It often happens that I am contacted by prospective clients in March about projects that they want to start construction on in May or June. My response often disappoints them. What most people don’t know about getting projects built is that it can take ridiculous amounts of time to get a project through the required Planning Department and Building Department reviews before a project is approved for construction.
If you want to start construction on your addition or remodeling project in the spring, the best time to start a project is in the late summer or early autumn. Here’s why: depending on the city in which you live, simply getting a building permit can take anywhere from three months to a year. Add on to that the time it takes to design a project and prepare the permit/construction drawings, and a project can easily take nine to 18 months to complete. In San Francisco at this time it can take nine months to get a building permit…after you have spent three months or more going through the Planning Department review process.
San Francisco is an extreme example, but it does take time to design a project and shepherd it through the approval process before construction can even begin. The Fremont Kitchen project recently completed, required no Planning Department approval and we were able to get our building permit “over the counter” and it took us eight months to go from the first meeting with the client in December 2012 to completion at the end of July 2013. The project in Sunnyvale, again a project that did not require Planning Department approval and with a building permit acquired “over the counter” will have taken seven months to go from the first client meeting through to completion.
If a project requires Planning Department review, usually one where you are making the house bigger or changing it’s appearance, there is often a period of time when the neighbors are given time to comment on your project, or in some neighborhoods of Berkeley, they actually have to sign a paper that says they have reviewed the drawings and have no objections. This process generally takes two to three months. Any projects that include making the house bigger or removing walls will have to have the structural calculations and drawing reviewed before a building permit can be released. The minimum amount of time for a permit review in that situation is two weeks in most any city, but depending on their staffing and work load, it can take much longer.
You have to schedule for these review periods. So if you want to start construction in the spring, now is the perfect time to start designing your project!by