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One of the most common questions we receive on a patio cover bid is “do I need a permit?” The answer is simply “yes”. This also applies to replacing an old patio cover that was built with a permit. A new permit is required even if you are only replacing an existing structure. In fact, any structure over 4′ high requires a permit including sunrooms, metal canopies, lattice and full shade patio covers.

Here are a few things to remember when working with your contractor:

1. Your contractor should pull the permit using his license. If they ask you to pull a “owner/builder permit” this is a signal that the contractor does not have a valid license or they do not have the required insurance. This also means that you accept financial responsibility if there is an injury to a worker or damage to your property during the construction of the project.

2. Permit fees charged by the city vary wildly from city to city. There are no guidelines. A city can charge what they want and these days many cities are using permit fees to extract money from the citizens to support their spending habits. If you want to know what the permit fees for your project will be call your local Department of Building & Safety. Tell them the type of project and the cost and they should help.

3. The city will usually require a set of engineered plans drawn up by a licensed structural engineer. These plans will show how the patio cover or sunroom is going to be built and will meet local building codes. Some cities have “standard plans” that can be used but these are becoming rare. The plans have to be “wet stamped” by the structural engineer. These means they must be originals and not photocopies. Your contractor will provide these plans. The cost can be built into his bid or billed separately.

4. The city will also require a plot plan. This is a bird’s eye view of your property showing the entire lot with existing structures on it. It should be drawn to scale. Once again, your contractor will drawn one up or perhaps you have a plot plan used to pull a permit on another project.

5. When the building inspector signs off on the permit you should keep the documents yourself. Frequently I have homeowners tell me that a contractor pulled a permit on work performed but they do not have a copy. This means the contractor actually did not pull the permit.

6. If you have work done without a permit or decide later you want a permit on some type of structure or work done on your home you can still get a permit. This is called an “as built” permit. In order to get this type of permit you need to follow the guidelines described above and the work must meet current building codes.