Building departments, like people, have personalities: some are a lot
easier to deal with than others. Some jurisdictions exercise their
charter more zealously than the one next door. Some are efficiently
run, some lose paperwork, or need need constant follow up to move
things along. Fortunately, in my experience AHJs on the whole have
become much more professional, efficient and honest over the last 40
Assuming yours is an average building department, what I'd aim for more
than anything else is a non-adversarial relationship.
There is a good chance you are going find there that there are
seemingly arcane rules and regulations which cost you and time and
money, which don't seem to make sense, are confusing, appear to be
applied retroactively, or are actually in conflict with something you
were told previously by someone else in the same department, or by some
Expect these sorts of difficulties.
On my projects - I do some development in a small way - the
building department's inspection of work done by careful and
experienced tradesman usually turns up a few thing that need to be
changed. And you can expect the same - only more so - of work you
Remember - always - that to a large extent these guys (and the
occasional gal) get to make the rules, and getting into a argument
with a zoning analyst or a building inspector (who is probably wishing
you had hired someone who already knows the rules) is almost always a
That said, your's is the right approach - go down to the building
department, find out what is expected of you during the portion of the
work you will be doing, and make sure that you understand - form the
City's point fo view - the division of responsibility between yourself
and others working on the property .
Ask about general regulations governing the sort of work you will be
doing - for ecample during demolition their may be prohibitions on
noisy work evenings and/or weekends, regulations on dumpster placement
and the length of time they can sit, environment regulations and/or
fees fees regarding the disposal of demolition debris, requirement to
fence off the property before you start work, and so on.
Establish if there are permits required for your portions of the work,
if the require inspections, and if so how you request inspections, the
lead time required, and so on. (Are there (re)inspection fees? Are they
in your budget?)
If you will be doing permitted work, ask if the building department
publishes a "checklist" or "guide" listing the problems they
most frequently encounter during inspection of these systems, or any
other sorts of material useful to a homeowner in your position.
And if possible, try to get a feeling for any sort of anticipated work
the build department does NOT want you doing yourself.
For example in my community a homeowner can pull a permit to do almost
any sort of work on their own house, and when when rehabbed I applied
for a permits to do a *lot* of plumbing and electrical.
Permits granted, no problem.
I also applied for a permit to replace the water line out to the
Somehow, that the permit did not get issued, calls didn't get
Eventually, I wised up and asked the plumbing inspector why.
"Well, the City really does not want homeowners touching anything
their side of the meter.
"You know you are able to do it right. I know you are able to do it
"But the Water Department does not want *any* homeowner doing it, and
it will take FOREVER to get that permit."
That's exactly the sort of battle you don't want to fight, and ideally
you want to develop the sort of relationship with the building
department were they regard you as a competent, honest and reasonable
(if perhaps somewhat "over-ambitions") homeowner, and are they are
willing to be candid about such "facts of life".
Finally, though this isn't "Building Department" advice, if you
haven't already done so pick up the phone, contact your insurance
agent, and find out what you have to do to completely protect yourself
during this project. For example I've been consistently advised (by
attorneys as well as insrance agents) that in my state it's wise for a
homeowner undertaking major work to to carry their own workers'-comp
policy as a backup again the possibility of responsibility for the
injury or death of an employee of a contractor or sub who is not
properly insured. For example thay have a certificater of insurance,
but missed ths last three payments).
Good luck with your project,
Paragon Home Inspection, LLC