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

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 to do so.

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 now as part of the plan package.

Attic addition

Remove trees

Kitchen renovation

Bathroom renovation

Basement renovation

Front porch addition- this may require a variance as well- 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

To pull a permit for your renovation and do work on your house, I have to have a license with the State of GA. If you came upon this post in a random search- here is a link to make sure your contractor is licensed- Georgia Secretary of State If they ask for you to pull a “Homeowner’s Permit,” they are probably not licensed and this 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 include the below:

  • 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 list of codes and amendments is created by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs- DCA.

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, and the scope of work is increased as well. Here is a full list of the plans needed and why the city requires them

  • Survey and site plan– They have been asking for these anytime we affect any part of the exterior to include window/ door replace. We had a project earlier this year that just had a couple windows being updated and this triggered a whole list of plans needed. 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 the way it was before we start construction and the way 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 per code in key locations such as next to the front and rear doors and on kitchen islands/ back splashes. They verify MOST of these on the plans, however the code official still has the right to enforce the NEC (electrical) code when they inspect the house. They might ask for additional items be added to the scope that are not on the plans in order to insure the safety of the house.
  • Structural plan– If any part of the structure is altered then they want to make sure the changes to the structure are designed properly. It is best to have a structural engineer review or draw and stamp the structural drawings. In the case of the house that is being gutted, we will need structural drawings because the existing structure of the house does not meet 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 being gutted and we are affecting more than 50% of the house we have to bring it up to the current energy code (IECC). This is where it can get tricky. We already planned on upgrading the insulation since all of it was damaged and the HVAC was damaged as well. We might also have to address the windows since they do not meet the current energy code. If we elect to NOT 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 the point of offsetting 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 level that the bathroom is on. 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 more than likely ask for you to update the smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors as well- FOR THE WHOLE HOUSE. If you update one of them, you have to make sure it can interconnect with ALL of the others ones. 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 significant items needed to pull a permit in the City of Atlanta for basic renovations. If you are expanding the house’s footprint or building a new house, the list is even longer. I’ll post what requirements for new home construction and variances are in future posts.

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

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