Property owners thinking about remodeling or adding other improvements, such as decks, spas or retaining walls, many times have a number of questions about building permits.
This page is designed to give property owners basic knowledge of when construction permits are required in the City of Exeter. It also answers some of the most frequently asked questions and offers tips from the Tulare County Building Department.
Because each construction project is unique, we encourage you to check in at City Hall for basic information, consider meeting with the City Planner, and telephoning the Tulare County Building Department at 559.624.7000, or visit 5961 S. Mooney Blvd., Visalia, CA.
What are permits and why do I need one?
Permits are the way the City of Exeter regulates construction. This regulation is designed to ensure that all construction in the city is safe. The safety of the occupants of buildings is the primary reason for having construction codes. Because Exeter has modest growth, we partner with the County of Tulare Building Department to provide plan check services, permitting, and inspection services.
The City of Exeter has adopted several codes, among them the Uniform Building, Mechanical, Plumbing, and National Electrical codes. In addition, there are federal, state and local laws that govern construction, such as those covering energy conservation.
There are several different types of permits, based on the type of construction: structural, plumbing, mechanical, grading and combination. Most homeowner's projects require a combination permit. In addition, the complete demolition and relocation of buildings also requires permits.
Obtaining the permit is just the first step in the process. In this step, you may need to create plans to be submitted to the department, make a plot plan for your property showing the improvements, and show the type of construction you'll be using.
Once plans are approved, you're required to build the project according to the plans that have been stamped "APPROVED" by the department. If any changes are made to the plans, they must be made with the department's approval.
The second half of the process is the inspection of the work by the building inspector. This is discussed later on this page.
When do I need a construction permit?
A construction permit is needed for all new construction. In many cases a permit is needed for repair or replacement of existing features, such as replacing windows. A plumbing, electrical or mechanical permit is required for any additions or changes to the structure's existing system. For example, moving or adding an electrical outlet requires a permit. To determine whether your project requires a permit, call the Tulare County Building Department.
When don't I need a permit?
A construction permit is not required for items such as wallpapering, painting or similar finish work; fences under six feet tall in height; platforms and walks less than 30 inches tall over grade or not over a basement; and other circumstances. Please check with the Tulare County Building Department before building.
Permits are not normally required for replacement or repair of fixtures (such as changing water faucets or replacing electric switches). However, items such as replacing a water heater does require a permit. To determine whether your construction project requires a permit, call the Tulare County Building Department.
Where do I get a permit?
Building permits are issued by the Tulare County Building Department by calling 559.624.7000 or visiting 5961 S. Mooney Blvd., Visalia, CA.
Be aware that the department does not simply issue a permit when you come to the office. You must first submit plans and fill out an application form. Only after these plans are reviewed and approved and you pay required fees, will a permit be issued.
How long does it take to get a permit?
Permit issuance periods vary, depending on the complexity of your project. Some permits can be issued over-the-counter, meaning return trips will not be necessary. More complex projects take longer to review and the plans examiner may require that you resubmit your plans if corrections are needed. The most complicated projects may require outside contracting for plan review
What about zoning?
You must be aware of the zoning designation of your property. Zoning determines what types of buildings and improvements may be constructed and what types of activities may be conducted on each parcel.
For example, a residential area may be zoned R-1, which means that the lots can contain one single family home and other uses listed in the Zoning Ordinance.
Zoning is regulated by the Exeter Planning Department, based on maps approved by the Exeter City Council.
If you are unsure of the zoning of your property and what types of buildings and uses are allowed, please contact the Exeter Planning Department, located at Exeter City Hall. Call 559.592.5558.
What about other approvals or permits?
Other governmental agencies may need to review and approve your project. For example, establishments that serve food require a permit from the Tulare County Health Department. The Tulare County Building Department will inform you of these approvals at the time plans are submitted.
What if I don't get a permit?
If a permit, when required, is not obtained prior to construction, you are in violation of City of Exeter codes and regulations and will be subject to fines and penalties. You will be required to obtain permits (possibly with double fees) for the work and it must pass inspection. Or, you will have to return the structure or site to its original condition.
Remember . . . construction codes were created for safety reasons.
Work built without permits can be unsafe, no matter how good it looks.
What if I obtained a permit but never had inspections?
Generally, permits expire after 180 days if no inspections have been made. In order for the project to be completed, it must be inspected. If a permit expires before the final inspection is made, the project is in violation of city codes.
Who should obtain the permit?
Contractors licensed by the State of California can obtain permits. The home owner can also obtain the construction permits.
Can I do the work myself or do I have to hire a contractor?
Property owners can do the work themselves or hire out, but they must follow certain regulations, including:
If you will be hiring anyone, you may have to have Workers' Compensation Insurance. This insurance is available from many agencies. If you won't be hiring anyone, we will ask you to sign an "Owner-Builder Statement" indicating this.
Build to the plans:
Be sure to follow your approved plans, whether they are drawn by an architect or are standard construction requirements given to you by the county. If you deviate from the approved plans, this will cause problems when the project is inspected.
Who draws up the plans?
Plans for a project such as a room addition can usually be drawn by a qualified individual such as a draftsman or homeowner. Other projects may require plans signed by a licensed architect or engineer. All plans must be drawn to scale. Two sets of plans are required which show the project layout in relation to the entire parcel and all other improvements on the site.
For projects such as routine retaining walls, patio covers or carports, the city has standard specifications that can be followed, within certain limitations. Those specifications, together with a plot plan showing the project, are accepted by the city as the plans.
In addition, some kit-type projects come with construction plans. When you apply for permits, bring the instruction sheets along - they may serve as the plans.
What about a contractor?
The City of Exeter recommends you deal only with a contractor licensed by the State of California. The State Contractor's Licensing Board's telephone number is 559.445.5281
What about inspections?
It is the responsibility of the permit holder or contractor to call us for inspections at specific times during construction. Please remember that inspections require a 24-hour notice. Inspections are made during certain points in the project, depending on the type of project. For example, retaining walls require inspections of the footing, after block is laid and steel placed but before grouting, after back fill has been placed, and when the project is complete.
Remember . . . the project is not legally complete until it has passed the final inspection.
If you need additional information about building permits, please call the Tulare County Building Department. The department is interested in helping you get your project done right and in a timely manner.