Get Those Permits!

Are you a Member yet? JOIN NOW to support the Des Moines Rehabbers Club!

Many people view preparing drawings and getting construction permits as an unnecessary burden. Everyone involved in the construction industry has heard horror stories of overzealous inspectors that simply can’t be pleased. Contractors and designers are asked regularly by clients to commiserate on the headaches inspired by the permitting and inspection process.

Code Books

In select cases, such frustration may be justified. There are people put through the wringer over what to all outside appearances is a relatively minor issue. For the most part however, building codes, permitting, and inspections serve a vital and important purpose. Most people actually do have problems judging for themselves what is safe and what is not, and reaching beyond one’s level of expertise can have fatal consequences. Those who lean towards an individualist philosophy could make a case that each person has the right to be as unsafe as we see fit. Building codes and inspections step in to address the fact that one person’s unsafe actions can  impact the people around them.

Building codes are not just designed to protect unsafe people from themselves but also to protect the general public: fire fighters, future occupants, next door neighbors . Those people, who don’t have any control over a nearby building, can be killed in a fire or structural collapse they had nothing to do with – building codes aim to protect them. Cities are better off as a whole when we can expect that ALL of our buildings meet certain safety requirements.

Building codes and inspections help to maintain an environment where the very buildings we inhabit are not, by their very nature unsafe.

Some suggestions for navigating the planning and permitting process:

  • Contact the Permit and Development Center (Armory Building,602 Robert D. Ray Drive, enter lower level through the door facing the skating plaza) to determine if your project requires permitting.
  • Don’t try to “sneak through” with out a permit.  Getting caught will be much more difficult that doing things right the first time.
  • Accurately describe the project from the beginning.  City staff are usually ready and willing to help, particularly if you are working to do things by the book.
  • Use professionals if you get beyond your ability or expertise.  The investment in a design professional can pay off if it saves substantial hassle and frustration on your part.