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Getting Ready to Build: Before Applying for a Building Permit

So, you have a set of home plans and you’re ready to get building.

In many regions, you, or you’re builder, will be able to head straight to your local building department with blueprints in tow, to apply for a building permit. However, in most coastal areas, you’ll find that you need to complete a few tasks prior to requesting a permit. What is required can vary dramatically. In Florida, the entire plan must be reviewed and stamped by an architect. In Coastal South Carolina, the foundation must be reviewed and stamped by a structural engineer. In Coastal Georgia, the builder can review the plan. And on the Mississippi and Louisiana coasts, the code is literally being reinvented. We recommend that you work closely with your builder and/or building department to guide you through this process. Here, in no particular order, is a list of “To Do’s” you or your builder may need to perform before applying for your building permit.In almost every instance, you will need to have your plan reviewed by a local design professional (builder, designer, architect or engineer) to check for adherence to local building codes. In many cases, your builder can handle this for you. In some State’s (Florida, for example) an architect’s or engineer’s stamp may be required. Typical adjustments to plans include:

  • Sizing of structural beams to meet local codes.
  • Changes to your foundation footings to account for your lot’s soil conditions and location.
  • Modifying the foundation plan from a piling design to an “island basement” design (a foundation with continuous footers and complete CMU perimeter.
  • Adding hurricane strapping specs to Typical Cross Section pages
  • Adjustments to the foundation height to meet the BFE (Base Flood Elevation) requirements.
  • Adjustment to ceiling heights or roof pitches to accommodate height restrictions

Again, some of these tweaks can be handled during construction. Others may need to be drawn and submitted with your drawings for permitting. You’ll be required to submit a Site Plan with your blueprints. A Site Plan is a drawing that shows how your home will be situated on your lot. It should include the location of your driveway and any walkways. If your property uses a septic system, you may be required to apply for a permit with DHEC prior to construction. Contact your local water department and/or your building department to find out if this secondary permit if required for your coastal property. Some lucky souls will also have to gain approval for their home design (and more) from a community Architectural Review Board (ARB). ARB’s provide oversight for assuring that community covenants are followed. Some ARB’s are very hands on. They may dictate design style, paint colors, landscaping, positioning of driveways, location of garage doors and much much more. Protecting covenants, in some developments and communities, is seen as crucial to protecting homeowners “value.” This is true to a large degree, but be aware that the more restrictive the covenants, the more time it will require for you to gain approval for your design.