When Do You Need a Building Permit in Central New York & The Mohawk Valley

Published on April 17, 2013 by
Building Permits

Narrative in Building Permit in NYC

If you plan to build a new home or commercial structure, you’re probably aware that you’ll need a building permit from the local municipality. But what if you’re renovating? Whether building new or renovating, the question often arises, when should you apply for a building permit?

Today, each municipality may have its own permit process. In New York State, local law is responsible for the administration and enforcement of the New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code (the Uniform Code) and the State Energy Conservation Construction Code (the Energy Code).

In addition to the State Building Code each local municipality may incorporate into the Code its own zoning ordinances. Also, each municipality may be different from each other. So, to find out if you need a building permit for your project, I strongly recommend that you contact your local Codes Enforcement Officer before you begin that renovation or new construction project.

Now is the time to find out if you can simply do the project over the weekend, or, your project requires an additional approval process. I have witnessed several projects halted or condemned because the owner failed to do some simple homework up front.

The easiest way to begin is by taking a look at the NYS Division of Code Enforcement listing the circumstances where building permits are required and exemptions where they are not. I’ve included that section for your convenience below.

However, this is just a starting point because, as we mentioned, there are local ordinances that may supersede these exemptions (such as the Utica Scenic and Historical District and the City of Rome’s Preservation Districts). So it’s a good idea to inform yourself and then double check with your local Building Codes officials.

For example, here are some links to local rules for Building Permits: City of Rome, Village of Clinton, Town of New Hartford, and City of Utica. These are just a few, but they give you an idea where to start BEFORE you begin building or renovating. As we always say, it’s easier changing things on paper than it is after it’s built!

Building Permit section of the Department of State Division of Code Enforcement and Administration


"(a) Building Permits Required.
Except as otherwise provided in subdivision (b) of this section, a Building Permit shall be required for any work which must conform to the Uniform Code and/or the Energy Code, including, but not limited to, the construction, enlargement, alteration, improvement, removal, relocation or demolition of any building or structure or any portion thereof, and the installation of a solid fuel burning heating appliance, chimney or flue in any dwelling unit.

"No Person shall commence any work for which a Building Permit is required without first having obtained a Building Permit from the Code Enforcement Officer.

"(b) Exemptions.
No Building Permit shall be required for work in any of the following categories:

"(1) construction or installation of one story detached structures associated with one- or two-family dwellings or multiple single-family dwellings (townhouses) which are used for tool and storage sheds, playhouses or similar uses, provided the gross floor area does not exceed 144 square feet (13.88 square meters);

"(2) installation of swings and other playground equipment associated with a one- or two-family dwelling or multiple single-family dwellings (townhouses);

"(3) installation of swimming pools associated with a one- or two-family dwelling or multiple single-family dwellings (townhouses) where such pools are designed for a water depth of less than 24 inches and are installed entirely above ground;

"(4) installation of fences which are not part of an enclosure surrounding a swimming pool;

"(5) construction of retaining walls unless such walls support a surcharge or impound Class I, II or IIIA liquids;

"(6) construction of temporary motion picture, television and theater stage sets and scenery;

"(7) installation of window awnings supported by an exterior wall of a one- or two-family dwelling or multiple single-family dwellings (townhouses);

"(8) installation of partitions or movable cases less than 5'-9" in height;

"(9) painting, wallpapering, tiling, carpeting, or other similar finish work;

"(10) installation of listed portable electrical, plumbing, heating, ventilation or cooling equipment or appliances;

"(11) replacement of any equipment provided the replacement does not alter the equipment’s listing or render it inconsistent with the equipment’s original specifications;


"(12) repairs, provided that such repairs do not involve:

"(i) the removal or cutting away of a loadbearing wall, partition, or portion thereof, or of any structural beam or load bearing component;
(ii) the removal or change of any required means of egress, or the rearrangement of parts of a structure in a manner which affects egress;
(iii) the enlargement, alteration, replacement or relocation of any building system; or
(iv) the removal from service of all or part of a fire protection system for any period of time.(c) Exemption not deemed authorization to perform non-compliant work. The exemption from the requirement to obtain a building permit for work in any category set forth in subdivision (b) of this section shall not be deemed an authorization for work to be performed in violation of the Uniform Code or the Energy Code."

Next week I'll discuss how you can take advantage of your local building codes and the week after, how to get what you want from the building codes officer.

Until then,

Dan Berkhoudt, Architect

Dan Berkhoudt, AIA, LEED-AP is an experienced architect working in Utica, Rome, and Central New York. He specializes in new building construction and renovation both commercial and residential. Call 315.737.4416 or contact him here.

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