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Development Services

Expand/Contract Questions and Answers

When is the Building Division open for business?
A:

Counter Open: Monday - Friday, 8:00 am - Noon and 1:00 pm - 4:30 pm
Inspectors Available: Monday - Friday, 7:30 am - 8:30 am

More information can be found on the Building Division Contact Us page.

What work does not require a permit?
A:

Work Exempt from Building Division Residential Permits

Please note that all permitted work performed on residential property containing 4 units or more requires the services of a licensed California contractor. Individual property owners shall not perform such work nor obtain the permit unless properly licensed.

The permit exemptions listed below shall not be deemed authorization for work to be done in violation of the provisions of these codes or any laws or ordinances of this jurisdiction.

Building: Based upon the 2013 California Residential Code, Section 105.2

  • One story detached accessory structures used as tool and storage sheds, playhouses and similar uses provided the floor area does not exceed 120 square feet. (Location of the structure is dictated by zoning requirements. Please contact the Planning Division @ 252-4920 to assure correct placement.)
  • Fences not over 6 feet high. (This is a general statement; often fences are restricted by zoning regulations because of location and materials. Please contact the Planning Division @ 252-4920 prior to construction.)
  • Oil derricks.
  • Retaining walls that are not over 4 feet in height and measured from the bottom of the footing to the top of the wall, unless supporting a surcharge or impounding Class I, II or lilA liquids. (Permanent retaining walls per the Engineering Department's standard details shall be constructed of only reinforced concrete block or other materials approved by the City Engineer. No wooden walls are allowed. Please contact the Engineering Department @ 252-4930.)
  • Water tanks supported directly upon grade if the capacity does not exceed 5,000 gallons and the ratio of height to diameter/width does not exceed 2 to 1.
  • Sidewalks and driveways. (However such work requires permits and approvals from the Engineering Department. Please contact the Engineering Department @ 252-4930.)
  • Painting, papering, tiling, carpeting, cabinets, counter tops and similar finish work. (Replacement of counters which hold a sink requires a basic plumbing permit and inspection to assure that fixtures are installed without elimination of air gaps, creation of fouling areas or electrical safety issues. Tile installation within a shower area does require a permit. Inspections prior to the installation of paper or backer board are required.)
  • Prefabricated swimming pools that are less than 24 inches deep.
  • Swings and other playground equipment.
  • Window awnings supported by an exterior wall which do not project more than 54 inches from the exterior wall and do not require additional support.
  • Decks not exceeding 200 square feet in area, that are not more than 30 inches above grade at any point, are not attached to the dwelling unit and do not serve the exit door required by Section R311.4 of the California Residential Building Code. (Specifically Section R311.4 refers to habitable levels one or more stories above grade.)

Electrical: Based upon the 2013 California Electrical Code, Section 89.108.4.1

  • Listed cord-and-plug connected temporary decorative lighting.
  • Reinstallation of attachment plug receptacles but not the outlets therefore. (Specifically a device, 'switch or outlet for example', may be replaced without benefit of a permit. However, the installation of additional devices, boxes, circuits etc. does require inspections and a permit.)
  • Replacement of branch circuit overcurrent devices of the required capacity of the same location. (Fuses and even breakers may be replaced without benefit of a permit. However the replacement of a breaker is not advisable without the knowledge or advice of an expert. Without proper care and expertise life/safety issues may not be properly addressed leading to electrical shock and even death. In addition, the choice of a properly listed equivalent is required. If in doubt, call or obtain the services of a professional.)
  • Electrical wiring, devices, appliances, apparatus or equipment operating at less than 25 volts and not capable of supplying more than 50 watts of energy.
  • Minor repair work, including the replacement of lamps or the connection of approved portable electrical equipment to permanently installed receptacles.

Mechanical: Based upon the 2013 California Mechanical Code, Section 112.2

  • A portable heating appliance, portable ventilating equipment, a potable cooling unit, or a portable evaporative cooler.
  • A closed system of steam, hot, or chilled water piping within heating or cooling equipment regulated by this code. (This does not include a hot water heater or boiler replacement or installation. A plumbing permit is required for the replacement of a hot water heater or boiler.)
  • Replacement of any component part or assembly of an appliance that does not alter its original approval and complies with other applicable requirements of this code.
  • Refrigerating equipment that is part of the equipment for which a permit has been issued pursuant to the requirements of this code.
  • A unit refrigerating system.

Plumbing: Based upon the 2013 California Plumbing Code, Section 103.1.2

  • The stopping of leaks in drains, soil, waste or vent pipe, provided, however that should any trap, drainpipe, soil, waste or vent pipe become defective and it becomes necessary to remove and replace the same with new material, the same shall be considered as new work and a permit shall be procured and inspections made as provided in this code. (Specifically, snaking drain or waste lines does not require a permit. Replacement of such lines does.)
  • The clearing of stoppages, including the removal and reinstallation of water closets, or the repairing or leaks in pipes, valves, or fixtures, provided such repairs do not involve or require the replacement or rearrangement of valves, pipes, or fixtures. (Specifically a permit is not required to replace or reinstall a toilet. However, health/safety issues such as the introduction of sewer gases into the residence pose a real hazard. If in doubt consult a professional.)

