What is a building permit, and who needs one?

Make sure your construction or renovation project is legal and approved with an appropriate building permit.

To build anything, you need the correct permit. It can be challenging to navigate the jungle of construction licenses and approvals without knowing what you actually need. Here we explain what a building permit is and when you should get one.

Build legally with a permit.

A building permit is an official approval to construct a new building or expand or remodel an existing one. Its purpose is to ensure that the construction project follows all relevant regulations, including building standards, land use, and environmental protection.

You usually get a building permit from the local government or other regional regulatory body. This might be your city or town council, but it could also be a larger local agency, like the county government. The easiest way to find out who grants building permits in your area is to do a quick internet search.

You should also check what kind of permit your project needs. For example, there may be specific permits for water lines, zoning, electrical work, and more.

Check if you need a permit.

Not every minor renovation needs a building permit. Simple projects, like replacing the front stairs of your house, can often be done without one.

But any project involving significant changes to a building’s structure, or the erection of new buildings needs a permit. The requirements and standards vary from location to location, so you should always contact your local building office before you start any construction. If you work with a professional contractor, they’ll usually handle the permits for you.

Sign building permits electronically.

Electronic signatures make it fast and easy to sign your building permit or construction contract. Acrobat Sign lets you share PDF documents, request signatures, and track the process with just a few mouse clicks.

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