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Permitting Lesson

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#1 jazle

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 04:57 PM

I've been building my new 8x15' roll-off based on John Hicks' roll-off design and did everything by the book. Got the local Architectural Review Committee buy-off with the proper setbacks, went to the county building permit site and made sure I was compliant with all of the rules to build a non-permitted accessory structure. And proceeded right along and had my first roll-off test a couple of weekends ago with great success.

Well, then I decided that instead of running everything off of an extension cord, I might as well run electrical out to the the building since we'll have a swimming pool in the backyard in a few years and I can spend the money now and run a good-sized service that I can tap into later for the pool. In my county, if you're building a structure that has electrical, you need the whole structure permitted. But I figured since I was adding electrical to an existing structure that I'd be OK just to get the permit for the electrical.

So, I took my line diagrams and applications in, got my permit, went home, dug the trench, laid down the conduit, called in my inspection for the trench, the inspector comes out, and he asks, "is the building permitted?" I explained the sequence of events and he tells me he needs to check with the office.

Sure enough, he calls back that afternoon and says, "ya, you need the permit." Apparently I can run a panel attached to a pole right beside the observatory, but as soon as I run a permanent wire inside, the whole structure needs a permit. Doesn't matter how long the structure has been on the property. And doesn't matter if what they need to inspect is not even visible (like footings).

I then ask him if he can foresee any issues with the existing structure given I used an established design and over-engineered everything else myself. And, of course, he identifies the roll-off roof as something he has no experience with and would have the most contention with -- i.e. I need an engineering analysis done.

So, now my $100 electrical permit is going to cost another $100 for the building plus the fee of a structural engineer. And my first response from the engineer is "the design is very convoluted and how much money did I have in it for an engineering fee?" He's estimating the engineering is going to cost $1000.

At this point, I'm going to pay whatever engineering is required because I've already sunk about $15k into the construction and almost $2000 into the electrical alone.

The annoying part is that I purposely designed the building to be fairly small (it has a warming room) to accommodate the 120 sq.ft. non-permitted building requirement. Had I known running a wire inside would require the full analysis, I would have made it at least 160 sq.ft. But now it's too late to increase the size.

So, hopefully, this information will be helpful to someone else down the road.

Once it is done, I'll post pictures here.

Jason

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#2 norton67

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 05:34 PM

I would have ran and never said a word to anyone...lol.

#3 jazle

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 06:07 PM

If I was in the boon-docks, I probably could get away with that. But given that we are going to put a pool in in a couple of years, the county would have found out about it one day :)

#4 Binary Star

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 07:19 PM

What about going back to the original plan of running off an extension cord? Sounds like if you get rid of the permanent power connection the issue is moot.

#5 mikey cee

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 07:19 PM

The less you say the bettrer....storage shed. :smirk: Mike

#6 1965healy

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 08:16 PM

I'm not sure if you can unring the bell at this point. They know it's there now. As odious as the prospect might be it may be better to bite the bullet and do it to code to prevent another issue down the road when the pool project starts. A ROR observatory usually confuses inspectors even tho in reality it's an elaborate "shed". When you add electricity to the mix they tend to really start looking at it and it becomes a "building" with all the safety issues that go along with that designation.

#7 bluestar

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 08:48 PM

The less you say the bettrer....storage shed. :smirk: Mike


And let that be The Lesson to potential builders ;)
In stargazing cicles yes, it's an observatory, but to the masses it's nothing but a glorified shed by the neighborhood eccentric. I was doing fine with my "shed" until Scott from Backyard Observatories shows up with his truck n trailer and almost blew my cover :grin: :foreheadslap:

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#8 Midnight Dan

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 09:17 PM

You have my sympathy. I learned this lesson the hard way a few years ago with a different structure. Tried to do everything by the book (like you did) and got seriously screwed in the end.

Building inspectors seem intent on teaching us one important lesson - do all you can to avoid the building inspector!

-Dan

#9 mrpizza

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 09:51 PM

I put up a "permitted shed" and then did the necessary adjustments. Nobody is the wiser. I feel your pain but the extension chord seems like the fix until the pool.

#10 rimcrazy

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Posted 18 January 2013 - 09:53 PM

When I built mine the dimension is 10.5' x 13.5' = 141 sq ft. Just under the 144 that needs a permit.

#11 bluestar

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 05:26 AM

I put up a "permitted shed" and then did the necessary adjustments. Nobody is the wiser. I feel your pain but the extension chord seems like the fix until the pool.


