How To Get a Building Permit In California

How To Get a Building Permit In California

Building a home in California is desirable for many reasons: proximity to various beaches, mountains, major companies, and the warm climate. However, before making your dream home in the sunshine state, obtaining the proper building permits is necessary. California has several requirements homeowners must meet to construct their homes.

Before taking any concrete steps to obtain a California building permit, you first should visit the website of the city or county of your building or structure site. The California Civil Code requires that Building Departments have an inspector who is a Certified Access Specialist and there are different permit requirements between different states; requirements vary based on the town or county you plan to build within California. By contacting your local building department, they can supply you with a comprehensive list of all permit requirements. All building setbacks must be maintained, whether a building requires a permit or not.

 What Requires a Building Permit?

For places inside their borders, local governments determine the regulatory decisions. The norms and regulations, commonly referred to as the laws of the land, are included in regulatory judgments. This basically means that the local building codes determine the needs for building permits in each location. California has stricter environmental laws than other states, but each municipality determines how those laws apply to their region. Overall, the list below will demonstrate what kinds of projects are most likely to need a building permit:

  • Demolition of a current structure

  • Roof replacement

  • Replacing the plumbing, electrical, and mechanical systems

  • Construction of a junior accessory dwelling unit (JAD) or an ADU (JADU). This covers the conversion of existing spaces into ADUs. For instance, creating an ADU out of a garage.

  • Altering a house's design

  • Construction of new or removed outer walls

Process of getting the Building Permits

As previously stated, consulting with the local authorities about its particular requirements is the best method on how to get a building permit in California. The process of acquiring a building permit involves some key elements. The actions to process a building permit are as follows:

  • Send a permit application to the building department or official

Plans and studies for certain buildings could be a part of this procedure. Get help from a professional to submit a California building permit application correctly.

  • Necessary plan drawings should be created.

To aid in designing the building plan and ensuring that it complies with building setbacks and zoning requirements, use a trained architect and other professionals. Design with FRANK offers free design consultation and provides a better way for people to design their custom homes.

  • Prepare for the plan approval procedure.

Depending on the size of the project, the plan approval procedure may be completed quickly at the building department, or it may require some time. Building plans may also go through an iterative process in which the reviewer of the plan offers suggestions, and the plan is then amended to take those suggestions into account before an approval is given.

  • Get the permits

Having a permit signifies that the project is permitted to be built and/or constructed by the city or county. Before beginning any construction, this must be obtained.

  • Set the dates for the building inspections.

Inspections to ensure that the plans are being followed must be scheduled with the building authority before construction begins.

  • Final Approval.

The city and county will grant final approval after completion. The building department normally records and evaluates plan modifications that took place throughout construction. The homeowner is responsible for updating the blueprints to reflect any construction-related changes.

California Building Department Permit Success Story: Kathleen's Yuba County Cabin

Kathleen, a recent Design with Frank customer, was seeking to build her retirement cabin in Yuba County, California. She consulted our experts at FRANK on how to obtain her building permit in California, as Yuba County is known for having stringent requirements. Our team contacted Yuba County to inquire further about the details of permit requirements.

Kathleen owns a beautiful two-acre property and wanted to construct a one-bedroom cabin to enjoy her retirement. After some consultation with our team, she selected FRANK's mini one-bedroom design for a cabin of roughly 1,000 square feet.

Kathleen purchased the full construction set with FRANK, and our experts were able to help her customize her home design to her individual needs. She wanted the cabin to be designed for easy access that would age gracefully with her. Our team also added a sprinkler system, changed the exterior to fiber cement boards, and developed it on slab on grade foundation. FRANK also provided her with a site plan for the entirety of her property.

After customizing her design and site plan, FRANK put Kathleen in touch with a local structural engineer, Mr. Kim, in the Los Angeles area to provide her with an engineering license stamp. Mr. Kim holds a structural engineering certificate in several states, including California, Oregon, and Washington. FRANK also connected Kathleen with a resource to obtain her Title 24 energy report, another requirement for a California building permit.

Kathleen submitted all her documents to the Yuba County Building Department. Shortly after that, she was approved to construct her long-awaited cabin. Kathleen was ecstatic at how informative and helpful the design process was with FRANK


Documents to Have Before Your Permit Application

In the state of California, building permits are required for the majority of renovation projects in addition to all new construction. The procedure for obtaining a California building permit differs depending on the city or county where the project is being considered, but the general information on this page is relevant to all California building permit procedures. Finding the experts required for the scope of work is the next stage in obtaining a building permit to begin a project.

Your permit application should describe the entirety of the work to be covered, the dwelling address, the valuation of your proposed home, and any additional information your county or city requires, and be signed by the permittee or an authorized agent.

Generally, the state of California will require the following components before applying for a building permit:


  • Professionally drawn blueprint

  • Site plan 

  • ​​Floor Plan

  • Foundation Plan

  • Soil Inspection and Land Survey 

  • Architect License (Required for homes over 3,000 sq ft. And 2 stories)

  • Engineering License Stamp

  • ​​​Manufacturers' Engineering Reports (Truss)

  • Title 24, State Energy Calculations

Due to California's susceptibility to wildfires, when a home is sold or constructed in a high or very high fire hazard severity zone, California requires a compliant Defensible Space Inspection. This requires residents of California to provide and maintain a defensible space of at least 100 feet around all structures. You can view the Fire Hazard Severity Zones here

Considering fire-resistant materials in your design may also be in your best interest to ensure your home has proper protection against wildfires. Materials like brick, concrete, fire-resistant glass, metal, and stucco would be good candidates to consider incorporating into your home for optimal defense against fire

Engineering Stamp vs Architect's Stamp

An architect's stamp confirms that the project was planned by a qualified architect, although it excludes engineering. Since cities demand that an engineer and a licensed architect's design be used in commercial development, these stamps are more prevalent there. Commercial proposals would therefore bear the signatures of both experts. Most cities do not mandate that an architect with a license create the blueprints for residential buildings. However, they might need a certified architect to review the drawings or a structural engineer to do a study.

Fortunately, in FRANK's our experts will confirm that your design complies with the building department code when you receive your drawing from us. Additionally, when an engineer stamp is required, FRANK can give CAD files to regional engineers in California who will certify your designs.

Title 24, State Energy Calculations

The Title 24 standards are very important to the commission and the homeowners as well as project owners as it determines how the energy resources should be used. The Title 24 standards are very important to the commission and the homeowners as well as project owners as it determines how the energy resources should be used. In essence, Title 24 in California refers to a building permit requirement. Before receiving a building permit for a project, California requires a Title 24 energy calculation and compliance report.

Cost of building Permits in California 

California does not mandate state-wide pricing for permits. Instead, each city and county decide the permit costs its residents will pay. Additionally, the California Building or structure Standards Commission requires a surcharge for building permits from each city or county. 

When you obtain your drawing from FRANK, our experts will verify that your design matches the building department code. Additionally, FRANK can provide CAD files to local engineers in California, who will stamp your projects when an engineer stamp is required.

Contact FRANK today and schedule a free design consultation to work with an expert to prepare your build plan. FRANK can adjust your home design to comply with all of your county or city's requirements, ensuring a smooth, accurate, and hassle-free process. 




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