Austin Remodel Permitting 101

Isabella Feliciano

November 16, 2020

The Construction Permit Application Process sounds like a very scary phrase to many (scary enough that it should become an acceptable halloween costume), but if you know the who, what, where, why, and when of the process, how you go about it will be determine how smooth your remodeling project will go. In a previous blog post, we’ve explained the importance of having a permit for your home remodeling project. Now we’ll be tackling the necessary steps involved in applying for one. Although usually this is a task reserved for your contractors (and if you remodel with Bamboo, we do it all for you), if you ever find yourself filing for your own permit, we’ve already outlined what you can expect from the process from application to approval (fingers crossed!).

Before we go on any further, let’s review what a building permit for remodeling is. A construction permit is an official document from the Austin city government that allows you to begin your home remodeling project. Permits tell us what we are allowed to do and to what extent with our remodel. They remain active and valid for only a specified period of time. Small, simple modifications such as changing your wallpaper or fixing a doorknob does not require a permit. However, if you have bigger plans in mind - ones that would drastically physically alter your property - then you definitely need to apply for a permit before anything else. There’s also Express Permits that are available for application as well. These permits are if you intend to do smaller remodeling projects such as replacing an exterior door, adding or removing insulation, and more. Since the projects of Express Permits are smaller in scale, the application process is much quicker.

So you already know that you need a permit, what’s next? You would need to have the following requirements. For the Greater Austin Area, please take note that your location would determine what specific requirements you have to prepare and submit. Requirements in Travis County will vary from those in Williamson County. You may refer to permits.com for reference in regards to your area, but these are what is typically required:

REVIEW FEE

There is a lot that goes on into determining the integrity and safety of your project, which explains the need for a fee. If you know what type of permit you’re after, you should know exactly how much it will cost you. It should also be noted that these fees vary. Instead of going to a local permitter’s office, you may choose to pay your permit fees online (For Austin residents, you may go use the Austin Build + Connect portal here).

PLOT PLAN

A plot plan is a layout showing the location of existing structures, roads, utilities, protected trees, property lines, required zoning setbacks and roof overhangs set to a defined scale

DEMOLITION PLAN (showing EXISTING SITE CONDITION LAYOUT)

This shows existing site conditions and items to be demolished; includes existing electrical (lights, outlets, switches, etc)

PROPOSED PLAN

This shows the proposed layout of the project (capturing the scope of what you want to do), this is required to be placed in an 11” x 17” size paper

Filled out PERMIT FORM

This is the filled out Interior Remodel Application form signed by Owner and Applicant. Depending on your area, you may select and print out your forms here.

Here are a few other requirements that may be asked of you as well. This varies on the type of physical remodeling project you intend to carry out.

  • AW Service Plan Verification (Austin Water) - this is required if water demand is to increase (addition of a bath).
  • AW Service Plan Verification (Austin Water) Demolition Application including Demolition Plan and Demolition Permit - if any portion of an exterior wall is to be removed or modified (including creation of new window or door openings or the enlargement of existing openings. You can download a Demolition Permit Form here.
  • Asbestos Report - for houses built before 1990 or as advised by the permitting office / reviewer. This includes a certification from a licensed engineer or architect stating that he has reviewed the material safety data sheets for the materials used in the original construction, the subsequent renovations or alterations of all parts of the building affected by the planned renovation or demolition, and any asbestos surveys of the building. It should also mention that any affected structures do not contain asbestos.

After preparing the necessary requirements, double-, triple-check them! There is a lot of paperwork involved which can be quite tedious, and the last thing you want is realizing you forgot something right after you filed. Especially since incomplete or inaccurate permit applications may not be processed, or at worst, simply rejected. After double and triple-checking, you file them in-person at a local permitting office or online. Most cities allow permits filed online through the My Government Online portal, but in the greater Austin area, the reality is as follows:

  • City of Austin
  • Travis County
  • Williamson County
  • ...and so on

Now the hardest part of the process - playing the waiting game. How long you would have to wait depends on the type of permit you’re applying for. Based on our team’s experience in the Austin area, they can vary anywhere from 1-2 days within filings (for Express Permits) to 2-4 weeks (for Construction Permits). Let’s say you already let a significant amount of time pass since your filing, where do you check the status of your permit application? To know if your permit has been approved or rejected, you may go to these websites: For Austin, For Round Rock. If your permit has been approved - congratulations and give yourself a good pat on the back. You’ve earned it, and now you can start your dream remodel.

If reading this already gives you chills, don’t worry just yet. Here at Bamboo, we do all the hard work on permitting for you, and our fees for preparing permit packets are typically 70% lower cost than using a local architect.  We can work up both 3D designs for your remodel (like on HGTV) and all the permit diligence documents, even if you end up doing your remodel with a different general contractor.

References:

  • https://aquilacommercial.com/learning-center/everything-need-know-getting-permits-office-construction-project-austin-texas/
  • http://www.austintexas.gov/page/building-applications#res
  • https://permits.com/
  • https://austintexas.gov/page/express-permits

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