Do I need a building permit in the City of Atlanta?

by | Dec 19, 2019 | Permits | 0 comments

The answer is most likely YES for most minor and major renovations. If you are painting the house or doing minor repairs, they will probably tell you that you don’t need one; however, it is up to the building department to do so. If you start a project without permission and get caught, they will issue a “stop-work order,” and you cannot begin again until you have a permit.

The city does not have a list of items that don’t require a permit. They have a general statement to call in and ask.

Types of projects that might need a permit

Demolish existing house to clear a lot for new construction

Move a sewer

Build a new home

Attic addition

Window replacement– you will need elevations and a site plan as part of the package.

Attic addition

Remove trees

Kitchen renovation

Bathroom renovation

Basement renovation

Front porch addition may also require a variance- see below for what can trigger needing a variance.

Deck OR porch addition

Retaining wall next to a city sidewalk

Driveway curb cut

Fence replacement

There are more, and I’ll keep adding to this

Licensing requirements

I must have a license with the State of GA to pull a permit for your renovation and work on your house. If you came upon this post in a random search- here is a link to ensure your contractor is licensed- Georgia Secretary of State. If they ask for you to pull a “Homeowner’s Permit,” they are probably not licensed, which could affect your project. Getting a license is not easy and requires that the contractor first meet the requirements to take the test. Once the licensing board approves the application, the contractor must then pass the contractor’s licensing test. If they cannot pass this test, they should not be working on your house since they would be putting your family’s safety in danger by not knowing the building codes.

Applicable Codes

The Georgia Secretary of State manages the testing and licensing for professionals that need them.

As a licensed-professional, we must follow the building codes adopted by the city of Atlanta. The State of GA has adopted new building codes, which the City of Atlanta will be implemented beginning January 1, 2020. The “uniform building code” is comprised of Code editions, including the following:

  • International Building Code (IBC) 2018 Edition with GA Amendments (commercial)
  • International Residential Code (IRC) 2018 Edition with GA Amendments
  • International Plumbing Code (IPC) 2018 Edition with GA Amendments
  • International Mechanical Code (IMC) 2018 Edition with GA Amendments
  • International Fuel Gas Code (IFGC) 2018 Edition with GA Amendments
  • International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) 2015 Edition with GA Amendments
  • International Fire Code (IFC) 2018 Edition with GA Amendments
  • International Swimming Pool and Spa Code (ISPSC) 2018 Edition with GA Amendments
  • Life Safety Code- NFPA 101 Life Safety Code 2018 Edition

The Georgia Department of Community Affairs creates the DCA list of codes and amendments.

As a licensed contractor, we can pull the building permits for your home. Our mechanical trades (electrician, plumber, and HVAC) To pull a permit, we will need to fill out an application and have plans as part of the permit package.


Typical plans needed to pull a permit

Whole house renovation (interior being gutted to the studs)

In the past, this would be a simple plan set if no walls were moving. However, more plans are needed due to stricter enforcement of the codes. Here is a full list of the plans needed and why the city requires them

  • Survey and site plan– They have asked for these anytime we affect any exterior part, including window/ door replacement. We had a project earlier this year that just had a few windows being updated, triggering a list of needed plans. The survey needs to be current and stamped by a surveyor. This applies to the site plan as well.
  • Floor plans- The city likes to see the house as it was before we begin construction and how it will look after construction. These plans are called “as-built” or “existing” for the current layout and “proposed” for the future layout.
  • Electrical plans- With the “proposed” layout, we will overlay where we plan to put key electrical items such as:
    • Smoke detectors
    • Carbon Monoxide detectors
    • Lighting for halls/ stairs per code
    • Outlets are required per code in key locations such as next to the front and rear doors and kitchen islands/ backsplashes. They verify MOST of these on the plans. However, the code official still has the right to enforce the NEC (electrical) code when inspecting the house. They might ask for additional items to be added to the scope that is not on the plans to ensure the house’s safety.
  • Structural plan- If any part of the structure is altered, they want to ensure its changes are designed properly. It is best to have a structural engineer review or draw and stamp the structural drawings. If the house is gutted, we will need structural drawings because the house’s existing structure does not meet the code (lack of headers and roof support).
  • Exterior elevations- Whenever a window or door is replaced (even in the same spot), the city wants to see an elevation. They want to make sure the window is designed properly to account for the following:
    • If it is in a bedroom, it needs to have a minimum-sized opening in case of a fire (egress)
    • Based on the height off the floor or proximity of the window to a shower or door, the glass may need to be tempered for safety reasons. I’ll make a list of window requirements in a separate post.
  • HVAC design- as part of the new energy code, the HVAC needs to be designed using the following manuals:
    • Manual J- this is to properly size and specify the equipment
    • Manual D- this is to design the duct-work for efficient conditional air delivery
  • Energy Plan- since the house is gutted and affecting more than 50% of the house, we must bring it up to the current energy code (IECC). We already planned on upgrading the insulation since all of it was damaged, and the HVAC was also damaged. We might also have to address the windows since they do not meet the current energy code.
  • Energy trade-offs- If we elect not to do any of the items on the IECC checklist, then we must demonstrate with an energy model that we are using the same or less energy by upgrading other items in the house. For instance, the windows may be able to stay if insulation and HVAC get upgraded to offset the extra energy cost. These are called “trade-offs.” The 2018 IECC also has a lot of new insulation details that need to be followed, so be aware of the new upgraded insulation R-values and techniques needed.

Another scenario that will require more plans than you think you should need:

Bathroom renovation (no structural alteration)

  • The city likes to see the bathroom layout plus the full layout of the bathroom level. The details for the main level do not need to be as sharp as the proposed details for the bathroom. The city has been enforcing this for many years now.
  • Since you are affecting the electrical, they will likely ask you to update the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors for the WHOLE HOUSE. If you update one of them, you must ensure it can interconnect with all others. They have to be in halls/ common areas + one in each bedroom. The State of GA updates the building constantly, so we check with the city and our electricians before starting the process.

Many other items are needed to get a permit. This list demonstrates the more important items needed to pull a permit in the City of Atlanta for basic renovations. The list is even longer if you expand the house’s footprint or build a new house.

If you need help creating your dream home or renovation plans, don’t hesitate to contact us today.






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