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Old 05-05-2010, 03:52 PM   #1
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Dealing with Permits & Building Inspector


have you guys ever had the building inspector or plan approval people give you problems with being owner-builder? How do you deal with it?

It really frustrates me when the inspectors assume just because you don't have a license means you shouldn't be doing your own work. I understand this is to protect most people who don't know what they are doing, but we as DIYers are not "most people". I'm sure a lot of DIYers have enough knowledge to get a license. But really, whats the point, I have no interest in starting a business.

I called the office to ask basic questions about what kind of documentation they want to see from me when I apply for permits, and they give me a whole lecture about that I shouldn't be doing this and that. Even though I insist that I know what I'm doing. In the end, they didn't answer my questions and basically told me to talk to a contractor.

How do you guys prove to your inspectors that you are capable of doing the work?


Last edited by acerunner; 05-05-2010 at 03:55 PM.
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Old 05-05-2010, 05:38 PM   #2
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Dealing with Permits & Building Inspector


Don't feel too bad, often times new/unfamiliar contractors go through the same thing with the building dept.

As for the liscensing though, that's a little different, at least in my state. During the liscensing process, you learn the answers to most of the questions that you had for them. I'm sure Cali isn't much different, & more than likely far more advanced on their info seeing the regulations hve been in place far longer there.

I will admit I don't envy you for having to deal with a gov. entity like this in SF though.

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Old 05-05-2010, 06:09 PM   #3
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It's easy to assume someone is not capable when they can't do it for a living. Not saying it's right, but why is that wrong either.

We get the run around sometimes too, especially in a new area. Most of those people you are talking to are VERY LAZY (probably why they have a government job), and they don't want to do their job. They are supposed to help. Remember, they are working for the public, but don't get pushy. They can make it miserable for you. Just take it with a smile. What they think, is no sweat off your back, right?
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Old 05-05-2010, 06:26 PM   #4
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If you go directly to the office and ask the questions face-to-face, you will nit get the "canned" lectures.

Since you are there, they know you are interested in doing it right and that makes everyone's job easier.

Dick
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Old 05-05-2010, 07:24 PM   #5
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Here, in rural Missouri, I can wire my house or do plumbing without permits or anything. Out in the county, there is no zoning, no permits are needed for anything except a septic tank.
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Old 05-05-2010, 07:28 PM   #6
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I've always gone in & talked to them face to face
Never had any problems
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Old 05-05-2010, 07:59 PM   #7
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Locally they would rather just not know about DIY projects. The usual response is "You don't need a permit for that". I mean technically, you are supposed to get a permit for an easy set pool if it iss 4ft or deeper.
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Old 05-05-2010, 08:02 PM   #8
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lay out in writing as a proposal the steps you are doing and if possible any drawings/ cut thru pics if possible. would also include photos of the areas you're working on if there will be physical changes made. The more you can show them that you are organized and have thought the process thru the better they will respond. plus it's a good exercise for you to make sure you have everything thought out and have less chance of the oops factor
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Old 05-05-2010, 10:27 PM   #9
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Dealing with Permits & Building Inspector


Quote:
Originally Posted by MJW View Post
It's easy to assume someone is not capable when they can't do it for a living. Not saying it's right, but why is that wrong either.

We get the run around sometimes too, especially in a new area. Most of those people you are talking to are VERY LAZY (probably why they have a government job), and they don't want to do their job. They are supposed to help. Remember, they are working for the public, but don't get pushy. They can make it miserable for you. Just take it with a smile. What they think, is no sweat off your back, right?
The problem is that there are statutes on the Books that prevent anyone BUT licensed Contractors (Both in terms of skill and established as a business, having a permanent mailing address and insurance.) from performing certain types of work where it involves health and public safety. i.e.; Plumbing work where it involves setting up the drainage and venting systems and making sure that the water supply is not contaminated. Or working with gas supply pipes, which in some jurisdictions requires a special license in addition to the regular Plumber's license. Or electrical work, which can cause serious injury or death if not done properly. However, an exception is made for homeowners on their own property. Because preventing someone from working on their own property is somehow undemocratic. Therefore, some localities give a hard time to someone other than the property owner even if their skills would enable them to complete a project safely.!
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Old 05-05-2010, 10:27 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by concretemasonry View Post
If you go directly to the office and ask the questions face-to-face, you will nit get the "canned" lectures.

