As I visit all the different municipalities in NY, NY and PA I see just how differently the building codes are used. Many who follow the ICC enforce the major items but then will allow a “shed” of 200 SF or a swimming pool to be built without benefit of a building permit. I once asked the reasoning behind this practise and was told “It’s only a shed. No one lives in it”. Like a poorly built 200 SF shed can’t collapse and cause a serious formulaire permis de construire injury or worse. I have seen back yard sheds built so poorly that a snow or wind load at all could cause a collapse. Incorrect stud spacing, wrong size or type lumber used for rafters, wrong roof slopes, improper foundations or floor framing etc. all may contribute to a structural failure. A minimal $5 or $10 permit and inspection would avoid any problems. etc. One lady installed an 18′ x 4′ pool without placing sand underneath for a bedding. How did I know? When the liner ruptured and poured thousands of gallons of water into the neighbors yard and house was the clue. The liner ripped from being placed on a small rock underneath. She claimed she didn’t know it needed sand. No permit, no inspection, lots of damages. Luckily no one was hurt.
A building inspector does more than just issue a permit card when you apply for a permit. “Plan Review” is standard fare these days. A trained inspector will review your plans and check for non-compliance items, items that do not comply with local zoning such as yard setbacks, proposed site location and so on. He or she may recognize a potential problem with a proposed deck/pool combination perhaps or a barn that is too close to a property line thereby violating local ordinances. Their knowledge can save thousands of dollars of re-work later on. While performing a foundation inspection one time, as I walked from my pickup parked on the road to the new foundation it “felt” not quite right in the required distance of 40 feet from the street. Sure enough when checked with a tape measure, the new foundation was only 30 feet from the road. The Engineer had laid out the location incorrectly. The entire foundation had to be removed and redone 10 feet further away. The Engineers insurance covered the costs. IF the inspector had not realized there was a problem at that very early stage of construction, an entire house may have had to have been demolished. Imagine that bill!
Most permits take only a few days to obtain and are low cost. The information you may get from your buiding inspector could save you in many ways later on. Ask if you need a permit first!