Applying for a Building or Grading Permit 

We now provide 100% digital permit application submission and no longer accept paper applications and plans.

1. Introduction

The following pages contain information to help you successfully submit an application for a building or grading permit. Our goal is to help you get your permit as quickly as possible. On this page we have tried to explain what you will need to submit, how to submit it, and who else may need to approve it first so that you can submit. Please read the information below carefully because your project will be delayed if you submit a permit application that is incomplete.

All projects can be submitted via our ePermits Center. If you are already familiar with ePermits, know what you need, and are registered, you can go to ePermits Center to get started with submitting your application. If this is your first time applying, or if you need clarification or more information, please continue reading below.

All permit related activities are accessible on the ePermits Center. Registration is required for applying for permits. Registration, however, is not required for the following actions:
Check building or grading permit status
Make a permit payment
Schedule/Cancel an inspection.

2. Preparing to Submit Your Building or Grading Permit Application 

In this section, we will explain what you will need to gather before you submit for a building permit.

WHO CAN PULL A PERMIT?

The 2019 California Building Code allows for the following individuals to pull permits:

  • A State Licensed Contractor in good standing with the California State Contractor’s License Board (CSLB)
  • An Owner-Builder (including a Trust or Corporation) - This may require proof of ownership
  • Authorized Agent (including Designers or Architect) on behalf of an Owner-Builder or licensed contractor

For more detailed information, please see our Who can Obtain a Building Permit (PDF) page. For clarification about who an owner builder is and what is entailed, see the Owner Builder Acknowledgement and Verification of Information (PDF) form.

WHEN DO I NEED PLANS? 

Almost all projects require plans. These include, but are not limited to, new structures, demolitions, additions, alterations, interior/exterior remodels, running new electrical, water or gas lines, repairs, outdoor kitchens, pergolas, pavilions, decks, carports, garages, docks, pools, foundation repairs, ADUs, and  JR. ADUs, solar, energy storage systems, and backup generators. 

Important note: The Building Department conducts plan review and cannot give advice on how to create your plan. We recommend contacting licensed professionals when applicable.  

WHAT SHOULD MY PLANS SHOW? 

Most projects will require Architectural, Structural, Electrical, and often Mechanical and Plumbing plans. Many details and calculations are also required, often these include structural and Title 24 energy calculations. Your design professional is the best resource to help you have a complete submittal.  

PLAN SIZE AND FORMAT 

To be successful when submitting your plans, please pay attention to the following guidelines. Incomplete and incorrectly sized or formatted plans may substantially delay your project.

  1. Plans must be submitted in the same size they were drawn in to preserve scale, and should be of sufficient size and clarity for the project.
  2. Minimum plan size is 11x17; this may work for simple, small projects such as bathroom remodels or window changeouts. For legibility, however, most projects require larger plans such as 18x24 or 24x36. The size of your project determines the required plan size. All plans must show the property address, scope and current code cycle. 
  3. Plans must be an unsecured PDF file to allow for county comments, stamps and approvals. Secured files will be rejected. 
  4. Plans shall not be images, such as .jpgs, .gifs, .tiff, .bmp, etc. or AutoCAD (or similar) format. PDF files of images are also not acceptable – images made into PDFs do not scale properly (see note #1 above).

Please read Requirements for Preparing Electronic Plans Submittals (PDF) for further guidance.


WHO ELSE NEEDS TO APPROVE MY PLANS BEFORE I SUBMIT? 

  • You may need your plans to be reviewed and approved by other agencies prior to submitting your building permit application. This may include your city planning department and your local sanitary district or environmental health if you are on a septic system or have a well. What follows is a more detailed explanation of the planning and sanitary requirements. 
  • Please note that it is your responsibility to make sure you have approvals from all required agencies prior to submitting to the Building Department.

PLANNING APPROVALS

Planning approval is required anytime you are proposing to construct a new building or structure, or are making changes to the use, size, height, and dimensions, or other exterior changes to an existing building or structure. 

Unincorporated County:

  • The Building Department strongly recommends customers call 925-655-2700 to verify setbacks or other requirements prior to creating plans. Please visit our planning page to see the full scope of what our planning department covers.
  • Special areas such as Kensington and Historic Districts in the County may require a design review prior to planning approval. Please consult with planning before creating plans if your project is in these areas  
  • ADUs and Jr. ADUs have been steadily gaining popularity within the County. These units require Planning review. Please visit our planning page for guidance.


The Incorporated cities listed below require planning approval prior to submittal for building permit. Below are examples of when each city requires a building permit. Please contact each directly to verify their requirements and current process for approval stamps before you get started. You are required to upload the approved city planning application and approved plans in PDF format with your building permit application. 

