There are way too many stories out there of homeowners building a swimming pool in their backyard, only to find that they don’t have the necessary permits to do so. Towns and cities can serve heavy penalties for construction projects without a permit, so it’s best to get all of your ducks in a row before starting your build.
Every town is different, so the documents and inspections you’ll need will change depending on where you live. Here, we’ll go over what to keep in mind when you apply for a pool permit. Building plans, zoning setbacks, and local ordinances can all affect how and when you can build your pool.
Whether you’re a homeowner looking to take a dip on hot summer days or an investor seeking to increase your portfolio’s value, this guide to pool permits for homeowners will help you get started.
Do I Need a Permit to Build a Pool?
In almost every town and city across the country, you need to apply for one or more permits to build a swimming pool. There are many horror stories of homeowners building a pool without the necessary permits, with fairly severe consequences. Towns hand out thousands in fines and, in some cases, require homeowners to rip out their new pool until they get the permits done.
In most places, you only need a residential building permit to start work on your pool area. However, some towns and cities require an electrical permit as well, as most pools have an in-ground pump and filtration system that needs to be up to a certain standard.
To gain municipal approval, you’ll need to contact the relevant authority for your area. The department responsible for issuing permits will change depending on which town or city you live in. There is usually a zoning and planning office within one of the municipal departments of the town, city, or county authority.
How Do I Find Out What Permits Are Needed in My Area?
Each town and city will have different permit requirements for building an inground pool on your property. To find out exactly which ones you need, you’ll have to contact both your local Homeowner’s Association (HOA) and the municipal authority. If your neighborhood doesn’t have an HOA, then just call the municipality.
Some HOAs don’t allow their residents to build pools due to a number of factors, including noise level and safety concerns, among others. However, most HOAs will allow you to start your build without much hassle. You should check with them beforehand, even if you think they’ll approve, just to cover your bases.
As we’ve mentioned before, the municipal authority you get your permit from will change depending on where you live. The zoning and planning office could be at the town, city, or county level. Your HOA may have more information on who to apply to, and your builder may also know who to contact.
Each municipality will have its own laws and regulations, known as ordinances, in regards to building permits. Some may demand that your pool have a certain type of pump that stays under-regulated noise levels, while others may have specific measurement and spacing requirements.
An example of this is a “setback” requirement, having to do with the distance the pool must be from buildings and other nearby structures. Another might be a septic tank setback. If you have a septic tank buried in your yard, the pool has to be a certain distance away to guarantee its structural integrity and soil quality safety.
How Do I Get the Permits I Need?
Back in the day, you would have to have a municipal or state inspector come to your house, take measurements, and give you the necessary paperwork for applying for the permit. Since there typically weren’t too many inspectors for any given township, this could take a fair amount of time to get done.
Nowadays, however, you can find the application online on your local municipality’s website. While you may have to take pictures and measurements yourself, it’s often much more time-efficient than scheduling an inspection.
You can still have an inspector come to your home if you prefer. Depending on which town you live in, there may be a fee for this service. Some towns may also require an in-person inspection after the pool is complete to check that you meet safety and zoning standards.
As an alternative, you can drive to your local municipal zoning office to receive and fill out the necessary paperwork. While this might seem inconvenient, you may miss a crucial part of the application if you do it yourself online. Having an experienced and qualified municipal official guiding you through the process can be invaluable and actually save you time in the long run.
In most cases, the zoning office for your municipality is in the town hall or government center. Call your town hall beforehand to find out the exact location before you head in for the permits.
What if My Property Is Within an RPA?
An RPA (Resource Protected Area) can cause huge problems for prospective pool owners. If your property has a stream running through it or a lake nearby, it may be within an RPA, which can have huge setback requirements for any construction projects.
Many towns don’t allow any sort of building in an RPA. However, this doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. Municipalities often have exemptions for many building projects within an RPA. If you meet the additional requirements and provide supplementary documents to the town, then it could be that you can move forward with your build in spite of the RPA.
Your builder may not know the exact RPA requirements in your area. Speak with the municipal authority to find out exactly how you can get around RPA restrictions.
Are There Any Documents or Other Things I Need to Gather Before I Apply for a Permit?
Most municipal authorities need you to bring in some documents before giving you a building permit to apply for. Some locations have stricter requirements than others, so it’s best to find out what you need before going into the office or applying online.
One document many people need is a plot plan, an architectural outline of your property lines pool schematics. This contains detailed information such as the pool’s size and shape, how far it is from nearby structures, the pump’s location, and the fence’s measurements. It’s often the case that you need to hire your pool builder before you obtain the building permit, as they will draw up your plot plan for you.
You might also need to provide the dig plan and the panel layout for the pool. Your builder will also have these on hand once they have your design finished.
Do I Need to Submit a Grading Plan to the Municipal Authority?
A grading plan is a document that shows elevation levels on your property, specifically dealing with potential runoff from water into surrounding areas. In most cases, you will not need to provide a grading plan to the municipal authority.
However, if you intend your swimming pool to be over 5,000 square feet, it’s more likely that you will need a grading plan. Speak with your builder and the municipal authority to find out if your area needs a grading plan for a pool building permit.
Are There Any Fees?
There are typically fees for applying for a pool building permit in most towns and cities. The cost can vary dramatically, even from neighboring municipalities only a few miles away from each other. Your builder may know the exact fees you could face, but it’s better to contact your municipal authority directly to find out the specific details.
You’ll have to submit a check directly to the relevant municipal authority before your building permit is approved. Towns and cities rarely, if ever, give out building permits before applicants pay their fees.
Can My Pool Builder Help Me With the Permits I Need?
The answer to this will depend on your contractor. Some construction agencies have a devoted team for permit preparation and submission. However, some others may require you to do this yourself before starting work. Make sure you speak with your builder about the additional services they can provide, including help with any permits you need to apply for.
Even if your contractor can help you with the permits, you’ll most likely need to be present for any inspections and also sign for any paperwork that needs to be submitted. It is rarely the case that a pool builder can prepare and submit everything without your help.
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With the help of a qualified contractor with experience building in your area, you can get started on your pool much faster than you imagine. However, keeping what we’ve discussed in mind, you need to have all the documents and permits ready before you begin building. Otherwise, you could face costly fines and delays in the project. Make sure to check out other critical parts of the pool planning process as well.
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