In order to construct, renovate or remodel a residential or commercial property, you must first obtain a series of permits. If you are looking for custom home builders in PA, a reputable company such as Rotelle Studio(e) will handle the required steps before the building begins. 

Suppose you choose to do the work yourself. In that case, you must understand the step-by-step process for getting a building permit to proceed according to your local municipality’s specific safety standards and construction codes. 

Either way, this general guide will inform you on what to expect while preparing to build, whether you are a do-it-yourselfer or choose to work with a professional builder. 

Person Drawing a Bathroom Design For Rotelle Custom Home

What is a Permit?

A permit is a legal document issued by the local township and/or county authorities. Permits authorize you or the builder you have hired to construct a residential dwelling on your property. 

How Long Does it Take to Get Permits?

In the state of Pennsylvania, being issued permits depends on how quickly you or your representative (your builder) can draft and sign a contract, submit grading & building plans and pay the permit fees. Then, the length of the process depends on how quickly the applications can pass through the various municipal departments for approval. The entire process can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.

The Simple Steps to Permit Approval

Three People Sitting Beside Table With a Blue Print

Complete the Contract

This is a written agreement between you and the builder on precisely what work is going to be done. The building contract should include the preliminary brochure plans for the completed structure and other crucial building-related information. The contract for the land should consist of grading plans, soil tests, surveying results and septic designs where relevant. If grading plans, soil tests, and septic designs are unavailable for the land you want to purchase, Rotell(e) will assist you by hiring contractors to complete the required work on your behalf. Once you and your builder have both signed the building contract, the permit application process can begin. The contract for the land is typically handled by a licensed real estate professional, which we can provide for you, if needed.

Approve the House Plans for Building Permit

Once the contract is complete, an architect will draft a set of structural plans for your property. It is important that any structural items be approved within 15 days of contract approval, otherwise the permitting process can become unnecessarily stalled. Once you have reviewed and approved these plans, they are to be submitted to your local municipality as part of the permit application process. 

Make a Grading Plan

This begins by assigning an engineer to your building project, who will integrate the necessary elements of the build into the plan. These include property features, stormwater management design, house placement and zoning review. At this point, a surveyor is assigned to the property as well as a scientist, to perform soil evaluation. Once the grading plan is complete, it is submitted to the local Township and possibly the County Conservation District for approval, depending on the requirements of your local municipality. The County Conservation District and/or the township engineer will have 30 business days to reply with comments or to approve the plan. An unapproved plan with comments indicates that there are certain aspects of the plan which must be amended in order for permit issuance. The engineers will make those changes and resubmit for approval.

Some properties with wetlands, steep slopes, waterways, endangered species habitat, excessive tree clearing or difficult access are required to go through a tougher and longer permitting process. This part can take anywhere from three to six months and properties disturbing more than an acre require an NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit, which can take anywhere from six to 12 months. 

Design the Sewer System

When you work with a builder such as Rotelle Studio(e), the build of your residential property could include an on-site septic system. Obtaining a permit for this requires proof that the surrounding soil will support this system. The process involves a series of tests that analyze the soil to determine how quickly it absorbs water and what sort of a system is right for your land. A sustainable sewer system, approved by the local township and/or county health department, is required before a building permit can be issued. In some districts, specific approval is determined by whether the property was subdivided before or after 1972. The governing authority in such a case is the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). This agency provides proof of a planning module for properties subdivided after 1972, or exemption from filing one for properties subdivided prior to 1972. 

Get the Well Approved

Your on-site water system will be fed by a well which must be planned and approved before a building permit can be issued. Your builder will arrange for a licensed well driller to perform the work. Your grading plan will need to include the location of the well within the schematics. 

Get Your Driveway Permit

Obtaining approval for your driveway through the proper authorities depends on where your property is located. If it is on a secondary road, you need approval from the township while property on a state road requires approval from both PennDOT (Pennsylvania Department of Transportation) and the township. Your builder will submit these applications while the engineer ensures the line of sight from the driveway entrance meets the current building code. 

Review Mechanical Equipment

All applicable appliances and amenities with motorized moving parts must be included in the building plan and submitted for approval before the permit can be issued. Such equipment includes kitchen exhaust systems, heating, air conditioning, plumbing and electrical systems. Depending on which township your property is located in, you may also be required to submit a plan for your sprinkler systems. 

Record All Documents

This step requires that specific documents are prepared, signed and recorded with the county Recorder of Deeds before the building permit is issued. These can include the driveway permit, the stormwater operations and maintenance agreement (O&M) and the easement agreement for your utilities.

Obtain the Building Permit

Once all the above steps and tasks are completed, your building permit application is submitted to the township for approval. The township has up to 15 business days to review and the permit is either approved or returned with a letter with suggested changes. These changes are made and resubmitted for approval which can take an additional few weeks, depending on how responsive your township is.

Building a new house is an exciting time, and working with the right builder can be even more enjoyable. At Rotelle, we understand that every customer’s needs are different, which is why we offer a range of services to accommodate each individual. From obtaining the building permit to overseeing the construction project, our team will be there with you every step of the way. Contact us today to learn more about beginning your construction project and creating the perfect home for you and your family. We would be happy to answer any questions you have and provide additional information about our services.