That's what I did...got permits needed for a "shed" and went by the books. I used the extension cord for years until some other home electrical upgrades gave me the opportunity to say to the electrician "say, any chance you could replace this cord and hardwire the shed to the garage w/conduit?" This is not cutting corners in my book; just not making things more difficult than they have to be, progressing incrementally and understanding where a project fits in the big picture of things.

#12 bluestar

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 05:35 AM

What about going back to the original plan of running off an extension cord? Sounds like if you get rid of the permanent power connection the issue is moot.


My thoughts..."cancel" and scrap the entire "process", go with the extension cord. Just because you've moved this far and they know about doesn't mean you are committed...say it's unfeasible at this time. In a couple years w/the pool try getting an electrical hardwire to the shed bundled for pool "storage". By that time maybe the original inspectors will have moved on/retired and you can start from scratch and avoid the $$ hassle.

#13 rimcrazy

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 07:15 AM

Seriously, for $1000, you might look at a solar planel and a battery. If you do that, you are not hooking up to the main power. That can all be added after the fact. No inspectors. No problem.

#14 Norm42

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 09:19 AM

My experience and what some are echoing here is often an overkill in many of these official approaches and often the building inspectors are not very practical.

In cases where the structure was adding capital value to the house I have always gone official route for resale. This may not be needed for just the electrical part - vs the shed (assuming this has capital value for resale) in this case.

In another house I was in I ran underground wiring to a fountain landscape that I put in. It was one of those $70 items from lowes. So I did not want to put a lot of $ into this project. I ran the conduit per code and into the basement to a GFI outlet. However, connected as a normal three prong plug to the outlet. My model if inspected (ok maybe story) was this was not an permanent electrical install, but an extension cord. I did actually plug in for use, unplug when not in use. In particular in the winter.

In talking with folks (even building inspector) the risk is in three areas:
1. Insurance - fire. You need to assess this risk.
2. Neighbors complaining that forces an inspection- again need to assess if the neighborhood is like that.
3. Selling the house - what the new buyers will tolerate.

Most said that in 2 you at worse have to disconnect (I would expect this varies - not sure if there are fines in other areas) - or hire an electrician to redo the work. 3 depends on the buyers. They either take as is or disconnect/fill in the conduit (no issue in my case).

Norm

#15 Aquarist

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 09:39 AM

Well although we are doing a dome observatory rather than roll off roof, the building permits and specs had to be approved by the county and the city. There is no way I am willing to take the financial risk of being forced to "undo". In our case, they were picky about the site distance to the lot boundries, but were not as particular about anything else other than the height. However, the inspector ONLY looked at the current project without looking at any other "issues" that might have otherwise required a building permit.

#16 turtledude1

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 10:06 AM

I’m a General Contractor and Structural Engineer by profession. I can give you a long list of different items you can build without a permit. But as soon as any are electrified all will require an electric permit. Only reason electric can kill. As soon as you electrify a structure then the whole structure comes into review because there can’t be any exposed wiring all will have to be either inside covered walls or run in conduit to local code. Also any feed lines will have to be buried to a certain depth or overhead to meet code. Even solar requires a permit. The main thing is that if you do the work un-permitted you, the city or county can be held liable if someone is injured or killed by electric.
Russ

#17 Bart

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 10:17 AM

Wow, after reading about all these hassles, it's going to be a slab of concrete, a Pod, the G11 tripod and an extension cord. I simply don't need the the cost and hassle.....

#18 Bob Griffiths

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 11:31 AM

I feel your pain...But I'd just do the pool this spring and continue to use your extension cord until it is finished and inspected...then I'd do the observatories electric

I put my pool in in 1973...added 2 free standing garages and a workshop plus the observatory after the fact over the years...

Here in 1973 you did not need a permit for anything.. about 1980 the county started requiring building permits BUT not electrical permits if you did the electrical yourself..

TODAY I could not do what I have done because the square footage of your house now determines how large the total additional square footage of all your outbuildings can add up to... Still do not need an electrical permit however if you do not employ an electrical contractor...

Laws,rules and regulations ...some make sense to someone..

Bob G.

