Why I need a building permit

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Why do I need a building permit? On the face of it, it certainly seems like a pain in the neck. After all, you only want to replace a window or replace part of the roofing. Really, what’s the point? Well the point is – water and keeping it out! But it goes further than that…
Getting a permit really helps you, the property owner a lot. If you use a contractor, we check whether they are licensed with the state. We also check to see if they are licensed to do the type of work you want them to do: roofing, framing, concrete, etc. By being licensed, you can be reasonably certain they are insured, which is important.  
Your permit is reviewed to see if the work complies with the applicable building code. Yes there is more than one building code and your project may fall under one or more of these.
Building codes provide a framework for determining whether your project meets minimum standards to ensure basic public health, safety and general welfare.
Take something as simple as windows for example: do your new windows meet the County Fire Code? What is the flashing detail to keep exterior moisture outside? Do the windows meet the current requirements for energy conservation?  Will you need tempered glass in this location? Does the new window fit in the old opening or will it need new framing? And finally, will the new window need to provide egress?  
Once we determine that your project has addressed these questions, we issue the permit for the work to be done. When a new window is installed but before the windows are completed, the inspection phase begins.  
First, we inspect to see if the new framing is done correctly.  If no framing was required, we check to see if the flashing of the new window is correct. The flashing is the part that keeps the outside moisture, outside.
Second, we check to see if tempered glass was required and if it was provided.
Third, if the outside of the home is plastered, we check to see if the plaster wire/lath was installed correctly around the windows.
Additionally, if the window is in a bedroom, it may need to provide egress to the outside. Egress is a set of dimensions the window must have to allow a firefighter, in full gear, to get in and out of the window in the event of an emergency.
Finally, if any of the work wasn’t done correctly, we let the contractor know what needs to be corrected. Once the project has been completed, a final inspection ensures that all issues above have been addressed adequately.
Each type of permit we issue must meet a list of requirements under the applicable building codes. As such, each permit application requires an appropriate review and the work inspected accordingly. We hope this gives you some sense of why permits are generally required- sometimes even for seemingly minor projects.
We will have a monthly discussion on these and related building issues. If you have questions or want clarification on any building related issue, please feel to contact us at the Building Safety Division, 195 East Road, Suite 104, or building@lacnm.us.

Chris Williams
County Building Official