Today's permit exceptions are more lenient than in the past. However, it is important to keep in mind that today's society is far more litigious and more aware of the potential health issues within our homes. Therefore documentation of a job done correctly may very well carry far more weight today than in the past. If in doubt call us and ask or hire a licensed professional with quality references. If a permit is obtained be sure to do your part and follow through and schedule the required inspections.

Click to view Work Exempt from Building Division Residential Permits [PDF].

How do I schedule an inspection?
A:

Calling for inspections:

Inspection requests can be made by calling (925) 252-4907. This is a 24-hour voicemail; please call this number ONE DAY before you would like your inspection. When calling for an inspection provide the permit number, the address, whether you prefer an a.m. or p.m. inspection and the type of inspection needed.

Inspections occur Monday through Friday excluding holidays. Morning inspections are done between 8:30 am – 12:00 pm. Afternoon inspections are done between 1:00 and 4:00 pm. We do our best to provide you with the tightest inspection window possible. You will not receive a confirming phone call. If you would like to confirm your inspection and speak to the assigned inspector please call (925) 252-4910 between 8:30 am and 9:00 am the day of the inspection.

Access for the inspection:

It is the responsibility of the person requesting the inspection to provide access to and means for proper inspection of the work. Animals must be confined. If no one is to be on site ‘i.e. swimming pool inspection’ you must provide and conspicuously post a letter on site allowing entry.

Expiration:

It is the duty of the permit holder to obtain an inspection within 180 days of permit issuance. Work must commence within the 180 days. If not the permit expires and becomes null and void. The permit holder can request ‘one’ 180 day extension. All permits may be considered expired regardless if the work has not been completed with one year of issuance. The permit holder must contact the Building Division to avoid this condition.

Reinspection Fee:

A reinspection fee may be levied for each instance when work is not ready, no one is on site, or there has been deviation from the approved set of plans. The reinspection fee shall be received prior to any additional inspections being performed. A reinspection fee may also be assessed if a permit has expired and the permit holder requests a final inspection and the work is deemed incomplete requiring a correction notice.

How to schedule an inspection [PDF]

What are the current building codes?
A:

Current Building Codes

  • 2013 California Building Code (Incorporates by adoption and reprints the 2012 International Building Code with California amendments. Published by the International Code
    Council, ICC)
  • 2013 California Residential Code (Incorporates by adoption and reprints the 2012 International Residential Code with California amendments. Published by the International Code Council, ICC)
  • 2013 California Electrical Code (Incorporates by adoption and reprints the 2011 National Electrical Code with California amendments. Published by the National Fire Protection Agency, NFPA)
  • 2013 California Plumbing Code (Incorporates by adoption and reprints the 2012 Uniform Plumbing Code with California amendments. Published by the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials, IAPMO)
  • 2013 California Mechanical Code (Incorporates by adoption and reprints the 2012 Uniform Mechanical Code with California amendments. Published by the International
    Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials, IAPMO)
  • 2013 California Administrative Code (California Building Standards Commission. Published by the International Code Council)
  • 2013 California Energy Code (California Building Standards Commission.
    Published by the International Code Council)
  • 2013 California Green Building Standards Code (California Building Standards Commission)
  • 2013 California Fire Code (Incorporates by adoption and reprints the 2012 International Fire Code with California amendments and specific amendments brought forward by the Contra Costa Fire Protection District)

Click to view the City of Pittsburg's Current Building Codes [PDF].

What permits are issued over the counter?
A:

Partial List of Permit Types Issued Over Counter

Building:

  • Reroofing Permits.
  • Demolition Permits with proper approvals.
  • Code Compliance Permits with proper approvals.
  • Fire Preinspection Permits.
  • Installation of Retrofit Windows and Doors.
  • Installation of New Windows and Doors with proper documentation.
  • Kitchen Remodel I Alteration with proper documentation.
  • Bathroom Remodel I Alteration with proper documentation.
  • Building Alteration (Nonstructural) with proper documentation.

Plumbing:

  • Water Heater Replacement.
  • Interior Water Repiping. (Underslab Replacement)
  • Exterior Water Supply Replacement I Repair.
  • Sewer Repair (Property).
  • Drain, Waste and Vent Replacement I Repair.
  • Shower valve Replacement.
  • Gas Service Release Inspection

Mechanical:

  • Furnace (All Types) New I Replacement.
  • AIC New and Replacement.
  • Airhandlers with proper documentation.

Electrical:

  • Service Upgrade
  • Installation of Ceiling Fans
  • Installation of New Circuits, Lighting, Devices etc.
  • Temporary Power with approvals.
  • Solar Voltaic with proper documentation.
  • Electrical Service Release Inspection

Click to view the Partial List of Permit Types Issued Over the Counter [PDF].

Who is allowed to produce construction drawings?
A:

Architects may design any type except: the structural portion of a hospital.

Civil Engineers may design any building except: hospitals and public schools.

Structural Engineers has no limitations and may design any building of any type.

