Was at a family get together recently, where I saw my brother the inspector. Now, he's the inspector for a place several time zones away, so we don't get to meet very often- but his area saw a fair amount of building in the last decade. I mean, it's a real city, with electricity, flush toilets, everything.
We began to discuss the house I'm remodelling, and I started by drawing a simple floor plan on a paper towel. What he said next disturbs me:
"Stop. Right now. I have to tell you that what you have drawn is already far better than at least half of the stuff I see submitted by real contractors."
In all the complaints about plan review, permits, etc., ... I need to ask: are we doing anything to help the process along?
Just as important, does the city paperwork make any sense?
How about something with this format: 1) What's the purpose of the work? 2) What's there now? 3) What will be there when you're done? 4) How do you plan to do it? 5) What special issues have been addressed?
The biggest stumbling block here is the engineering (structural) and the FEMA regulations if you are exceeding 50% of the taxable assessment. They don't use market price. That could mean a fairly small addition could put you in the position of tearing down your house and rebuilding 4 or 5 feet higher. One of my neighbors actually got a house mover to pick up his house, they built a 5 block stem wall and dropped the house on it. The answer there is to do renovations in small bites, close out the permit, wait for your new appraisal from the tax collector and then start again. They did just bump up our wind code 20 MPH just about everywhere (150 at my house) so that means bigger clips and more steel, in the concrete.
Next is the health department and septic tank issues. Most existing systems do not meet current code.
On mechanicals you need to supply energy calcs.
Once you get past these things the permits generally fly through.
Based on your format, A typical resi plan for an addition or a renovation detail the intent and indicate the existing floorplan. If any is 'to remain' it is marked. There is a proposed floor plan which indicates the new work.
The 'code block' on the title page indicates the applicable codes that the job is based on, the Architects name, etc.
'Special conditions' are detailed. Service location is indicated, or 'subject to utility co. approvals'.
That about covers it, more or less.
Now, at Plan Review, if the Code Block is incorrect, that's a bad start. Resi electric, with Architect plans usually make it on the first review. The homeowner 'plan' on a bag, piece of cardboard box, etc. get a reject letter.
As I said elsewear in this forum, the quality of the plans being submitted recently leave a lot to be desired.
That's the point I am trying to make. I'm not talking just about the 'big jobs.'
Let's imagine a simple job, a plan to add a circuit. I just can't imagine simply scribbling 'add circuit' on a permit application and leaving it at that. No, it seems obvious that one would draw a simple floor plan, outlining where the circuit started, ended, and how it got there.
Since the permit is applied for after the job is quoted, and (supposedly) before work begins, the contractor ought to be able to lay out exactly what he plans to do, in terms a complete stranger would understand.
I have seen many architect plans that do not make code. Sometimes if it is a small job and it is being done by an EC, I might not require a "plan". The EC should no his code, and if I get out there and fail him for something small, I usually don't get any lip from the EC. Your from a bigger town than I am, and I can see how you need to be strict with your codes. If I see HO plan, I make sure that the layout of the electric is close to code. Even then sometimes you get there and it doesn't look like the plan at all. Again, I am referring to "smaller" remodel jobs.
I don't think it's a question of meeting code, being in a big town, or being able to stamp the prints. Nor is it about 'professional' drawings.
As I see it, the contractor has to agree with the customer as to what will be done. Then the contractor has to tell the city what he's doing. Along the way, the contractor has to ask the customer for money at certain stages of the job.
I ask: what's the problem here? There seems an obvious need to be able to explain what you're doing. Even you need to 'picture' the job, so you can bring all the stuff you'll need.
I suppose you could explain things in text, but a sketch makes things so much easier.
It's not about 'making City Hall happy.' It's about you doing your job. It's simply about sharing with City Hall the very info you've already collected for your own reasons.
I just don't understand how this can be such a big thing to so many!