  • City of Clayton: Currently any proposed change to the exterior of an existing structure, change to a building’s footprint and/or new structures require City approval. A business license is also required before permits can be issued. Please contact the City of Clayton for more information: 925-673-7300
  • City of Hercules: Currently any proposed change to the exterior of an existing structure, change to a building’s footprint and/or new structures require City approval. A business license is also required before permits can be issued. HOA approval may also be required. Please contact the City of Hercules for more information: 925-799-8244
  • City of Lafayette: All kitchen remodels, any proposed change to the exterior of an existing structure, change to a building’s footprint and/or new structures require City approval. Please see Lafayette’s Project Planning Checklist for details or please contact the City of Lafayette for more information: 925-284-1976
  • Town of Moraga: Currently any proposed change to the exterior of an existing structure, change to a building’s footprint and/or new structures require Town approval. Please contact the Town of Moraga for more information: 925-888-7050
  • City of Orinda: All projects that require a building permit require review and approval from the Planning Department, except for Projects Exempt from Planning Review. The Planning Department reviews projects to ensure zoning compliance with the Orinda Municipal Code. Please contact the City of Orinda for more information: 925-253-4210
  • Please Note: Certain projects may also require approval from city Public Works departments or other city agencies


SANITATION APPROVAL

Certain projects require approval from your local sanitary district. If your property has a septic system and is not served by a sanitary district, you may need to contact Environmental Health Services prior to submittal. Sanitary District staff will review the project plans to ensure there will be no adverse impacts on the sanitary sewer system and no encroachment into a sanitary sewer easement. Please see our Sanitary Districts (PDF) page to determine your district and specific requirements. 

The following projects require sanitary or environmental health review:
  • New residences, ADU’s and commercial buildings.
  • Any project that includes excavation work for a foundation or pier, or which upon completion would prevent access to sanitary sewer facilities for routine maintenance and repairs. Examples include new structures, demolitions, additions, pools, decks, outdoor kitchens, outdoor fireplaces, retaining walls, cabanas, ground mount solar systems, pergolas/trellises/pavilions/gazebos, and carports
  • Residential additions/remodels with new fixtures requiring new drains or new fixtures that will increase the rate of flow into an existing plumbing system served by a sewer or septic system. 
  • All commercial tenant improvement projects will require sanitary approval whether or not plumbing is a part of the project.
  • New or modifications to public pools or spas.
  • Properties with septic systems which are not served by a public sewer.
  • Additions on properties that contain a septic system must be reviewed by Contra Costa Environmental Health.

3. Grading Permit Requirements

A grading permit is required if:  

1. Excavating greater than 5 feet deep or more than 200 cubic yards (50 cubic yards in the cities of Lafayette, Moraga, and Orinda). 

2. Placing fill to support any structure, fill deeper than 3 feet, or more than 200 cubic yards (50 cubic yards for the cities of Lafayette, Moraga, and Orinda). 

Per County Ordinance Code Section 716-4.202-204, other conditions may also trigger a grading permit.  Be aware that for all grading permits involving 1000 cubic yards or more, nearby neighbors will be notified prior to permit issuance, see County Ordinance 716-4.202 (e).  

When you apply for a grading permit, you will need plans and specifications prepared and signed by a licensed California civil engineer or architect (unless waived by the county building official for small and unimportant work) containing the items set forth in County Ordinance Code Sections 716-4.602 – 608


4. Submitting a Building or Grading Permit Application

Once you have your plans in the proper format and size, and have obtained the necessary approvals from other agencies, you are ready to apply for a building permit using the ePermits Center.

Follow these steps to start your permit submittal:

  1. Go to ePermits Center at epermits.cccounty.us
  2. Register for an Account
  3. Contractors and Contractor Agents will first need to connect their CSLB license to their account BEFORE applying for a permit. 
    1. How to link a CSLB license to an ePermits Center user account (pdf).
    2. Contractor Agents not listed as personnel on the CSLB website are required to submit a Letter of Authorization (LOA) on company letterhead stating the agent may pull permits on behalf of the licensee. The LOA must be signed by the owner or officer of the company.
  4. Click Create an Application in the Building tab
  5. Choose the permit type that best suits your project and follow the prompts
  6. After submitting your application, track the progress of your application on the ePermits Center
  7. All communication will be by email. You will receive automated emails through the life of your project to keep you updated on the progress. Check your junk or spam mail folder if you do not see any emails from us after applying.
  8. You will be able to check for status updates on the ePermits Center. View our how to guide to learn how to check your permit status.

Email us if you have not seen any activity on your permit application within 7 business days from the submittal date. We receive a high volume of email daily and may not respond to your email right away. Please do not repeatedly email us the same question or inquiry.