Since you are there, they know you are interested in doing it right and that makes everyone's job easier.

Dick

I have also found it makes a big difference from on the phone to being there in person. The city persons here have been great to work with - from permitting to inspections. No problem whatsoever with being owner-builder.
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Old 05-05-2010, 10:42 PM   #11
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Dealing with Permits & Building Inspector


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Originally Posted by rusty baker View Post
Here, in rural Missouri, I can wire my house or do plumbing without permits or anything. Out in the county, there is no zoning, no permits are needed for anything except a septic tank.
Lucky for that. (At least installing a septic tank requires a permit (and Inspection.) Sometimes you wonder why we need all these myriad rules and regulations written down in Parts, chapters, Sections and sub-Sections. Maybe out in the rural country the need for all of this is not so obvious. But when you live in an Urban area and you walk on a boulevard or long street and you see all the buildings are lined up and straight, you could very well imagine that without all these regulations there would be chaos. Imagine builders not observing the limits of how far they can extend their structures or keeping them straight in reference to the surrounding area. (Surveying).
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Old 05-06-2010, 01:21 AM   #12
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Don't feel bad, even contractors go through that until they get some credibility. I even have that attitude until I know the inspector I am dealing with is qualified to pass judgement on my work.

As has been said before, visit them in person. Don't call, just go in. In some jurisdictions you will visit with a counter person who cannot tell a nail from a screw, and does not care. Ask to see an inspector, take notes, get phone numbers, fax numbers. Exchange business cards. Ask for what code they claim to follow. The local library probably has a current copy. If you have to, buy your own copy, the last 2 code books I bought were less than $250.00 for both. When the inspector comes for an inspection, chances are they will not have a code book. Besides, it is nice if you need ti challange a ruling and offer your code book so they can show you the exact code. But, you better know the code prior to the challange. You want to appear professional. Inspectors constantly deal with un-professional people, contractors and non-contractors. Get a notebook for notes. Keep notes as you meet w/the inspector and notes about the project. You may be given copies of the codes, ask if there is a charge. If so, pay it, don't complain.
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Old 05-06-2010, 03:56 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by acerunner View Post
I called the office to ask basic questions about what kind of documentation they want to see from me when I apply for permits, and they give me a whole lecture about that I shouldn't be doing this and that. Even though I insist that I know what I'm doing. In the end, they didn't answer my questions and basically told me to talk to a contractor.

How do you guys prove to your inspectors that you are capable of doing the work?
"even though I insist that I know what I'm doing...."

Maybe that is what is ruffling their feathers.

When ever I deal with inspectors, commisioners, etc, for any reason at all - I make an extra effort to be mild mannered, courteous, and professional.....

....."not" over confident......never pushy......never insistent.


Attitude and demeanor - goes a long, long way.

I am not saying that you have an attitude, I am simply stating that maybe you should re-evaluate how you are carrying yourself, your speech, words, and how you are coming across to them. Maybe you are doing nothing wrong and its all "them", or, maybe you could change your approach.

Example:

"....I know what I am doing....but what do I do with Form 10-J?...."

OR

"....I hope you could help me out, this is my first house build (my own) and I have a few questions, if you have the time to help answer them for me, I would really appreciate it...."
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Old 05-06-2010, 12:52 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by acerunner View Post
have you guys ever had the building inspector or plan approval people give you problems with being owner-builder? How do you deal with it?
I found (or really my wife found out) that the fewer questions you ask, the more likely the inspectors are to grant you a permit. I went in with all sorts of questions too and found that always seemed to need more of something.
For our projects, my wife went in with no questions and showed them what she's doing and walks out with a permit. The moral of the story... send your significant other.
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Old 05-06-2010, 01:16 PM   #15
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Something you need to understand as a DIYer is at the end, when you are getting your inspections, is that you need to STFU! Quiet and courteous, don't try to explain anything preemptively, you will only dig yourself a hole.

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