#19 mikey cee

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 12:44 PM

"Laws,rules and regulations ...some make cents to someone.."
Boy if that ain't the truth. Plus if noone gets hurt or killed that's just icing on the cake!:smirk: Mike

#20 Calypte

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 01:22 PM

So, now my $100 electrical permit is going to cost another $100 for the building plus the fee of a structural engineer. And my first response from the engineer is "the design is very convoluted and how much money did I have in it for an engineering fee?" He's estimating the engineering is going to cost $1000.

This assumes the next inspector won't demand that you tear it down. Each inspector is a law unto himself, answerable to nobody. A few years ago an acquaintance in San Diego wanted a garage-to-room conversion brought up to current code so he could make other improvements (conversions are no longer permitted, but this one was grandfathered). He had a city inspector prepare a list of things that needed to be done before proceeding with the improvements. The needed upgrades were performed. A new inspector comes out. "Inspector Smith prepared this list, and we've done everything listed." The new inspector literally tears up the list and says, "I'll look at what I want to look at!" And he then proceeded to ding several items.

For my own new observatory (built by BYO), I kept it under 120 sq ft, and I use an extension cord. It helps that the property is invisible from main roads and that the observatory is invisible from the front gate.

#21 ///^**^\\\

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 03:05 PM

I second battery power and solar cell. The inspectors were hassling me about 110v in the observatory. They said electrical permit and structural review plus on some technicality because of permament utilities I would need an asthetic architectural review.

A couple of my freinds were with me puting finishing touches on the building. After hearing the hoop jumping and money and hassle that the inspector was proposing. I grabbed the guys and had a little pow wow. They guys went to the garage for shovels, screwdrivers and cutting pliers. I asked the inspector if he would witness the modificatiions we're about to make.

Well we dug up 10 feet of conduit, stripped the 110v lighting, removed the electrical sockets and pulled out all the wiring and the small panelbox.

The look on the inspector face was priceless especially when I told him that the building now has no 110v power nor will it ever. And after many meetings and lots of BS, the experience fo telling the inspector that since there isn't going to be any nature of 110v power that he has no business here and time for him to go. The Inspector grumbled and left.

Actually I am so much happier that I went 12v. With the 12v I have clean power, full sine wave, not a modified sine wave from a wall wart or cheap inverter. If the AC power blips or blacks out, which happens quite a bit in rural USA. That power glich is of no impact to me at all. How important is clean power? One night I was observing and saw the lights flash(power glich) on/off at my neighbor's. When I got back in the house I found my desktop house computer was fried. That could of been my astro-computer, mount, camera who knows.

For lighting it is all LED.

120w solar cell, 2 deep cycle batteries, a small 400watt full sine inverter for running the computer. I have never wanted for power.

"Keep a low profile, stay off the grid" LOL

#22 cn register 5

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 03:34 PM

As someone based in the UK I look at these stories of permits and HOA aggravation with a sense of wonder.

We have planning and installation rules but they aren't subject to the whim of some official or local committee.

Chris

#23 Calypte

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 04:24 PM

If the AC power blips or blacks out, which happens quite a bit in rural USA.

Yeah, tell me about it! A car crashes into a power pole 30 miles away, and the lights go out here.

#24 Midnight Dan

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 06:02 PM

Each inspector is a law unto himself, answerable to nobody.


Got that right!

-Dan

#25 turtledude1

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Posted 19 January 2013 - 06:47 PM

All the BS I'm reading reminds me of an old saying...We the willing lead by the unknowing are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much for so long with so little we are now qualified to do anything with nothing.

Each inspector is a law unto himself, answerable to nobody. Now that was a stupid statement. He has to answer to Public Safty, Local codes, State codes, and the National Building Code. A good inspector knows the laws extremely well and alot more than mister homeowner who slips it in on weekends burns his dam house down then wonders why?

If you think an inspector is an idiot and has no power then you’re living in never never land. Most inspectors carry at least a master license in their trade. Power? Yes he has power it's called a Stop Work Order or Red Tag. If you touch so much as a nail after he leaves one you’re going to find out just how much power he has. Fines average $250.00 a day in most areas some more. You can find yourself in court and be subject to even more fees. They can go as far as forcing you to tear your project to clear ground, but that would be extremely rare. But some people are stupid enough to continue to argue and that could be a real possibility. One case was an irrigation head in a right of way. The county said move it the contractor refused over a period of about six months. The county had the power pulled for the whole condominium complex until the head was moved.

Think before you open your trap to an inspector because he could be a real pain and actually know a little more than you think. I work with inspectors on an every day bases most are great guys if you treat them right. But on the other hand could be your worst nightmare.






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