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Construction FAQs

Construction FAQ's

What are the benefits of having a building permit?

➢ Increased Value — Your home or business is an investment. If your construction project does not comply with the codes adopted by your community, the value of your investment could be reduced.

➢ Insurance --- Property insurers may not cover work done without permits and inspections. If you decide to sell a home or building that has had modifications without a permit, you may be required to tear down the addition, leave it unoccupied or do costly repairs.

➢ Protection — A property owner who can show that code requirements were strictly and consistently met, as demonstrated by a code official’s carefully maintained records, has a strong ally if something happens to trigger a potentially destructive lawsuit.

➢ Ensures Safety — A permit also allows the code official to protect the public by reducing the potential hazards of unsafe construction and ensuring public health, safety and welfare. By following code guidelines, your completed project will meet minimum standards of safety and will be less likely to cause injury to you, your family, your friends or future owners.

Can I submit a construction permit online?

The ability to submit a Construction Permit Application online will be coming soon. 

Homeowner or Contractor...who should actually submit the construction permit application?

The individual doing the work should be the person completing and submitting the Construction Permit Application. REGARDLESS OF WHICH SCENARIO BELOW APPLIES, THE HOMEOWNER SHOULD NEVER REPRESENT THEY ARE DOING WORK THAT A CONTRACTOR IS DOING. See IMPORTANT NOTICE ON HOMEOWNERS COMPLETING THEIR OWN PERMITS. There are generally three scenarios:

  • Scenario 1: Homeowner hires a contractor to do the work. In this case, the Contractor is responsible to complete, sign, and submit the Construction Permit Application Jacket and all the all the Subcode Technical Sections.
  • Scenario 2: Homeowner is doing all the work: In this case, the Homeowner should complete, sign, and submit the Construction Permit Application Jacket and all the all the Subcode Technical Sections.
  • Scenario 3: Homeowner is acting as a "General Contractor" and is hiring "Sub Contractors" (electrician, plumber, carpenter, etc.) to do the work. In this case the Homeowner should complete and sign the Construction Permit Application Jacket in the top section of the form while each Sub Contractor complete and sign their respective Subcode Technical Section. Once complete, either party could deliver the Application in one package, along with any plans, if required. NOTE: See Instructions for completing Permit Folder Jacket (F-100)

Can I request a construction inspection online?

The ability to request UCC construction inspections will be available soon. 

What construction permits do I need to submit?

There are 5 different Subcode Technical Sections (commonly called "permits"), that may need to be completed. They include Building, Electrical, Plumbing, Fire Protection, and Mechanical. Additionally, a Construction Permit Application Jacket also needs to be completed (F-100). Which forms are required depend on the type of work you’re doing. Click here to review our Help Guide to determine which permits need to be completed.

What is the difference between a mechanical permit and a plumbing permit?

Mechanical permit must be used in certain types of construction for certain work.  See our helpful Mechanical vs Plumbing Permit Handout to help determine which Subcode Technical Section needs to be completed.

Do I need to submit construction plans with my permits?

Typically, most small residential projects do not require construction plans. However, on larger or more complex projects, or on commercial, institutional, educational, or industrial projects, plans and detailed specifications will be required. Anytime a design professional (Architect or Engineer) is involved in the project, plans will be required. Below are some common projects:

PROJECT

PLANS REQUIRED

Minor Work

NO

Repairs

NO

Renovation

NO

New Addition

YES

Alteration

YES

Reconstruction

YES

Finished Basement

YES

Deck

YES

In-ground Pool

YES

Is an Architect required to draft construction plans and specifications?

Given the complexity of codes in New Jersey, it is highly recommended that a design professional (Architect or Engineer) be consulted for more complex projects that may require plans and specifications. The application for a Construction Permit shall be accompanied by two (2) copies of specifications and of plans drawn to scale, with sufficient clarity and detail dimensions to show the nature and character of the work to be performed and must demonstrate compliance with the requirements of the code and these regulations or to facilitate inspections for code conformity. Any plans prepared by a design professional must include a raised seal and signature on each page.

Can I draft my own plans as a Homeowner?

Yes. The construction official shall waive the requirement for sealed plans in the case of a single family Homeowner who had prepared his or her own plans for the construction, addition, reconstruction, alteration, renovation, or repair of a detached structure used or intended to be used exclusively as his or her private residence providing that the owner shall submit an affidavit attesting to the fact that he or she has personally prepared the plans and provided further that said plans are in the opinion of the construction official, and appropriate subcode official, legible and complete for purposes of ensuring compliance with the regulations.

Does my contractor need a license/registration to work on my house?

