I have heard tales, of homeowners building their own inground pool, without notifying their country or city. In some cases, the homeowner pool builder just didn't know or think pool permits would be required, and in other cases, to avoid hassle: fees, regulations, inspections - or an increase in property taxes.
All areas of the country will require a permit be applied for and paid for, before construction can begin. The fees are small, and the oversight of construction methods is invaluable, so do not try to build your own pool without the proper permits.
Your county, city or township will have a division that handles construction permits, usually in the office of Building & Zoning. Obtaining a permit is the first step in building your own inground pool, and you may be surprised at how easy it is !
What follows is an F.A.Q., or Top Ten Questions about the Pool Permit Process.
What Pool Permits are Needed in Most Areas?
Most cities, townships and counties require you to have a residential building permit in order to build your inground swimming pool. Some Townships and cities also require an electrical permit but normally the local electrician that you hire takes care of obtaining that for you.
How Do I Find Out What Permits are Needed in My Jurisdiction?In the past, people building their own pool would call the local inspector on the phone or drive down to the town hall and talk directly to the building inspector. You can still do that, but with the advent of the internet, you can probably find all of the pool permit information you need without even leaving your house. If you can’t find the information online, or you have questions, contact your local municipality (city/town/county) to ask what permits are required to build an inground swimming pool.They will direct you to the department or person that handles pool permits in your area.
How do I get the Permit Applications?
Drive on down to your Town Hall or Government center and pick up the paperwork to fill out for the building permit. While you are there, ask for any printed information they have on inground pool construction regulations; some will have a "Pool Packet" you can take with you. If not apparent, you can also ask about permit and inspection fees when building an inground pool.
If you'd rather not "drive on down" to the building inspector’s office, you may find the application online. Print out the application, and mail it with the necessary paperwork and a check for the permit fees. Read all of the information available to check for any restrictions in terms of pool size, location or fencing requirements.
What Documents Do I Need to Submit With the Application?
You will need to have the building permit application filled out properly and a check for the amount that is required for your building permit. Every town, city and county is different, there is no universal document requirement for obtaining a building permit. Some locations are stricter than others and require more documents and information before approving a pool building permit.
One document you will probably need is a copy of your plot plan, I needed one when I pulled my pool permit. A plot plan is a detailed diagram of your backyard showing the location of the swimming pool, with measurements to the fence and house. This will help the building inspector determine if you have enough room in your backyard to build an in ground swimming pool of your chosen style and size. Although you do not need to buy a pool kit yet, you will need to select a pool size and shape, and most of your options - before submitting your pool permit application.
I would recommend you bring a copy of the panel layout of the swimming pool and dig specs for the pool kit you are going to be installing. Some towns also require information on the pump, and anything else that is electrical such as pool light. We have all of the information available, and can quickly email it, fax or mail it to you.
Unfortunately there is no universal requirement for each state; it could even be different in two cities, ten miles apart. Some strict building inspectors require an 'engineer's drawing' with a raised seal for your particular state. We do have them available but they have to be done by an engineer, for additional cost. Call for details for your state.
The more information you have when applying for a pool building permit the better off you will be, with less chance of delays in getting your pool permit. When filling out paperwork for residential building permit make sure you list yourself as the contractor or pool builder.
Setbacks: In most communities there are limitations on how close an in ground swimming pool can be built to the home, and to the property line. In many cases, the setback to the sides of the lot may be less than the distance to the rear of the lot. The plot plan combined with the local set back requirements will help determine the size and location of the pool you can install on your lot.
There is no universal setback distance for inground pools, to the property line, and from the house. Every town is different on distance from the pool to the property line, and from the home to the pool. I have seen a wide range, anywhere from 5ft. to 20ft.; check with the local building inspector since he is the one that has final say setbacks in your backyard.
Septic: If you have a septic system, there is also a setback requirement which varies, but usually a minimum of 10ft away from the septic tank and 20ft away from a septic field.
RPA: If your backyard has a stream or lake nearby, you may live in an area designated as a Resource Protected Area, which can have setbacks as large as 100 feet from any construction. The county can tell you if your property has such designations. If this is your situation, all hope may not be lost. There is an exception process, and depending on your overall pool plan, some counties may allow a pool, even in an RPA, when certain requirements are met.
If I need Retaining Walls, Do I need a Separate Permit?
Check with your local building inspector to find out if a separate permit is required for building a retaining wall. Normally if the retaining wall is being built in the same location of the pool you do not need a separate permit but you should check with building inspector to be sure. In many cases, if the retaining wall is less than 24" in height, it does not need a permit.
Do I Need to Submit a Grading plan?
A grading plan is a plan showing elevations and plantings, over the entire "disturbance area". This can be used to predict storm run off. In most situations, especially for pool areas less than 5000 sq ft., you will not need a grading plan but - it's a good question to ask your inspector, or other knowledgeable building department staffer.
Are There any Fees for the Permit(s)?
Yes there are fees for obtaining a residential building permit but it varies from state to state depending on your geographic location. The amount I paid for my pool permit was $150, but in other areas it can be half of that amount.
How Long Does it Take for Permit Approval?
Normally, the permit approval takes about 5-7 days in most parts of the country. When you talk to your building inspector or local municipality they can provide you with the lead time to receive your permit. A site visit may be done, but usually they use electronic files to consider a pool permit.
Is There a Time Limit for Pool Permits? Do they Expire?
Yes, but again, each area is different. Check with your local building inspector to ask how long pool permits are valid. In my community, a building permit expires in 6 months but you can submit a written request for an extension. I believe that most permits are issued for a range of 6-12 months, to make sure pools aren't built using older codes.
What About Pool Inspections?
Typically all permitted work needs to be inspected. Your building inspector will tell you what parts of the project have to pass inspection. When building an inground pool, you typically need a structural inspection of the swimming pool walls, electrical inspection and then a final inspection once the pool project is completed. See Larry's Post, How to Survive your Pool Inspections, for more info.
Obtaining your pool permit is the first step toward building your own inground pool. If you have any concerns or questions that I didn't answer about pool permits, leave a comment below, or call me, or any of the SPP Pool Experts at 800-983-POOL!
SPP Pool Expert