Short story. I have an old brick building that is in poor condition and I have been working with a structural engineer to develop plans to make it structurally sound again. I want perform this work under the radar, and then involve the city later on for electrical, plumbing,roof, etc.

My concern is that the building is in very poor condition and has no setbacks on the property line. I think the chance of this is minimal, but I can't risk them coming in and telling me it should be torn down. Even if I could fight them and win, I don't want to bother. I want to get the structure bullet proof, and then say it was always like that when they come to inspect the electrical, etc.

My question is this: Do you think I could run into issue with any future issues (insurance claimes, etc) if the work isn't permitted, but was completed according to stamped engineering drawings from a licensed engineer?


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    so, you are going to say that it was always like that, and then you are going to produce dated engineering paperwork? ... how does that work? ... also, do not fool yourself into thinking that the city does not assess your property every decade, or less ... they may have looked at it shortly before you bought it, you don't know – jsotola May 27 '20 at 4:39
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    Having been screwed over by insurance in the past, they will take every opportunity to dodge paying out, sometimes spending more on avoiding/delaying the payment than the payment's total value. Just do it right first time. – Criggie May 27 '20 at 5:00
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    As the building exists and the City is obviously aware, why not go down there and ask how you should go about refurbishing it. So an easy answer or difficult but at least you will avoid serious future issues. – Solar Mike May 27 '20 at 8:17
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    Since the building exists, there's a very significant chance that it's exempt from any current setback rules. Any new work to it will, of course, have to be to current code, as you seem to be well aware. I'd imagine that stamped engineering drawings will satisfy the city (of course, they'll want some change, otherwise they can't justify their jobs ;D), and you'll be in the clear all around. – FreeMan May 27 '20 at 12:40
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    To echo, non-compliance is usually grandfathered in, at least where I've worked. But if you talk to the AHJ to verify that you're clear, then you know you aren't wasting money/time to move forward. – Aloysius Defenestrate May 27 '20 at 13:31

You don't need to pull a permit for ordinary maintenance

As long as you can confine the scope of work to ordinary repairs and upkeep, you don't need to pull a permit for that.

What exactly that is may vary among jurisdictions.

  • I agree with Harper, you are doing maintenance, if you were doing work like moving a structural wall you would need permits. Maintaining an existing structure I would not be getting permits. Knowing your location would be helpful and the extent of work would also may provide a better answer. – Ed Beal May 27 '20 at 13:55
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    Good point. OPs structural engineer is probably at least reasonably familiar with local building codes & practices and should also be a good source of info (or know one) on whether the changes he's drawing require permits or not. – FreeMan May 27 '20 at 13:57
  • To be clear, nudge wink, you are not making any changes at all. You are simply maintaining what is already permitted/grandfathered. – Harper - Reinstate Monica May 27 '20 at 15:06
  • currently there is an old wooden beam as a center support with multiple columns. We are planning on changing it to two small steel i beams dividing the building into thirds for a better floor plan with fewer columns. Also, the brick walls that hold the roof on the sides are in really bad shape, and the walls have some significant leaning and cracking. The new plans will use LVL framing on the sides so that the brick walls are more of a facia than a load bearing surface. Im sure this scope will require a permit with the city. I suppose I should just suck it up and get the permits and see – Ericslcs May 28 '20 at 5:08

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