Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions about the NJ Uniform Construction Code process

Is there any construction work that I may perform without obtaining a Construction Permit?

The Uniform Construction Code identifies an extremely short list of work that may be done without a construction permit. This is enumerated in N.J.A.C. 5:23-2.7, titled Ordinary Maintenance. Examples of the types of repair that may be done without a construction permit are:

  • Installation and replacement of a window or door in its existing opening;
  • Repair or replacement of kitchen cabinets;
  • Replacement of not more than 25% of roofing or siding within a 12-month period;
  • Replacement of a toilet or sink at the same location in a single-family dwelling; however the toilet must use 1.6 gallons of water or less per flush.

May I ever begin work before I receive my construction permit?

There are some tasks that are recognized by the Uniform Construction Code, in N.J.A.C. 5:23-2.17A, as ”minor work.” In these cases the owner or his authorized representative must notify the enforcing agency before the work begins. A written application must be filed within five days of the date of the notice. Examples of minor work include:

  • Replacement of a hot water heater;
  • Replacement of more than 25% of the exterior siding on a one- or two-family dwelling.

Can I certify that I prepared the plans for renovations to my single family home if the contractor drew the plans after we discussed what I wanted?

No, even if you have participated in the planning process, you may only certify to plans that you drew yourself. Certifying to plans that were prepared by someone else would be considered a false or fraudulent statement. If you make a false statement such as this and are discovered you may be fined and your permit may be revoked. The fines may be over $1,000 for each fraudulent statement.

Is there anything that I can do if an element of my project cannot meet the precise requirements of the code?

You may request a variation of the code, specifying the code section from which you need relief, as well as a description of the practical difficulty that you are having in meeting the regulations. You must show that the exception would not create any health or safety problems. This request must be reviewed and approved by the Subcode Official authorized to review the technical merits of the code section in question and the construction official. If they do not grant the request for a variation, you may continue the appeal at the Construction Board of Appeals. There is a Construction Board of Appeals for each county and many municipalities have local boards.

Can my local building department inspect the construction of a project for which the plans were reviewed by DCA?

Local Enforcing Agencies may inspect all types of projects except the few that have been explicitly reserved for DCA. If, however, there is a need to change the plans during construction, the proposed change must be authorized by the plan review agency.

Why did the inspection pass when the contractor didn’t perform the work in accordance with my plans?

The enforcing agency is required to determine if the work conforms to the requirements of the code, not your plans. The code is both the minimum and maximum standard that the agency may apply when determining whether the work passes an inspection. If you have included items of work that are superior to what the code requires it is a contractual matter not a code compliance matter. I recommend that you engage an individual to monitor the progress of the work to make sure that the finished product meets your expectations.

What suggestions can you offer for having the best working relationship with the local building department?

  • Be polite.
  • Fill out your applications neatly and completely.
  • Understand that it is your responsibility to show that the prior approvals have been satisfied.
  • Make sure that the electrician and plumber have sealed their portion of the application.
  • Make sure that the design plans are complete, legible and include the name, license number, address, phone number and seal of the designer.
  • Don’t expect that your project should go to the top of the review list just because you’re in a hurry. Most of the other applicants are, as well.
  • Understand that your plans may need to be reviewed by three or more different individuals. If the information they need to approve the applications is missing, your project is stalled, each time, until it has been provided.
  • Don’t fabricate stories – we have pretty much heard them all and know when you’re lying.
  • Make sure that you are ready for inspection when you call to request one.
  • Keep copies of the approved plans and specifications on the job.

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