Building codes are adopted and enforced all over the world to ensure that structures in which we live, work, and play meet recognized minimum standards for protection against structural collapse, fire, explosion, health hazards and other potential dangers.
Each type of permit has varying submittal requirements for the review process. It is recommended that you call the Building Department and speak with staff regarding the scope of work and requirements for submitting. The Building Department has several handouts available at the office or on the web page that provide a guide for submittal requirements.
Many homeowners are not aware when a permit is required. As a general rule, the answer is YES - any construction work that is regulated by adopted building codes and fire and public safety regulations requires a permit before work can begin. The best way to find out if you need a permit is to call the Building Department. Discuss your plans with Building Department staff before you begin construction to determine whether you need a permit. The staff member will answer your construction questions and may provide valuable advice.
Here are some common construction projects that require a building permit:
To erect a new building or structure, including garages, agricultural buildings, additions, decks, swimming pools, and manufactured/mobile homes.
Commercial floor plan alterations and changes of use
Decks exceeding 200 square feet in area, or are more than 30"above grade at any point, or are attached to a dwelling, and or serve the exit door.
Fences greater than six feet high
To demolish, repair, alter, add to, or move an existing building or structure
Fireplace/wood stove installations
Propane tank and gas line installations
For any repairs which change or affect the structural nature of a building or structure
Electrical work (permit required from State of Colorado Electrical Board)
Fire alarms and sprinkler systems (acquire permit from local fire district or State Fire Marshal)
Addition of or changing out air conditioning/heat systems
Water heaters (all new & any replacement not installed by State Licensed Plumber or increasing in size)
Nonstructural alterations or repairs valued over $2000
Signs and signage (temporary or permanent)
Roof repairs over 100 square feet and re-roofing
Gas line installation and repairs
Retaining walls 4 feet or higher
Solar panels installed on roofs
Building permits are not required for:
Decks not exceeding 200 square feet in area, or are not more than 30"above grade at any point, or are not attached to a dwelling, and or does not serve the exit door.
Fences six feet high or less
Painting, decorating, and laying carpet
Repairs using similar or same materials for the purpose of maintenance and which do not affect any mechanical work
Minor work valued at less than two thousand ($2000) when such minor work does not involve alteration of structural components, fire-rated assemblies, plumbing, electrical, mechanical, fire-extinguishing systems, or repairs and clean up of dangerous building.
Accessory structures (storage sheds, etc.) not greater than 120 square feet in floor area, provided a hazard is not created.
Larimer County does not issue electrical permits or conduct electrical inspections. Electrical permit forms are available in our office or at the State Electrical Board, 3842 S. Mason, Fort Collins, Colorado (223-9838).
This list does not cover all activities that require a permit, however, it gives a general overview of when a permit may be required. It is advisable to call the Building Department before starting your work if you are uncertain if a permit is required.
Larimer County has adopted and will be implementing the 2009 International Codes on July 31, 2011. Plans submitted on or after July 31, 2011 will be reviewed under the 2009 International Codes and new wind speed map. The Building Department also has amendments to these codes that can be seen at 2009 IRC Amendments and 2009 Nonresidential Int. Codes. For a complete list of codes adopted for Larimer County please see Building Codes Adopted.
There are four design loads in Larimer County. For elevations under 7000 feet the ground snow load is 30 pounds per square foot (psf). Elevations from 7001 feet to 7999 feet the ground snow is 40 psf. From 8000 feet to 8999 feet the ground snow is 50 psf. For elevations 9000 feet and over the ground snow load is 70 psf. The minimum basic wind speed is 90-180 mph (3 second gust) and exposure "B" will be assumed. (See Larimer County Wind Speed Map ) Frost depth for this region is assumed to be 30 inches minimum.
We currently recognize minimum foundation requirements typically in the class 'C' roofing area. Subdivisions may have specific requirements for engineered footings and foundations so it is advised to call the Building Department to get specific information. Typically in the class 'C' roofing area (front range and east) we require engineered foundation plans or a soils report. See Engineered Foundation Requirements for further information.
It is much more difficult to determine whether or not a building meets minimum building standards if the structure does not have the benefit of in-progress inspections required under a permit. It is often difficult or impossible to evaluate the safety of a structure if important elements have been covered up by insulation, drywall, siding, concrete, or brick. The rule of thumb for construction is 'Don't cover anything until it has been inspected and approved.' For more information see Inspections.
Larimer County has implemented an entire Wildfire Safety Program in the effort to increase awareness and education regarding wildfires in the county. Tony Simons, Wildfire Safety Specialist, has developed an informative web page describing all aspects of the program. For further information see Wildfire Hazard Mitigation.
Reputable contractors know the requirements and abide by them. In most cases, the contractor will obtain the building permit for the property owner. Unfortunately, not all contractors comply with applicable code requirements. Remember, regardless if your contractor or the homeowner obtains the permit, the property owner is ultimately responsible for ensuring that all work on his/her property is preceded by acquisition of the appropriate permits and that the contractor requests the required inspections at the appropriate time.
Larimer County has a contractor licensing program. The Colorado State statutes changed allowing NON-home rule jurisdictions to administer their own contractor licensing program and Larimer County started a licensing program on September 1, 2009. The City of Fort Collins and City of Loveland each have their own contractor licensing program. We suggest you verify that your contractor is licensed and has adequate workers' compensation and general liability insurance coverage.
Finishing off an existing attic, basement, or garage may seem like a great way to create more living space, but it is important to do some 'homework' first. Check on the zoning and building requirments early in the process. You will save a lot of time and money knowing about County building standards in advance. Existing conditions could make it expensive, difficult, or even impossible for you to change your attic, basement, or garage into living space.
These documents are available from the office once the permit has received all final inspections. The contractor or owner can bring in the yellow inspection card with all required engineered letters to have a staff member verify completion. Once all inspections are approved and conditions are met a Certificate of Occupancy or Letter of Completion can be issued at your request. For details see Certificate of Occupancy.