed through the so-called “Voluntary Registration Program”. To apply, the contractors must provide proof of general liability insurance. The policy should include a minimum coverage of $500,000 for property damage and another $500,000 in case of injury or death. For more information about the process itself, getting in touch with the Houston Permitting Center is recommended.

Unsure of whether a license is required to apply for a permit? How about you play it safe by talking to your contractor? Being in the business for years, they should possess the knowledge about the matter.

What Codes Should the Construction Plans Be Based On?

This homeowner’s guide to building permits would in no way be complete without mentioning the actual applicable Houston building codes. The current 2012 Construction Code Package was adopted by the City Council and came into effect in February of 2016. Over the years, the package itself was amended. Keeping up with the current amendments is possible through the Houston Permitting Center website.

What Documentation Might Be Needed?

The type of documentation you’ll need to submit to get approved will depend on the nature of the construction. However, you’ll need to submit the Houston City Building Permit Application in all cases. The application process itself can be done online. The additional documents you might need are:

  • ●  Residential Repair Spec List
  • ●  Declaration in Support of Application for individuals or corporations
  • ●  Two copies of plans that comply with the 2012 Construction Code Package and 2015

International Energy Conservation Code. The copies must include a plot plan, a survey plan, along with the comprehensive building plan that notes the changes

A stack of documents
The homeowner’s guide to building permits suggests you gather certain documents before applying for a permit. Two copies of your building plans are a must, on top of some other documents, as well.

How to Apply for a Permit?

We’ve touched upon permit application by explaining that doing so can exclusively be done online. With that in mind, the application process begins by accessing the Houston Permitting Center and launching the e-service. Afterward, you’ll be required to pay a planning fee and get a number of the project as well.

While applying, as an owner, you’ll have to sign the Declaration in Support of Application, stating that the project itself does not violate the deed restrictions. The deed restriction copy can be acquired from the County Clerk’s office or the Homeowners’ Association. Furthermore, when dealing with new constructions, you’ll have to go through the address verification process, too. Before submitting the application for review, there will be a validation button to click on confirming the address stated.

Obtaining a project number isn’t possible without the permit valuation. The permit valuation is defined as the final cost of the construction project, excluding the purchasing costs but including the labor and materials necessary for successful completion.

A person typing on a laptop
The first step towards being granted a permit is going through the application process online.

What Happens After Applying for a Permit?

Upon successful application, it is up to several departments to review the case and decide whether to approve or deny it. The authorities may even ask you to make certain tweaks to the original plan and submit it for reevaluation. Upon approval, you’ll receive notice of it and will be asked to pay associated fees. After that, you will be issued a building permit and, thus, be given the green light to begin construction.

Before we wrap up this homeowner’s guide to building permits, it’s important to mention that the progression of work will be inspected regularly by the Department of Building Inspection, to ensure all regulations have been met and that there are no discrepancies in regards to the project.