See Section 5 below for a step by step guide on how your permit application will be processed.


5. How your Permit Application is Processed

Step 1

Visit our ePermits Center website to get started. When completing your application form, you will be prompted to upload your plans (if required) and any other supporting documents. Please note that all documents must be in PDF format. Follow our guide on Requirements for Preparing Electronic Plan Submittals (PDF) and step by step guide on How to apply for Building ePermit submittal (PDF).

Step 2

Staff will vet your application within 4-5 business days and either accept or reject it. If deemed complete, you will be notified who your plan reviewer is. If your application is rejected, we will contact you by email with instructions so that you can successfully complete and resubmit plans and/or other documents.

Step 3

Your assigned plan reviewer will review your uploaded documents for compliance with State and Local codes. Your plan reviewer will then let you know if you need to submit any corrections, clarifications or additional documents.

Step 4

Check your permit's processing status in real time on our ePermits Center website where you will see up to date information and comments entered by staff processing your permit. Log in is not required to view permit status. Follow this ePermits Center guide: How to View Permit Status (PDF) and our other Help Guides located on the right side of the ePermits Center home page for navigation assistance.

Step 5

Larger projects require a plan check fee at the beginning of the plan check process. We will email you instructions for paying online on the ePermits Center website. Credit card and e-check payments are accepted online. After we have confirmed your payment, plan review will begin on your project. See How to make a payment (PDF)

Step 6

The review process may take several iterations of communication between applicant and plan reviewer. All communications and responses during the plan review process will be by email or phone only. If we have comments on necessary revisions to your plans, we will email those to you as well as a link to upload your revised documents.

Step 7

Once your plan reviewer has confirmed compliance with all State and Local codes, your permit will be ready to issue. Staff will contact you to pay the balance of your permit fees. See How to make a payment (PDF) and  How to make a payment video

Step 8

After payment has been confirmed, you will be notified by email to download your permit card and approved plans. You will be required to provide a printed copy of the permit card and full size approved plans at the permit site. Tips for printing reviewed digital plans (PDF)

Step 9Schedule inspections on our automated system at 925-646-4108 or on the ePermits Center website. View Daily Inspection Time Frames (PDF) updated after 8:45AM Monday-Friday


Resources for Contractors and Owner-Builders

Depending on your project, you may need to submit supporting documents with your plans. Common examples include debris recovery forms, drainage plans, geotechnical reports, engineering calculations, Title 24 Energy calculations, and checklists for generators and solar systems.

Less frequently used forms include:


Revisions for Permits in Plan Review or Issued Status

For permits that were created through the ePermits Center, revisions are to be uploaded directly to the permit. The system will alert the reviewers that a revision has been uploaded and they will conduct the initial review.

If time for your project is critical, please be sure to follow the following protocols for revisions:

  • Revisions must be clearly described and clouded/bubbled on the required sheets for the revision.
  • Revised plan sheets must not contain any previous County stamps. 
  • Your revision may require new review and approval from other agencies (Planning Depts.,Public Works, Fire, Sanitary Districts or EHS). If new review is required, please make sure the revised sheets contain these new stamps prior to submittal. Stamps from other agencies do have an expiration date, please contact the agency directly to determine those dates.
  • Only upload the sheets that contain the revision. 
  • Revisions have the same review time as original submittals, please factor this time frame into your project.
  • Do not schedule a final inspection if the project has a revision in review. Revised plans must be on site for the final review. Any project that is finaled prior to the revision’s issuance will be locked and the scope cannot be adjusted. A new permit will need to be issued if the revision’s scope is required for the finaled permit’s scope. Additional fees may apply.

For revisions to permits that were created in person, through the retired Permits By Email method or by an assigned Plans Examiner ( Permits OTC):

  • Please complete our Permit Revision Request form and attach your clouded/bubbled revised plans, a detailed description of the revision and the original approved field set of plans.
  • If the original field set is lost or unavailable, please conduct a record research request to retrieve a copy of the original field set.
  • If the research cannot find the original field set, the applicant will need to re-submit the original field set in full along with the revisions. Additional fees will be assessed and a new permit may be issued.


Permit Extension Requests

Unfinished permits that are nearing the expiration date may be granted an extension so the project can be completed and finaled. Extension requests must be submitted 30 days prior to the permit expiring. Permit Extension Request form


Expired Permit Renewals

Submit the Permit Renewal Request form for permits that have not received the final building inspection approvals and are now expired. 


Schedule an Appointment for Help

Contact Us

Contact us at 925-655-2700 for questions on your project. Thank you for your patience as we transition into our all digital permitting process.