Building Permits And Assorted Legal Issues Before Building Your Garage

Building permits serve two purposes:

  1. Certify that the structure is in compliance with all building and safety codes, zoning, and all other legal issues.
  2. Notify the assessor of the presence and value of the structure so they can add it to the tax rolls.

There are many levels of government that you have to satisfy before you can build your garage. And the best place to start the process is at your local building or development office. Who has jurisdiction over your property depends on where the property is located.

First stop: Permit department

The first step in this process is to visit your local permit department and ask them what kind of information they want and in what format they want it in. Some places want specific paper sizes and formats. Some departments are only taking the information in electronic format submitted online. So you will have to check with them to get their requirements.

They will usually have this information online or give you a paper hand out explaining the process and their requirements.

The larger and more populated the city the tighter their requirements will be. Requirements are generally the easiest in lightly populated rural areas.

The paperwork you need is typically

  • The permit application
  • Site map
  • Blueprints of the structure
  • Permit fee

Permit application

The permit application is unique to each government entity and have to be authorized by the owner of the property or a representative such as an architect or contractor.

Site map

Sample site map

Sample site map

A site map needs to show the property lines, any structures on it, utilities, and their dimensions and location relative to each other and the property lines.

It will also show the proposed new garage.

You can usually get all this information online from the assessor maps etc. Then you can assemble the necessary information to a blank sheet of paper. If necessary you can take a tape measure and get the information first hand.


Click to see a much larger version.

Click to see a much larger version.

Blueprints show your local permit department exactly how you are going to build the garage. When you submit the blueprints they will review them to make sure they meet local codes.

If they are missing some information or if the building department wants some changes they will tell you. You can usually make these changes right on the plans with their guidance.

Most uniform building codes are similar. But some building departments have additional requirements over and above the uniform codes. This might be because of local weather conditions, etc.

In addition to the blueprints you will need truss drawings with engineering calculations. You will also need the engineering documents for a load bearing header. These are part of the package when you buy your trusses and header.

The approval process can take from 1 day to 3 weeks depending on their workload. Once the plans are approved you can start building.

Permit fees

Permit fees vary with each government agency. But they are usually a function of the estimated value of the finished structure. The building department will have their own formula for the value and it’s independent of whether you build it yourself or if you hire a contractor to build it.

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