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Backyard Office Building Permits & Plans

This is an area of building that I still don’t understand. I asked many people, “What plans and permits do I need?” I asked contractors, I asked people that work at building supply companies, I asked handymen and I called the local building code enforcement. No one could give me a straight answer.

Things I heard, I don’t know if any of these are actually true.

  • If you have less than $2500 in materials then you don’t need a permit or plans.
  • If you don’t hire people to help, it’s called “owner construction” and you don’t need a permit or plans. Buildings for public or livable spaces need plans.
  • If the building wasn’t permanently affixed to the ground, I wouldn’t need paperwork. These are considered “temporary” buildings.
  • Any construction should be considered a “treehouse or playhouse.” You’re not building a detached office, it’s a playhouse. The code standards are lower.

Of course, the local code enforcement officer said I needed a $300 permit and architecture plans, which probably cost $500.

After hours and hours of trying to figure out what I needed, what types of plans, permits etc., I just started building it. I figured permission is harder to ask for than forgiveness, so let’s see what happens. I know my building is up to code because I’ve researched construction enough to know what I’m doing on a project this size.

Things you could do.

  • Ignore everyone and see what happens (the Allan method).
  • Download plans off the Internet.
  • Call your local building services department, either city or county.
  • Get an architect to draw plans.
  • Hire a contractor.

Okay, let’s get started understanding basic construction. Again I’m not a contractor, and barely considered knowledgeable about construction, but here’s everything I know.

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