Answers to common permit questions

For what types of work do I need a building permit?

A building permit is required any time you do work that is regulated by the building code. This would include any work to the permanent weather resistive surfaces of the dwelling such as the siding, windows (if altered) or roof. Any structural alterations or repairs to those members require a permit. If you change the use of a space or finish unfinished space, a permit is required. Dwelling additions, garages and decks require permits.

Work that is exempt from a permit includes painting, wallpapering, flooring, kitchen cabinets, minor repairs and detached storage buildings not exceeding 120 square feet.

If you are unsure if the project you are starting requires a permit, please contact the inspections division for advice.

How do I obtain a building permit?

The process starts by filling out a building permit application. Permit applications are available in displays by the front counter of the inspections division on the main floor of city hall. You can fill out the application at city hall or you may take the application with you to fill out later. Applications also may be mailed, faxed or emailed to you upon request. Applications are also available via the Permits page.

Information you will need to provide on the application includes your name, address, telephone number, description and valuation of the work being done. Work being done beyond the footprint of the building requires a signature by both the homeowner and contractor. If you need help filling out the application, a staff member will be happy to assist you.

To start the permit issuance process, you will need to submit a completed application and one set of plans (two sets are required for work beyond the original footprint) and an inspection worksheet, to an Inspections staff member. They will either issue the permit to you while you wait, or forward the application to the appropriate staff member, depending on the nature of the work. You may submit the permit application in person or by mail (in some cases by fax or email).

Once a permit is ready, you will be called at the number provided on the application. You then pay for the permit at that time and take it with you or it can be mailed to you.

Do I need to hire a contractor if I can do the work myself?

Neither city ordinances nor any state regulations prohibit a homeowner from doing work in their own home, as long as it has been homesteaded. So the answer to whether you need to hire a contractor largely lies with knowing your own abilities to do the work proposed. If you feel uncomfortable doing electrical wiring for example, you may wish to hire an electrical contractor, although you may do the work yourself. In either case, make sure you check on the permitting requirements for the type of work you are proposing to do.

If the building is a commercial building, you may do work on property you own without hiring a contractor and without a license. Exceptions to this include plumbing, mechanical and electrical work that must be performed by licensed contractors.

Are contractors required to be licensed?

Minnesota has a law requiring residential builders, remodelers and roofers to be licensed as a means to help protect homeowners. Contractors are required to include their license number in any contracts submitted to clients as well as in any advertising. Contractors are required to provide proof of licensure when they obtain building permits.

You can verify if a contractor is licensed by calling the Minnesota Department of Commerce at 651.284.5069 or visiting their website at: http://www.dli.mn.gov/ccld/LicVerify.asp

If your contractor asks you to obtain a permit for them or tells you that they can do the work cheaper because he is not licensed, they should be reported immediately to the Minnesota Department of Commerce.

The inspections division has a helpful handout prepared by the Minnesota Department of Commerce titled “What You Need to Know: Hiring a Residential Contractor.” This handout can also be obtained on the Minnesota Department of Commerce website.

How much does a building permit cost?

Permit fee have a number of different components. First is the building permit fee. Building permit fees are derived from a sliding scale based on project valuation. Plan review fees are another component. They are charged in addition to the building permit fee for projects other than roofing, siding, window replacement and other minor repairs. The plan review fee is based on 65% of the building permit fee. A third component to the total cost of a building permit is the state surcharge. This is collected at a rate of $.50 per $1,000. Here are some examples of what a permit might approximately cost for various projects:

Deck ($3,000 valuation)
$154
Basement remodeling ($5,000 valuation)
$207
Roof house  ($7,500 valuation)
$174
Garage ($10,000 valuation)
$337
Dwelling addition ($75,000 valuation)
$1,540

If you are building a new home, fees such as park dedication, sewer access charges and water access charges may apply.

To get a permit cost estimate for any project call the inspections division at 952.939.8394.

Please note that permit fees can vary by city and are subject to change.

How do I determine the valuation of my project?

Valuations should reflect the total cost of the project including all finishing, roofing, electrical, plumbing, heating, air conditioning and other construction work. The valuation should also include labor even if you are doing the work yourself. Valuations are frequently compared to available cost estimators and will be adjusted if the valuation provided appears to be in error.

What type of plans do I need to submit?

Probably the most important step in the permit process is the submittal and review of building plans. The purpose of developing a set of plans is to provide a written document of the scope of your project. A staff member will review your plans to determine that the proposed work complies with building codes. In order for the review to be a help to the builder or owner, it is important that the plans be as detailed as possible. The goal is to uncover potential problem areas while the project is still on paper and save costly corrections later. The city scans and retains the plans for the file and returns the originals to the homeowner or contractor.

What should be included in the plan sets, and how should they be prepared?

As noted above, plans should be detailed. They must be neatly drawn and drawn to a useable scale. One-quarter inch to one foot is a common scale. Typical residential plans would include a survey(new construction, accessory structures over 120 square feet, decks, additions and garages), floor plan, cross section, elevation, details of various structural components and a window schedule.

Plans should be dimensioned and include information on use of rooms, wall and ceiling finishes, lumber sizes and spacing. The inspections division has a handout detailing what must be included on plans.

Do I need an architect of engineer to prepare my plans?

The short answer is no. You can prepare your own plans or your contractor or a drafting service can prepare them for you. If you are having multiple contractors bid on your project, you will be better able to compare the bids if you prepare the plans and specs yourself rather than have each contractor prepare a set.

If your project is very complex, you may find it advantageous to hire a professional designer to assist you. Also, if your design involves complicated framing techniques or the use of steel I-beams, for example, you may be required to verify that the designs meet code as a part of the plan review process. The inspections division may require that a licensed engineer provide this verification.

How long does it take to get a permit?

Permits for work that require no review are issued the same day and generally at the time the permit application is submitted. Permits where review of plans is necessary can take up to fifteen working days. Some plans may need to be reviewed by more than one city department. For this reason, it is important that you plan ahead and have your permit application and plans submitted far enough in advance of the start of work that the permitting process does not delay the start of your project.

What happens if I start work without a building permit?

Since failure to obtain a permit is a violation of city ordinances and state law, fines may be levied. Also, the building code includes provisions for the fees to be doubled if work starts prior to obtaining a permit.

Does the city inspect the work?

All work is subject to inspection by the city. The number and type of inspections vary depending on the work being done. When the permit is issued, you will receive a yellow inspection record sheet that lists the types of inspection that you will need. The telephone number to call for an inspection is on the yellow sheet.

It is the owner or contractors’ responsibility to call for an inspection when the work is ready. When you call, please have ready the work site address, the permit number and what kind of inspection you need. The inspections division makes every effort to accommodate requests for specific inspection times, if necessary. Please call 24 hours in advance to schedule an inspection and you will be scheduled with the next available opening.

Where Can I Get Information on Codes and Construction?

The inspections division has a number of handouts that address common building projects. These are free to the public.

Other excellent sources of information include books that can be purchased in the home improvement sections of bookstores and building material suppliers.

Also, there is a wealth of excellent information available on the Internet.