The most important step toward bringing your project to life is to get a permit. Permits empower you to complete your projects in a way that meets your needs and follows the city’s code. Before applying for any permits, it’s important to:
- define and describe your project,
- find out if you need permits and what they are,
- and collect the right information for your consultation and application.
Reviewers are also available to help you during free and paid consultations.
Why does the city require permits?
Whether you change the layout of your home or add square footage, most home improvement projects require permits from the city. Permits are needed to make sure any changes or additions are structurally sound, safe, and follow zoning regulations.
Every project requires you to follow zoning regulations to make sure it doesn’t have future code issues. Zoning regulations usually apply to exterior projects and exist for your safety and the safety of your family, guests, and neighbors. Zoning regulations are also kept in place to ensure that Austin’s beauty is protected for many generations.
The most common zoning regulations apply to:
Do I need a permit?
The City of Austin provides a variety of permits to help residents build safe and sustainable projects. Many projects require more than one type of permit, and some smaller projects don’t require a permit at all.
Common types of permits
Building permits are issued when you plan to construct, enlarge, demolish, improve, move, or repair a structure within the City’s zoning area. Many major home improvement projects require a building permit unless the changes are cosmetic and don’t affect the original construction of your home.
How much do building permits cost?
Building permits start at $200 and increase depending on your project’s specific needs. Plan review, the permit itself, your inspections, and fees are included in the cost.
Additional charges are required if your project needs trade permits, if you are building near a tree, or if your home is in a historic neighborhood. Your reviewer can explain those costs during your in-person consultation.
Trade permits are required if your project includes specialized work like changes to electrical wiring, plumbing, or heating and cooling. Trade permits can only be obtained by licensed professionals.
You need a trade permit if your project includes:
- adding or moving an electrical outlet or fixture,
- installing HVAC,
- moving or adding a plumbing utility,
- or installing a new hot water heater.
Your contractor is responsible for getting the required permits if you are installing or replacing a hot water heater. Although contractors are required to get permits for their work, it is up to you to make sure those permits are obtained.
Having certain trees on your property may require a tree permit.
If any of your trees measure 19 inches or more in diameter, they are protected and require a Tree Ordinance Review Application before you start construction. You will also need to pay an additional fee.
How to measure your trees
Measure the diameters of any trees on your property. You can calculate the diameter of a tree by taking a measurement of the trunk at 4.5 feet from the ground. Not all trees grow straight up from the ground. Some grow on a slope, others lean to one side, and some branch out near the ground. If that sounds like one of your trees, use this diagram to measure your tree.
You will not be able to remove trees that are 19 inches or more in diameter and also considered heritage trees. Learn more about protected trees and construction requirements.
What is a critical root zone?
The ground surrounding a tree where water that drips down from canopy soaks into the roots. Learn more
Demolition permits are necessary if you change walls in your home, extend a room past your home’s current footprint, or add windows or doors. If you apply for a demolition permit, you will need:
- a survey or plot plan (you can use the same one used for your interior remodel or new addition application),
- to have it signed by the owner and notarized,
- and photographs of the area to be demolished. We recommend taking photos from several angles and taking more than you may think necessary.
You can apply for an express permit if you are making small changes to your home that don’t require moving plumbing fixtures, like converting a bathtub to shower or vice-versa. Express permits help make sure these changes are done safely. Figure out if your project qualifies for an express permit.
Make sure you can get a permit
You may not be able to get a new permit right away if your property currently has an expired permit. Use the public search at Austin Build + Connect to check for expired permits.
You may also be unable to get a permit if you have already reached the maximum amount of impervious cover on your property. If this happens, reconsider your shed materials and design or come in for a consultation to find out if you can get a permit.
Come in for a free 20 minute consultation with a reviewer
It is possible to prepare your permit application without consulting with a reviewer. However, many residents prefer to come in for a free 20 minute consultation with a reviewer before applying for their permits. During this consultation, the reviewer will:
- let you know if you can complete your project as you originally planned,
- give you the personalized property information you need to fill out your building permit application,
- give you a list of documents you need to prepare for your building permit application based on your specific project,
- and explain any next steps needed for you to correctly permit your project.
Hiring a professional
You may need to hire a licensed professional to help you complete your project.
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