Permits required

The North Carolina Building Code requires that a building or construction permit must be obtained prior to the construction, repair or alteration of a residential or commercial structure. In addition, the City's Development Ordinance requires that a zoning permit be obtained for those land development activities not covered by the State Building Code. The purpose of permits and the accompanying inspection process is to ensure that structures are well-constructed and safe for their occupants. In addition, permits and inspections of construction and development assist in protecting property values.

 Typical Residential Construction Projects Requiring a Permit

 Listed below are some typical residential construction projects that require a permit and inspections:
  • Constructing a new dwelling
  • Adding to an existing building, including screened porches, decks and balconies
  • Involving structural support changes (roof or floor) or load-bearing walls in an existing building
  • Alteration and repair projects in an existing building costing more than $15,000
  • Adding an accessory structure, such as detached garages and storage buildings
  • Extending plumbing lines, such as to new plumbing fixtures
  • Extending electrical wiring, such as in the installation of electrical outlets and overhead lighting
  • Installing or replacing heating and cooling equipment
  • Installing an additional water heater or replacing one if installed by an unlicensed person
  • Installing or replacing fireplaces, fireplace inserts and gas
  • Constructing retaining walls that are over 4 feet in height

Typical Projects Requiring a Zoning Permit

Listed below are some typical projects that do not require a construction permit, but do require some type of zoning permit and inspection:
  • Signs
  • Fences
  • Residential accessory buildings with horizontal dimensions of 12 feet or less
  • Home occupations
  • Land uses of property with no buildings
  • Itinerant merchants
  • Mobile food vendors that are not a part of a private or special event and are not located on a street or sidewalk
  • Outdoor seasonal sales for seasonal agricultural projects, such as Christmas trees, pumpkins and living plants
  • Construction-related uses, such as for equipment and storage lots, construction employee parking lots
  • Special events, such as arts and crafts shows, musical events, concerts, carnivals, outdoor religious events
  • Temporary dwellings, such as for construction
  • Temporary land clearing and inert debris landfills
  • Temporary real estate offices
  • Temporary wireless telecommunications facilities

Exclusions to the Permit Requirement

All construction and development projects require a permit and inspection unless otherwise excluded by a code or law. North Carolina General Statutes excludes a few projects from the permit and inspection requirement. The following are the most common projects where the work is excluded from the permit and inspection requirement, provided the work is still performed in accordance with the current edition of the North Carolina State Building Code:
  • Single-Family Dwelling & Farm Building Exclusion: Permits and inspections are not required for any construction, installation, repair, replacement or alteration project costing $15,000 or less in a single-family dwelling or farm building, unless the work involves any of the following:
    • The addition, repair, or replacement of load bearing structures;
    • The addition or change in the design of a plumbing system;
    • The addition, replacement or change in the design of a heating, air-conditioning, or electrical wiring, appliances or equipment;
    • The use of materials not permitted by the North Carolina Residential Code for One- and Two-family Dwellings; or 
    • The addition of roofing.
  • Additional Residential Exclusions: A permit and inspection is not required for a project costing $15,000 or less in a single-family dwelling or farm building involving:
    • The replacement of windows, doors, exterior siding, or the pickets, railings, stair treads, and decking of porches and exterior decks;
    • The replacement of plumbing that does not change size or capacity; or
    • The replacement of roofing.
  • Residential Water Heater Replacement Exclusion: A permit and inspection is not required to replace a water heater in a one- or two-family dwelling if:
    • The work is performed by a person licensed by the State Board of Examiners of Plumbing, Heating, and Fire Sprinkler Contractors; and
    • The energy use or thermal input does not exceed that of the water heater being replaced and there is no change in fuel, energy source, location, capacity, or routing or sizing of venting and piping.
  • Residential & Commercial Electrical Device and Lighting Fixture Exclusion: A permit and inspection is not required for the repair or replacement of dishwashers, disposals, water heaters, electrical devices or lighting fixtures in a residential or commercial structure, if:
    • The work is performed by a person licensed by the State Board of Examiners of Electrical Contractors; and 
    • The repair or replacement does not require the addition or relocation of electrical wiring.

Permit Needed

The type of permit needed for a project is dependent upon the proposed type of construction or development work. For most projects, only one permit is required. The person that is authorized to obtain a permit is established by the North Carolina General Statutes and the City's Development Ordinance.

Inspections Needed

All permitted construction and development projects require inspections. Inspections make sure that the project is built and developed per the permit and all the applicable construction and development codes. The type of inspections required for a specific project are listed on the issued permit. It is the responsibility of the permit holder to schedule the required inspections at the appropriate time in the construction and development process. Once a project is complete, a final inspection is scheduled and conducted. When the final inspection is completed, a certificate is issued that states the project is code compliant.

Permit Duration

All permits expire if the work is not begun or completed. State law provides that a construction permit will expire 6 months after issuance if the work has not actually commenced on the project. Also, if the work began, but is later abandoned or discontinued for a period of 12 months, then the construction permit expires. For zoning permits, the City's Development Ordinance similarly provides that the permit expires 6 months after issuance if the work does not begin.

More Information

If you have questions regarding your project, permits or the process, contact a construction plan reviewer at 336-883-3151.