DO I NEED A BUILDING PERMIT?

Although most construction projects require a building permit, the Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code (PA UCC) under Sections 403.1, 403.42, and 403.62 provide a number of specific exemptions.

Keep in mind: many provisions of the PA UCC are amendable by the local jurisdiction. It is important to check with the Township prior to the start of construction to confirm that the work is exempt. For example; the PA UCC exempts fully-detached residential accessory buildings (garage or shed) less than 1000 square feet from needing a permit, but many jurisdictions have amended this provision to reduce the exemption to two-hundred (200) square feet.

THE FOLLOWING WORK DOES NOT REQUIRE A BUILDING PERMIT:

 

1.    Fully detached accessory buildings to single-family dwellings less than 1,000 square feet. Don’t forget to check with the jurisdiction for amendments.

2.    Agricultural Buildings. Agricultural buildings are defined under Section 7210.103 of the PA UCC as; "A structure utilized to store farm implements, hay, feed, grain or other agricultural or horticultural products or to house poultry, livestock or other farm animals, a milk house and a structure used to grow mushrooms. The term includes a carriage house owned and used by members of a recognized religious sect for the purposes of housing horses and storing buggies. The term shall not include habitable space or spaces in which agricultural products are processed, treated or packaged and shall not be construed to mean a place of occupancy by the general public.” Horse barns for private use are considered agricultural, horse barns for commercial stables and equestrian training facilities are not considered agricultural.

3.    Manufactured and industrialized housing (mobile homes and modular homes). The UCC only exempts the work done at the factory. All work performed on-site must be inspected and be code compliant. Therefore, although the housing itself does not need a permit, installation of the housing unit does.

4.    Installation of tubing, piping, propane gas burning appliances, equipment or fixtures related to liquefied petroleum gas under the Propane and Liquefied Petroleum Gas Act (35 P. S. §§ 1329.1-1329.19).

5.    Alterations to residential buildings which do not make structural changes or changes to means of egress. Under this subsection, a structural change does not include a minor framing change needed to replace existing windows or doors.

6.    Ordinary repairs to residential buildings. Roof replacement is not an ordinary repair. A new roof requires a permit.

7.    Installation of aluminum or vinyl siding onto an existing residential or an existing commercial building.

8.    A recreational cabin if the following conditions are met:

  • The cabin is equipped with at least one smoke detector, one fire extinguisher and one carbon monoxide detector in both the kitchen and sleeping quarters.
  • The owner of the cabin files one of the following with the municipality:
    ·       L&I Department form UCC-13 attesting to the fact that the building meets the definition of a recreational cabin.
    ·       A valid proof of insurance for the recreational cabin, written and issued by an insurer authorized to do business in this Commonwealth, stating that the structure meets the definition of a "recreational cabin."

9.    Structures which are:
     a.     Erected for the purpose of participation in a fair, flea market, arts and crafts festival or other public celebration.
     b.    Less than 1,600 square feet in size.
     c.     Erected for a period of less than 30 days.
     d.    Not a swimming pool, spa or hot tub.

10.   Fences that are not over 6 feet in height.

11.   Retaining walls, which are not over 4 feet in height measured from the   lowest level of grade to the top of the wall, unless it is supporting a surcharge.

12. Painting, papering, tiling, carpeting, cabinets, counter tops and similar finishing work.

13. Prefabricated swimming pools accessory to a Group R-3 occupancy which are less than 24 inches deep, do not exceed 5,000 gallons, and are installed entirely aboveground.

14. Swings and other playground equipment accessory to one- or two-family dwellings.

15. Window awnings supported by an exterior wall which do not project more than 54 inches from the exterior wall and do not require additional support of group R-3 as applicable in the "International Building Code," and Group U occupancies.

16. Window replacement without structural change.

17. Maintenance of, and simple repairs to; electrical, mechanical, and plumbing systems. If you intend to alter, or add to any of these systems, or you are replacing an entire system, contact the code office.