Yes. Effective January 1, 2006 all home improvement contractors must be registered with the NJ Division of Consumer Affairs. They will have to produce a registration card from the State before any permits can be issued. This is, of course, a benefit to the homeowners. For more information call Consumer Affairs at: 1-888-656-6225. Electrical, Plumbing, and Fire contractors must be licensed by the State of NJ. They do not have to be registered if they have a license from the appropriate licensing Board.

Who is responsible for obtaining the permit...my contractor or myself?

You, as the property owner, are responsible for all things related to your property. Some contractors will, as a service, secure the permit for you. But you must ensure that the contractor does this prior to performing any work. Doing work without a permit is subject to penalties of up to $2000.00.

Do I need a permit to replace my water heater?

Yes, a permit is required to replace your water heater or furnace/boiler. These appliances are probably the most dangerous things in your home. Consult the Building Department Webpage for a detailed list of what needs a permit.

What makes the inspectors qualified to inspect my work?

All our inspectors are Class I licensed Subcode Officials by the State of New Jersey, Department of Community Affairs, Division of Codes and Standards to inspect all phases of construction required to have a permit. Extensive experience and training goes into obtaining a license under the Uniform Construction Code Regulations and requires a minimum of ten (10) years experience in a particular discipline in order to obtain a Class I Subcode License.

How long is my construction permit good for? Does it expire?

Building permits are good for one (1) year from date of issuance and six (6) months after the last inspection thereafter. Any permits beyond this date will have to be repaid for up to a percentage to schedule the remaining inspections.

Can my contractor draft their own plans?

Only Licensed Electrical, Plumbing, and Mechanical Contractors are permitted to draft construction plans for their specific discipline, providing the work is for a Class 3 Building, which includes 1 & 2  Family Homes. Home Improvement Contractors are NOT permitted to draft plans for homeowners.

What is required to be included in construction plans for a Single Family home?

Any application for a construction permit for a single family residence shall be accompanied by at least two copies of plans drawn to scale, with sufficient clarity and detailed dimensions to show the nature and character of the work to be performed. Plans submitted shall not be required to show more detail or include more information than is reasonably necessary to assure compliance with the requirements of the Uniform Construction Code and rules in this chapter.

In order to meet minimum requirements, the plans must include the following details:

1. Site diagram consisting of a site plan showing size and location of all new and existing construction on the site with distances from lot lines and indicating new building services, location and size.

2. Construction plans consisting of a scale drawing showing foundation, floor plans, and elevations, including structural framing notes for all floors, ceilings and roofs. Only girders and columns need be identified and located on the plan. Included on the drawings shall be a loading schedule indicating the live loads for which the structure is designed.

3. The following details and submissions shall be required:

a. A cross section through one typical wall showing construction details from footing to and including roof framing. This section shall indicate all construction materials used including roofing, vapor barriers, sheathing type and thickness, insulation type and thickness, windows, glazing type if other than standard window glazing is used, interior finish material, floor type and thickness, structure, foundation and footings. Decorative material shall not be required to be shown unless it contributes to the structural integrity of the section.

b. When roof or other truss systems are used, the details required by N.J.A.C. 5:23-2.15(f)1ii(1)(A) shall be shown. 

c. Electrical details indicating lighting; receptacles; motors and equipment; smoke detectors; service entrance locations; size and type (overhead or underground); panel size, location; number of proposed circuits. A symbol legend shall be included.

d. Plumbing details indicating the locations of fixtures and a notice or table listing water and drainage pipe sizes. A note stating if sewage disposal is to public sewer or individual septic system shall be included.

e. Mechanical details indicating the type of heating system; location, size and type of heating unit, noting the distribution method and indicating design rates, location of fire dampers and safeguards; and location, type and size of flue.

f. Energy subcode compliance, applicable to new residences and additions to existing residences, shall be demonstrated with either detailed calculations, the submission of NJ Clean Energy Program for Residential New Construction compliance documentation or other "above code" program documentation, the submission of printouts from software recognized by the Department, such as REScheck, or conforming with the prescriptive packages described in the current energy subcode compliance bulletin. REScheck software is available from the U.S. Department of Energy at www.energycodes.gov.

NOTE: To document compliance using REScheck, users shall meet or exceed the applicable requirements of the Energy Subcode. Please see the current energy subcode compliance bulletin for further guidance.

How can I access New Jersey‘s construction codes?

Construction codes adopted by the State of New Jersey can be accessed free of charge by clicking here.

Can I do my own work if I own the home?

Yes. However, Electrical work may only be performed by Homeowners in homes they own, reside in, and are detached from other structures. Townhouses, and condominiums and not considered detached.

