A Quick Guide to Applying for a Building Permit for your Home Improvement Project
Whether you plan to do your own work or hire a contractor, you should be familiar with the process for managing a home improvement project and obtaining the proper building permit. The steps outlined below will assist you in understanding the permit process for a smooth and efficient experience. We are always ready to work with you to ensure that your project is successfully and legally completed, and we're available to answer any questions you may have by phone at (302) 395-5400, email, or in person at our office located in the New Castle County Government Center at 87 Read's Way.
Is a building permit required and who needs to obtain it?
Some home improvement projects do not require a building permit, such as most fences and patios, sidewalks, siding, and sheds of 200 square feet or less. Please review a detailed list (PDF) of when a permit is or is not required. Please note: even if a permit is not required for a project, the project must still comply with all applicable construction and zoning codes. Homeowners may apply for a building permit and do the work themselves as long as they occupy the property and the home is not for sale or being rented. If a contractor will be doing the work, it is their responsibility to obtain the permit. Those that choose to hire a contractor for their project should check first to make sure he or she has the required license to work in New Castle County. Click on "Licensed Contractors" to see whether a contractor being considered has a valid New Castle County license.
Know before you go!
A little advance preparation and knowledge can go a long way in avoiding any potential delays in obtaining a permit. In order for a homeowner or contractor to obtain a permit, the property must not be subject to any delinquent county taxes, school taxes, or sewer fees. Current tax and sewer fee information may be found through Parcel Search. Also, there must not be any open property maintenance violations on the property. Please visit the Property Maintenance Violations page for additional information or call (302) 395-5555 on how to resolve any known violations.
Another way to help ensure a quick and easy permit application is to have all required documents, plans, and copies ready before you come to the Department of Land Use. In most cases, this will include at least the following: a completed Building Permit Application (PDF), three (3) sets of Building Plans, and three (3) copies of your current Plot Plan (PDF). Completing the application form in advance and having all other documentation ready before meeting with us will help expedite your visit. Permit application packets and information for a few of the most common home improvement projects are available below.
We're Ready When You Are!
Once you have everything prepared, you are ready to come in to the Department of Land Use located in the New Castle County Government Center at 87 Reads Way in New Castle to obtain your building permit. Office hours are from 8am to 4pm, Monday through Friday, and there is no appointment necessary; applicants are seen in the order that they arrive. Once checked in, you will first go through a brief pre-screening process where our friendly and experienced staff will review your documentation to ensure that you have all the required items and also verify that there are no overdue taxes and/or fees for the property. Next, depending on the project, a planner may need to verify that the use is consistent with zoning requirements and that any proposed structure is within the legal setbacks for the property. A plans examiner will then review the construction plans to ensure that it meets all relevant building code requirements. He/she can also help answer any questions you may have about the construction process.
Electrical permitting and inspections are handled through the State of Delaware. If the homeowner is planning on completing the electrical work themselves, PLEASE call 302-744-4500 before beginning the work for questions regarding electrical requirements. NCC recommends homeowners hire licensed electricians who can obtain electrical permits and who schedule inspections for their work by third party inspectors authorized by the State of DE. Regardless if the homeowner completes the electrical work or hires a licensed electrician to complete the work, an electrical permit and inspections will be required through the State of Delaware before the final Certificate of Occupancy can be issued by New Castle County.
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