Building FAQ'S

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Do I need a permit?

Fences measuring up to 7 feet in height, detached sheds less than 120 square feet, and retaining walls not more than 4-ft from bottom of footing (which do not support a surcharge) do not require permits. Repairs to existing fixtures such as sinks, toilets or lighting do not require a permit, but the replacement of those same fixtures do.  Finish work such as painting, tiling, papering, carpeting and similar finish work are also exempt.  Concrete work (flat work) is typically exempt from a building permit, except if part of an accessible path of travel or greater than 30 inches from grade.  All other construction will require a permit.

Do I need an Architect or Engineer?

That depends on your project.  Typically, single-family dwellings and their accessory structures such as garages, workshops or additions meeting the conventional framing parameters found within the California residential Code, will not require a design by licensed professional.  New commercial structures will require a licensed design professional, as well as tenant improvements involving structural or life safety elements.  Electrical, plumbing, or mechanical systems within commercial structures may be designed by the California licensed contractor who will be responsible for the installation work.

How many sets of plans are required to submit for a permit?

For new structures, four (4) sets of plans are required, all other projects require three (3) sets.  Two (2) sets of supportive documentation such as soils reports, structural calculations, energy calculations, or truss calculations should be submitted as well.  An approved copy of grading plans (if applicable) should be attached to at least two copies of the four (4) required for new construction. 

What are the current adopted codes and design criteria?

Building Design Criteria

What defines a swimming pool? A spa?

A pool is defined as being 24 inches deep of water intended for recreational use.  Perimeter fencing, alarms, and self-closing gates are required.  A portable above ground spa is not considered a pool but still requires a perimeter fence and a lockable top.  A fountain is not considered a swimming pool.

How deep does a gas pipe or a electrical conduit have to be buried?

Cover is the amount of earth or concrete on top of the pipe or conduit. Metal gas pipe requires 12 inches of cover. The pipe needs to be factory wrapped, as well as all joints.  Plastic gas and electric pipe requires 18 inches of cover and a tracer wire for gas pipe.  Metal risers are required on gas lines where the run of pipe turns to the surface. The measurement of cover is from the top of the pipe or conduit to the top of the cover.

Where I can find more information?

International Code Council

California Building Standards Commission

Contractors State License Board

California Associations of Building Energy Consultants

California Energy Commission

California Department of Housing and Community Development