18. Installation of an uncovered deck where the floor of the deck is no more than 30 inches above grade, provided construction of the deck does not alter the means of egress.


WHAT DO I NEED TO GET A PERMIT?

Roofing

  •   Fill out a building permit application. Fill out Parts I, II, and IV.
  •  Under Part I, Section A, check box 4, Repair, replacement.
  • Provide a written description of the project. A written proposal from the contractor often will suffice. For example, the written description should include, but not be limited to; tear-off of existing roofing, installation of ice and water shield, installation of felt paper and flashing, and installation of the specific type of finish material to be used. Also pitch of the roof should be identified.

Wood Stoves/Pellet Stoves

  • Fill out a building permit application. Fill out Parts I, II, and IV.
  • Under Part I, Section A, check box 3, Alteration.
  • Provide the manufacturer’s installation specifications for the model of stove and flue type.
  • Provide a floor plan showing where the stove will be placed relative to walls.

Decks

  • Fill out a building permit application. Fill out Parts I, II, III, and IV.
  • Under Part I, Section A, check box 2, Addition.
  •  Under Part III, Section E check box 31, wood frame, and fill in square footage of deck at line 49.
  • Provide a floor plan of the deck with stairs, and a cross-section of the proposed deck with pier footing details, beams, joist and connectors, along with railing.

New Homes and Additions

  • Fill out a building permit application in its entirety.
  • Provide floor plans for each floor level including basement.
  • Provide a detailed building cross-section.
  • Provide elevation drawings for each elevation.
  •  Provide a plumbing DWV diagram.
  • Provide a potable water supply diagram.
  • Provide plans and specifications for HVAC
  • Provide plans and specifications demonstrating energy code compliance.
  • Provide electrical plan showing lighting, switching, receptacles, etc…


DO I NEED A ZONING PERMIT?

Zoning permits are required whenever a property owner intends to build a structure, add onto a building or structure, alter a building or structure, and/or change the use of land or buildings. So, if you’re planning on making improvements to your property, the answer to the question, “Do I need a permit?” is probably yes.

A permit is issued when the property owner, through submission of an application and supporting documentation, (such as a plot plan) demonstrates the proposed improvements are in compliance with the zoning ordinance, i.e., the proposed shed will be set-back far enough from the property boundary . Acquisition of a zoning permit prior to the start of work is a legal obligation of the property owner. Issuance of a zoning permit demonstrates the proposed improvement is lawful, and as such, obtaining a zoning permit helps to protect the value of the investment.

Most people are aware that a permit is required to build a house or garage, but sometimes it’s not so clear when contemplating projects of a smaller scope. The lists below identify some common residential improvements and whether or not a zoning permit is required.

The following projects need a zoning permit:

  • Building a deck.
  • Building a patio.
  • Constructing a pergola or trellis.
  • Building a shed, or having a prefab shed installed on your property.
  • Enclosing an existing screened-in porch.
  • Building a roof over an existing deck.
  • Building/installing a fence.
  • Finishing an unfinished basement.
  • Finishing an unfinished attic.
  • Starting a business at your residence.
  • Construction/installation of above-ground and in-ground swimming pools.

The following projects do not need a zoning permit:

  • Planting a garden.
  • Planting trees and landscaping (unless it involves construction of walls and/or hardscaping).
  •  Constructing/installing a garden pond. Note: large ponds involving alteration of drainage patterns and storm water flow require a permit.
  • Erecting a swing set or trampoline.
  • Placement of a seasonal, child’s wading pool, provided it is less than 24” deep.
  • Replacing siding.
  • Replacing roofing.
  • Replacing windows and doors provided the size of the openings are not changing, and the work does not involve alterations, e.g., changing a door opening into a window or a window into a door.
  •  Home repairs, cosmetic improvements, and maintenance.

Keep in mind: In addition to the requirement of a zoning permit, many of the projects listed above may also require a building permit in accordance with the Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code, and sometimes building permits may be required when a zoning permit is not, such as for changes to plumbing or electrical work.