Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need a permit for a deck, shed, or addition to my home or porch?
All home additions and roof structures require building permits, as do decks 30 inches or more above ground. Decks lower than 30 inches do not require a building permit but may require a local zoning permit or approval. Residential Sheds/detached utility buildings larger than 1,000 square feet need a permit (local regulations have the ability to amend this requirement, check local regulations).
Is a building permit required for a swimming pool?
Any swimming pool – regardless of whether it is in-ground, above-ground, inflatable or portable – that can hold water more than 24 inches deep, is required to have a building permit to installation. Pools which can only hold less than 24 inches of water are exempt.
Are permits required when finishing a residential basement?
Permits are only required when the project involves structural changes or when a current exit is altered. Non-structural changes such as carpeting, painting, and lighting installation, are exempt. (local regulations have the ability to amend this requirement, check local regulations).
Does a children’s play-set require a permit?
Residential outdoor play-systems including slides, swings, and portable sports paraphernalia don’t need a permit. For all commercial playground equipment, a permit is required.
What is the required guardrail height for a deck, balcony, or porch?
Current code requires a guardrail height of at least 36 inches for home porches, decks, or balconies greater than 30 inches above grade. Openings within a guard shall not exceed 4”, or the passage of a 4” sphere in any location.
A guardrail is also required on the open sides of stairs above 30 inches. A graspable handrail is required on all stairs with more than three risers, handrails shall be mounted 34”-38” above the tread nosing. The handrail shall be returned into the guard at the top and the bottom of the stair, or at each landing.
The height of a guard alongside of a stair shall be at least 34” in height and any openings within a stair guard cannot exceed 4 3/8”. The triangular opening between the underside of a stair guard and above the stair tread, shall not allow the passage of a 6” sphere.
Do plans for a new house or addition have to be stamped by an architect or engineer?
Not usually. However, there is a provision in the Building Code that requires plans for non-typical construction to have a professional seal. (local regulations have the ability to amend this requirement, check local regulations).
What buildings require sprinkler systems for fire suppression?
Under the International Building Code, which has been adopted by the Commonwealth, sprinklers are not required in stand-alone, single family homes or duplexes. Other types of new residential structures, including apartment buildings, townhouses and quads, are required to have sprinklers. The Code stipulates which types of commercial buildings are required to have fire protection or detection systems according to their size, construction, and type of use.
Do I need a building permit before starting construction or alteration work?
Possibly. Contact your local municipality or building department to discuss the scope of the project.
Do I need a permit to build a new driveway onto my property?
Possibly. Contact your local municipality or designated Engineer to discuss the scope of the project.
How can I get an application for a building permit?
All applications are available online or at the local municipality.
How long does it take to get a Residential building permit?
The state sets the maximum review time at fifteen working days.
How long is a Building Permit valid?
The terms of the permit are governed by the municipality. Generally, permits will expire if work is not started within 180-days or ceases for 180-days. Most permit will expire if substantial completion is not met within 1-year. Extension may be granted at the discretion of the code official.
How many sets of plans must be submitted with a building permit application?
You will need to submit two printed sets of plans for a residential building permit application, three for non-residential building permit applications. One set of approved plans will be returned to you at the time your Building Permit is issued.
Do I need a permit to install a concrete slab or paver type patio?
No. Concrete slab, on-grade, or similar work such as pavers, flagstone or brick laid directly on the ground without a foundation do not require a permit. The same applies to patios, sidewalks and driveways.
Do I need a permit to install a retaining wall?
Retaining walls up to four feet in height are unrestricted and no permit is required when the wall does not support surcharge loading. A Building Permit is required for all retaining walls higher than four feet, regardless of whether they are on residential or commercial properties.
Where can I find information on building a code-compliant deck for my house?
Residential deck construction must comply with the 2015 International Residential Code. The American Wood Council Prescriptive Residential Wood Deck Construction Guide available online. https://awc.org/codes-standards/publications/dca6
Can I hire my own Building Inspector for my project?
All inspections that are required by permit must be scheduled through the Professional Code Services and performed by a Certified Inspector within our client jurisdictions. If a jurisdiction that is not a client of PCS, allows the use of any inspection agency, we can assist you with the project.
Does my contractor have to be licensed and registered?
Contractors within the Commonwealth are not required to be licensed, with exemption to Allegheny County’s specific local requirements, which requires Electrical and Plumbing Contractors to licensed and registered. Contractor's across the commonwealth are required to be registered with the Attorney General's Office if they meet specific parameters. http://hic.attorneygeneral.gov
Does your municipality require Ice & Water shield for re-roofing?
Most municipalities in western Pennsylvania are located in ZONE 5 and are prone to roof ice damage. In accordance with R905.2.7 Ice Barriers are required for new construction and re-roofing. Click here for a copy of the code section.