How do I request an inspection?

UCC inspections are performed Monday through Friday during regular business hours and after hours, unless other special arrangements are made with a Subcode Official. Inspections may be scheduled by contacting the Highlands Building Department at (732) 872-1224-Ext 223 or by emailing our Technical Assistant Alicia Jones (ajones@highlandsborough.org).

When do I need a construction permit?

There is certain construction work that does not require the filing of a construction permit. Construction that meets the definition of Ordinary Maintenance does not require the filing of a Construction Permit Application nor does it not require any inspections. However, such construction is required to comply with the Uniform Construction Code. All other construction requires a construction permit.

Do I need to wait to have a permit issued to start emergency work?

Emergency work, such as water heater or furnace replacement, can be performed without first obtaining a Construction Permit. However, you must contact the Highlands Building Department at (732) 872-1224-Ext 223 or by emailing our Technical Assistant Alicia Jones (ajones@highlandsborough.org) leave a message. Please provide your name, address, and a contact number. A Construction Permit Application must be submitted within 72 hours. However, all other work under the jurisdiction of the Building Department requires a construction permit and all appropriate prior approvals before any work may start. PERFORMING CONSTRUCTION, OTHER THAN EMERGENCY WORK, MINOR WORK, OR ORDINARY MAINTENANCE, WITHOUT PERMITS, WILL SUBJECT THE OWNER AND THE CONTRACTOR TO SIGNIFICANT PENALTIES . MINOR WORK requires notice to the Building Department and the filing of a Construction Permit within five (5) business day of the notice.

How long does it take to obtain a construction permit?

It is important that a Construction Permit Application be completed accurately and fully. Most applications that are denied are due to insufficient or incorrect information. Most permits that are deemed complete upon acceptance are usually issued within two (2) weeks. If your project requires a zoning permit or other prior approval, receiving a building permit could extend the time a permit is issued. Please note that all prior approvals must be received by the building department prior to the issuance of a Construction Permit.

Is there any guidance on documents that may be needed in order to obtain a Construction Permit or final Certificates?

Yes. we have a number of checklists available on our Forms, Checklists, Help Guides page that may help in highlighting what documents may be required. Also, Highlands Borough has on staff a licensed Technical Assistant that is available to assist you. Please contact our office at (732) 872-1224-Ext 223 or email Alicia Jones (ajones@highlandsborough.org).

What construction inspections are required?

For a list of required inspections please see our Required Inspections Handout. Our Technical Assistant is available to help if you are unsure of what inspection to request. See a list of contacts on our main page.

Can a pool barrier fence be shared with my neighbor?

A common swimming pool “barrier” (fence complying with the International Swimming Pool & Spa Code) is permitted to serve as a common barrier for a pool between neighbors. A request may be made by the owner of the pool to the Building Department by completing and signing Highlands' Common Pool Barrier Certification, completing an Application for Variation (UCC Form F160) and pay a fee of $250. The Certification must be signed by both the neighbor and the Homeowner owning the pool making the request.

How do I save money when filing for construction permits?

There is actually a way you can save money when filing for a Construction Permit. Following the suggestions below will keep your permit fees to a minimum.

  1. First and foremost, make sure the work you are doing actually requires a permit. By understanding precisely what Ordinary Maintenance is, you can avoid permit fees that should not be charged. Since certain work does not require permits, do not include that work on the Construction Permit Application. It is often very difficult during the plan review process for plan review officials to determine if certain work is actually Ordinary Maintenance, since often the work is written in a manner that doesn’t clearly delineate it as such.
  2. Be accurate when completing a Construction Permit Application. Whether it’s the contractor or the Homeowner, include only the work that actually requires permits. Also, accurately state the work being performed. Overstating the work will lead to fees for work that’s not being done.
  3. Since the permit fees for the Building Subcode portion of the work are based primarily on the cost of construction, and is often a significant portion of the total fee, be accurate with the cost of doing the building subcode portion of the work and only state the costs for work that requires permits. Although you must include the market rate of what the building subcode portion of the construction would cost (even if the homeowner is doing the work), pay special attention that you do not overvalue the work, which would lead to higher fees. Building department officials will not question higher than normal costs of construction because they are unaware of your actual costs for the work.
  4. Apply for Construction Permits when they are required. DO NOT risk doing work without permits. It is not worth it. Penalties for performing work without permits and/or approvals start as high as $2,000.00 per violation, and are recurring for each violation by the week or day. Homeowners and Contractors are often caught doing work without first obtaining Construction Permits, and often they are permits costing less than several hundred dollars.

Who can I contact if I have questions concerning my construction permit?

See a list of contacts on our main page.