Unlicensed Persons are limited to the design of:

  • Single-family dwellings of woodframe construction not more than two stories and a basement in height.
  • Multiple dwellings containing no more than four dwelling units of woodframe contruction not more than two stories and a basement in height. Not more than four dwelling units per lot.
  • Garages or other structures appurtenant to dwellings of woodframe construction not more than two stories and a basement in height.
  • Agricultural and ranch buildings of woodframe construction.*
  • Nonstructural or nonsiesmic store fronts, interior alterations or additions, fixtures, cabinetwork, furniture or other appliances or equipment including nonstructural or nonseismic work necessary to provide for their installation.
  • May not design any component that changes or affects the safety of any building, including but not limited to structural or seismic components.

* Unless the building official having jurisdiction deems than an undue risk to the public health, safety, or welfare is involved.

Click for information regarding the applicable statutes for who is allowed to produce contruction drawing [PDF].

When do I need to install smoke detectors and where?
A:

New residential work does require the installation of smoke detectors. These must be hardwired and electrically interconnected with battery backup. The necessary location of such devices can found on the next page of this handout.

Renovations of existing housing stock can also trigger the need to install smoke detectors. Specifically, the California Health and Safety Code Section 13113.7 (a) (1) states, "For all dwelling units intended for human occupancy, upon the owner's application on or after January 1, 1985, for permit for alterations, repairs, or additions, exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000).

This scenario allows for the installation of devices that are "Battery Operated Only". The location of such devices mirrors that of those installed during new construction. Please see the following page for location details.

When a residential addition is constructed, devices located within the new work shall be hardwired, allowing for the interconnection of all devices within the addition. The existing residence must be fitted with "Listed" smoke detectors but they may be of the "Battery Operated Only" type.

When and where smoke detectors need to be installed [PDF]

Do I need to be there for an inspection?
A:

The general answer to this question is "Yes". However, if the situation does not allow for you to be available at the time of the inspection, you may make other arrangements.

Inspections within the residence or building:

  • You may have a friend, neighbor, or family member stand in your place. The person must be 18 years old at a minimum. They must have the permit and approved plans at the ready.

Inspections outside of the residence or building:

  • As with inspections to the interior you can have someone stand in your place.
    Again they must be 18 years old at a minimum and have ready the permit and approved plans.
  • Reroof inspections require the inspector to circumvent the residence both below and up on the roof. If no one is on site we can proceed with this inspection if a few simple steps are taken. (1) Dogs must be inside the residence or confined within a secure kennel. If a loose or tethered dog is present we will not provide an inspection. (2) A completed and posted "Permission to Inspect" notice must be posted and within view of the side gate or front door. This form is available at the permit counter or online.
  • Swimming pool inspections which require access only to the rear of the property may be approached similarly. However, be aware that some of the procedural inspections involved with pools require access to both the interior and the exterior. Please contact the Building Division in advance to assure a successful inspection.

There are many other types of construction projects that create scenarios similar to those mentioned above. If you wish to avoid being present for the inspection, please contact the Building Division on the morning of the inspection. Speak to the assigned inspector thereby relaying your intent to be absent. This will go far towards eliminating any possibility of confusion and the need for a reinspection.  

Click to view the Inspection handout [PDF].

When is a “Certificate of Occupancy” issued?
A:

A “Certificate of Occupancy” is only issued when a new occupancy is established.

In the case of new commercial construction, a certificate of occupancy will not be issued for a shell building, as the occupancy classification has not been established. A certificate will be issued for each tenant space regardless of the number.

In the case of tenant improvements related to an existing structure, there exist a multitude of possible scenarios; for that reason, each change in occupancy must be examined individually.

The Building Division is charged with assuring that both the proposed use and neighboring uses are compatible. In addition, the building must fit the use. The type of construction and separation between existing occupancies must be reviewed. If a proposed use is determined to be more hazardous, a thorough structural and life safety evaluation and upgrade shall be required.

There may be occasions when approval from other City Departments may be misconstrued as approval for a change in occupancy. Please contact the Building Division prior to finalizing a lease if there is to be a change in the type of business activity that presently exists.

Section 110 Certificate of Occupancy

110.1 Use and occupancy. No building or structure shall be used or occupied, and no change in the existing occupancy classification of a building or structure or portion thereof shall be made until the building official has issued a certificate of occupancy therefore as provided herein. Issuance of a certificate of occupancy shall not be construed as an approval of a violation of the provisions of this code or of other ordinances of the jurisdiction.

110.3 Temporary occupancy. The building official is authorized to issue a temporary certificate of occupancy before the completion of the entire work covered by the permit, provided that such portion or portions shall be occupied safely. The building official shall set a time periods during which the temporary certificate of occupancy is valid.

110.4 Revocation. The building official is authorized to, in writing, suspend or revoke a certificate of occupancy or completion issued under the provisions of this code wherever the certificate is issued in error, or on the basis of incorrect information supplied, or where it is determined that the building or structure or portion thereof is in violation of any ordinance or regulation or any of the provisions of this code.

Cerificate of Occupancy handout [PDF].