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Building Inspector FAQs
Building Permit Application Procedures
Plot Plans
Expiration of Permits
Swimming Pools
Solid Fuel Burning Appliance
Building Permit Application Procedures

When is a building permit required?
The Massachusetts State Building Code (IBC) Section 105.1 states that “it shall be unlawful to construct, reconstruct, alter, repair, remove or demolish a structure; or to change the use or occupancy of a building or structure; or to install or alter any equipment for which provision is made or the installation of which is regulated by this code” without first obtaining a building permit.  This includes, but is not limited to, new structures, additions, dormers, chimneys, woodstoves, decks, roofing, siding, swimming pools, antennae, and sheds.  The only exception is an ordinary repair.  An ordinary repair does not require a building permit.

What is an ordinary repair?
Section 202 of the Mass State Building Code defines ordinary repairs as “any maintenance which does not affect structure, egress, fire protection systems, fire ratings, energy conservation provisions, plumbing, sanitary, gas, electrical, or other utilities.  This has been interpreted to mean that rotted floor boards can be replaced on a deck, but the deck can not be rebuilt without a permit.  Also, damaged roof shingles can be repaired, but the entire roof can not be re-shingled without a permit.  If in doubt as to how much work can be done under ordinary repairs, contact the Inspections Department before the start of work.

Can I begin work once I submit my application?
No. Work can not proceed until the permit has been issued.

How long does it take to obtain a permit?
The Inspections Department has a maximum of 30 days in which to issue or deny a building permit.  The actual time can vary from 1 day up to the maximum 30 day limit, depending on the number of applications ahead of yours, and the scope of work.  Generally, the smaller jobs will take a shorter time, with new buildings taking close to the full 30 days, so allow for this in your scheduling.


Can I do the construction myself or do I have to be licensed?
Section 109.1.1 of the Mass State Building Code states that no structural work shall be done without a construction supervisor’s license.  A homeowner can do work on his/her own home without a license provided that if the homeowner engages a person for hire to do such work that the homeowner shall act a supervisor.

What is a “homeowner”?
For the purpose of determining when a license is required, a homeowner is defined as a “person(s) who owns a parcel of land on which he/she resides or intends to reside, on which there is, or is intended to be a dwelling of six or less units, attached or detached structures accessory to such use and/or farm structures.  A person who constructs more than one home in a two-year period shall not be considered a homeowner”.  The “homeowner” assumes responsibility for compliance with the State Building Code and the Town of Norton rules and regulations, inspection procedures and that he/she will comply with said requirements.

Can I do my own electrical and plumbing/gas work?
No.  State law requires anyone performing electrical, plumbing or gas work to be licensed.

Plot Plans

Is a plot plan required?
If the work involves a new structure or an addition to an existing structure, a plot plan is required.

Can I use my mortgage plan given to me by the bank when I purchased my home as my plot plan?
The purpose of a plot plan is for determination of compliance with dimensional controls of the Zoning by-law.  A mortgage plan is only a rough approximation of where the house is located, and was prepared only for mortgage purposes.  Due to the inaccuracy of these plans, they can only be used if the project is far in excess of the required setbacks.  If the plan shows that your project will be close to the required setbacks, a more accurate plan will be required.

Can I prepare my own plot plan, if I am certain where my property line is?
No. Plot plans can only be prepared by a Registered Land Surveyor, and must bear his/her stamp.

If I don’t have a plot plan, where can I get one?
Mortgage plans can sometimes be obtained from the bank.  Also, Inspections Department has plans on file for many properties in town.  If available, these may be acceptable.  Otherwise, you must contact a Registered Land Surveyor to prepare a plan for you.

How does the Inspections Department know if the structure was placed in the location proposed?
For all new houses and for additions which are close to the required setbacks, a certified “as-built” plot  plan must be submitted to Inspections Department after completion of the foundation.  Framing can not proceed until the plot plan has been submitted.

Expiration of Permits

When I obtain my permit, how long do I have to start the work?
Section 114.3 of the Mass State Building Code states that “any permit issued shall be deemed abandoned and invalid unless the work authorized by it hall have been commenced within 6 months after its issuance; however, for cause, one or more extensions of time, for periods not exceeding 6 months each, may be granted in writing by the Building Commissioner or Inspector of Buildings.”  Extensions are normally granted without any trouble.  However, if there have been changes to the Zoning By-law or building code subsequent to the original issuance of the permit, any grandfather status may be lost if work has not begun (i.e., you will have to comply to the new requirements).  Any requests for extension must be submitted in writing.


When I start construction, is the work inspected?
Yes.  It is the responsibility of the permit holder to call the Inspections Department to arrange for the required inspections.  Required inspections are listed as an insert in the building permit application and indicated on the building permit card, which you will receive when your permit is approved.

Where should the Building Permit card be kept?
The card must be posted in a location visible from the street and accessible to the inspector.  Generally, the best location is inside a front storm door.

How much notice does the inspector need when I am ready for an inspection?
Section 111.2 of the Mass State Building Code states that the contractor must give the inspector 24 hours notice prior to the time when the inspection needs to be performed.  It further states “ the Building Inspector shall make the inspection within 48 hours after such notification”.  

Can I call for plumbing / gas and electrical inspections?
No.  These requests are to be made in writing, on our request form, by the licensed plumber/gasfitter or electrician.  The Inspections Department requires a 24 hour notice for these inspections.

Does someone have to be home during the inspection?
If access to the new work requires the inspector to walk through your existing, furnished house, someone must be present to let the inspector in.  The inspector will not enter an unoccupied furnished house.  We also will not enter a house in which only a child is home, unaccompanied by an adult.  In these cases, pleas make arrangements with the inspector for a time to meet.  We will try to accommodate your schedule as much as possible; however, the large number of inspections and the unpredictability of the length of time each inspection may take, makes precise appointments difficult.

Swimming Pools

Do I need a permit for a swimming pool?
Yes.  The Mass State Building Code defines a swimming pool as any pool with an area greater 250 sq.ft. and a depth greater that 2 ft.  If your pool does not meet both of these criteria, then it is not considered a swimming pool and does not need a building permit.

Are there area setback requirements?
Yes.  A swimming pool must be set back a minimum of 10 feet from the property lines.

Is a fence required?
Yes.  The fence must be 48” above finished ground.  Gates must be self-closing and self-latching.

Solid Fuel Burning Appliance

Do I need a permit for a wood, pellet, coal stove or fireplace insert?
Yes.  Along with your permit application, you must supply the Inspections Dept. with a copy of the manufacturers installation instructions for the appliance.  The appliance must be listed and tested to UL 1482 and/or ANSI/UL 737.  Pellet stove must be listed and tested to ASTM E1509.

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