What if I cannot find what I am looking for on the County website?
There are many Departments and Agencies represented on the County website and they cover a wide range of services. If you do not find what you are looking for, it is recommended that you contact the department that you think is the best fit and begin there. If your inquiry is construction related, you might begin with the Building Department, or maybe Planning. Your specific question will determine which department would be best suited to provide the best information. If you contact a department that is not the correct department, they should be able to assist you with identifying the next best contact. You may also find the website "Search" to be helpful.
Why do I need a Grading Permit?
Grading is regulated because it can cause serious problems when not done properly. Also, California State Law requires that grading be regulated because newly exposed soil can erode easily, moving from areas where you want it, to areas where you don’t want it (e.g., on the hill behind your house, against your house, in a street or creek, or on a neighbor’s property).
Excessive grading causes loss of natural vegetation and damages other natural resources for years to come.
Even minor grading can change the way water drains across your property which can cause erosion problems for a neighbor (and liability for you).
Am I allowed to grade during the “rainy season?”
County ordinance defines the rainy season from October 15 to April 15. If you grade during that time, you are required to install special protective measures to minimize damage. You must submit erosion and sediment control plans with your grading plans. These measures must be in place by October 15. County inspectors will inspect your project to insure that they are working correctly.
How long does it take to get a Grading Permit?
After you submit your application, it is reviewed by the Planning Department and Environmental Health for clearances. When all is clear, your plans will be checked by our Engineering Technician, who will prepare it to be issued. The time it takes will vary upon the size of the project and staff schedules. Generally, a permit will be ready to issue in 10 working days.
Why do I need Compaction tests for a structure?
If the soil placed under a building is not compacted enough or if the density varies too much, the building may settle and suffer damage. Compaction tests are required if the fill is thicker than 2 feet deep (24”) and must be done by firms licensed to perform such testing.
When do I need a Grading Permit?
Grading permits are required for all but the smallest earth moving operations. It is required when moving over 50 cubic yards of dirt. (50 yards would be roughly enough to fill a medium-sized bedroom.)
Why is it required that I have my washing machine discharge into the septic tank?
The wash water contains chemicals and bacteria which will contaminate surface waters and cause a public health hazard. The waste water also contains fine solids and soap-scums which will clog soil pores.
It's winter. Can I pour concrete when it's raining?
Wet weather pours are always a concern due to muddy conditions or water in the footings. Make sure that the footings are dry and mud free when you call for an inspection in the wet weather. One way to ensure this is to cover the pour area with plastic sheets to protect them from the weather. If you get water in the footings you will need to pump them out prior to the inspection and have them as dry as possible. If Footings are too muddy the foundation inspection will not be approved until they dry out. The Code requires all foundation steel to be clean and free from rust and debris, this should also be looked at closely in the wet weather pours
Do I really have to put 2 layers of building paper under my stucco lath?
Yes. Stucco over structural sheathing requires a minimum 2 layers of 15 pound felt paper to protect the structural sheathing, Code section 2506.4. Please make sure that 2 layers are installed for the lath inspection, or 1 layer of 15 pound felt paper and 1 layer of paper backed lath wire.
I thought attic insulation saved energy and money. A year ago a contractor installed fiberglass insulation between our attic rafters but our costs have remained the same. What's up with this?
The problem is that attic insulation should be installed between the ceiling joists and not between the roof rafters. The purpose of attic insulation is to keep the heat in your living areas during the winter and to keep the heat out of the living areas in the summer. When the insulation is placed between the roof rafters, heat is allowed to penetrate through the ceilings and into the attic. From there, your hard earned utility dollars simply escape into the atmosphere by way of the vents. Try moving the insulation to between the ceiling joists and you should get the desired savings in heating and cooling costs.
Do we have to have an exhaust hood over our kitchen stove if we don't want one? Is it required by code?
Range hoods have been standard equipment in homes for so many years that they are presumed to be required by code. Actually, no such code requirement exists. However, the advantages of having an exhaust hood over the stove are obvious and we would not discourage you from installing one.
May I put a storage shed on my property without a permit?
Any structure over 120 square feet requires a permit.
I own a small handyman service and was stopped by one of your inspectors and told that I need a permit to install a water heater. Why should I get a permit?
A permit is required by State Law to protect you and the customer. Some of the things we look for are, temperature and pressure relief valve, seismic restraints, gas and electrical hook ups, and proper venting. These are safety items and if not properly installed, could easily cause injury or even death.
I want to pour a 24 X 24 slab that is not attached to the house and use it for a parking pad. Next year I want to construct a garage on the slab. Will I need drawings for the slab and future garage?
We don't issue permits for flat work, however, if you are going to build on it, then you would have to take out a full permit. A permit is good for 6 months, but can be extended an additional 6 months with the approval of the building department. Each time an inspection is made, your permit will automatically be good for 6 more months from that date. If you are going to pour the slab and use it as a parking area until the structure is built, be sure to cover the anchor bolts so they don't get damaged or hurt someone. As far as plans, you will need 2 sets of plans showing details of the structure, location on property, and any other structures on the same parcel.
How can I contact my Inspector?
Inspectors are usually in the office between the hours of 8 & 9 AM or between 4 & 4:30 PM, they can be reached by calling 209-223-6422 (voice mail all day).
How do I complain about a contractor?
Complaints about contractors should be directed to the State Contractors License Board at www.cslb.ca.gov or 1-800-321-CSLB.
How do I reactivate or get an extension on a permit?
If a building permit has expired (more than 180 days have past since the last inspection) a person must then contact the Building Department to see if this permit can be reactivated. To receive an extension a letter must be written explaining the circumstances, which prevents you from finishing or progressing on the project within the 180 days. If the building permit is still active (not expired yet) a person can extend their permit life by 180 days each time a valid inspection has been made.
I called for an inspection and was given a correction for something that was not shown on the plans. How can the inspector do this?
Plan Approvals do not give Authority to build less than minimum Code. An approved plan with less than minimum Code requirements does not give the authority to the builder to build to less than the minimum Code even if the plans have been approved with this error. If at inspection the plan error is found it will be required to meet the minimum of the code. Make sure that you design and prepare plans to meet the minimum code.