All too often I come across clients who waited until they were ready to start construction before they began the permitting process.
Assembly of the Architectural Design, Engineering, and other documents needed to procure a permit can be very time consuming. Normally, you should allow at least 3 months for all of the pre-construction requirements. But these days, it can easily go beyond that. I have one contractor friend who tells his clients up front that they should expect at least 6 months for permitting.
Now that so many municipalities are having difficulty keeping up with all of the submittals, things are tending to take a bit longer than normal. And every municipality is different as far as their staffing and procedures.
Here’s a breakdown
of the normal timeframe but these times can vary significantly.
- Architectural- Finding the right fit for an architect can be a daunting task. As it always goes, the best in the business are very busy and could be backlogged for months and are most likely the most expensive. Don’t think you can have plans designed and drawn over the course of a week or 2 because that’s not going to happen. Plan on starting your search for the right architect or drafts person long before you plan on beginning construction. I would suggest allowing at least 4-6 weeks for the plans to be ready for Engineering once you have an architect on board.
- Engineering- Although some Architects have in house Engineers, most in my area get their structural engineering done by outside sources or Structural Engineering Firms. There, your plans might sit for 2 or 3 weeks waiting for the Engineer’s review and markup. Typically the Engineer will redline, or mark up, the plans with all of the necessary structural elements needed to meet today’s Engineering, (structural), standards. The plans are then sent back to the architect for redrawing, then back to the Engineer for the Engineer’s stamp.
- During the Engineering process you many need to assemble other documentation like truss calcs, which consist of a diagram of the roof truss layout and all of the truss design specs and load calcs. And, in California, you will also need to submit Title 24, or Energy calculations, showing how your project will meet the energy efficiency standards required in the State of California. Again, some architectural firms have an in house person who does their Title 24s. Others have them done by an outside source and these can also take 2-3 weeks.
- Submittal for First Plancheck- Here’s where the municipalities, or different Building Dept. standards and procedures can vary.
Sometimes, if they are too overwhelmed with submittals, they will send them out to a third party for plan check. I’m always skeptical when I ask at the Building Dept. how long I can expect to wait for the first plan check because if, by the time you actually submit the plans, they become inundated with a more than normal amount of submittals, the plancheck time can be extended. Once the plan checker is done reviewing your plans they will mark them up for corrections which will need to be done by the architect, (and Engineer if engineering corrections are requested), then the revised plans will need to be re-stamped by the Structural Engineer and re-submitted for the second plancheck. Although it’s very rare for the need for another round of corrections and a third plan check, it does happen occasionally.
Be aware that some areas have additional requirements. Like architectural review and approval of any Homeowner’s Associations prior to submittal for plancheck.
And in my area, Sacramento California, You may be living in a Citywide site review or Historical area that requires you to submit your intent with photos and exterior material samples, among other things, for Citywide Site Review which costs an additional $500. This is above and beyond the permit fees and can take as long as 6 weeks. You are unable to submit your plans for permits until Citywide Site review is complete and approved.
If you are getting “bids” for your project before you have completed County or City Approved Plans, you should expect pricing revisions as the Building Dept. may require additional work beyond the perceived scope to meet their standards. These will need to be adjusted in price and could be very significant.
Many Contractors will not provide ANY pricing for projects without an approved, Engineer’s stamped set of plans.
On a final note, before or during the process herein, you will be doing yourself a great favor by making as many, and as specific selections of materials and finishes as possible. Without specific selections called out, your contractor can only provide allowances for these items which may not meet the standards you envisioned.
And make sure the final contract calls out as many materials and finishes as possible to avoid any confusion or holdups during construction.