What’s a building permit?

A building permit gives you legal permission to start construction of a building project in accordance with approved drawings and specifications.

When do I need a permit?

The best way to find out if you need a permit is to call your local building department. Discuss your plans with the code official before you begin construction to determine whether you need a permit. If a permit is not needed, the code official will answer your construction questions and may provide valuable advice. Permits are usually required for the following:

  • New buildings
  • Additions (bedrooms, bathrooms, family rooms, etc.)
  • Residential work (decks, garages, fences over 7 feet tall, fireplaces, pools, etc.)
  • Renovations (garage conversions, kitchen expansions, etc.)
  • Electrical systems
  • Plumbing systems
  • HVAC (heating, ventilating and air-conditioning) systems
  • Demolition of a building
What good does a permit do?

Your home or business is an investment. If your constructions project does not comply with the codes adopted by your community, the value of your investment could be reduced. Property insurers may not cover work done without permits and inspections. If you decide to sell a home or building that has had modifications without a permit, you may be required to tear down the addition, leave it unoccupied or do costly repairs.

A property owner who can show that code requirements were strictly and consistently met – as demonstrated by a code official’s carefully maintained records – has a strong ally if something happens to trigger a potentially destructive lawsuit.

Your permit also allows the code official to protect the public by reducing the potential hazards of unsafe construction and ensuring public health, safety and welfare. By following code guidelines, your completed project will meet minimum standards of safety and will be less likely to cause injury to you, your family, your friends or future owners.

What construction codes are currently enforced?
  • 2018 International Residential Code
  • 2018 International Building Code
  • 2020 National Electrical Code as adopted by the State of Iowa
  • 2021 International Mechanical Code as adopted by the State of Iowa
  • 2021 Uniform Plumbing Code as adopted by the State of Iowa
  • 2012 International Energy Conservation Code as adopted by the State of Iowa
What is the maximum size building I can construct without a permit?

A permit is not required to construct a detached building that is 200 square feet or less. This permit exemption is only applicable to a one-story accessory structure used as a tool shed, storage shed, playhouse or similar use. Any addition of square footage to an existing house would require a permit, regardless of size.

Do I need a permit for a window replacement?

The replacement of a window does not require a permit provided that headers are not moved, altered or replaced. Where windows are required to provide emergency escape and rescue openings they shall be replaced by windows that maintain the compliance. In instances where the existing window does not comply, the replacement window shall be exempt from compliance only if replaced with the largest standard sized window that will fit within the existing frame or rough opening. The replacement window shall be permitted to be of the same operating style as the existing window or a style that provides for an equal or greater window opening area than the existing window.

Do I need a permit for replacement of a deck?

Construction of a deck will always require a permit, even if replacing an existing deck of the exact same size. Replacement of any singular components of a deck, including required guard rails or the stairs that serve the deck will also require a permit. These requirements apply to a deck of any size whether the deck is attached to the house or detached/freestanding.

Do I need a permit for demolition of a building?

Demolition of a building such as a house, shed or commercial building will require a permit. The applicant shall submit an application prior to demolition, listing all known hazardous materials known to be on site and a safety abatement plan for said materials. Applicant will be responsible for alerting the Johnson County Building Inspection staff once all utilities have been disconnected and the structure has been removed. A demolition permit is not required for structures such as decks or additions that are part of a renovation that will replace all or part of the removed structure and the new structure has been allowed by a building permit.

How long is my permit good for?

Every permit shall begin work within 180 days of its issuance. Once work has begun, it shall not be suspended or abandoned for a period exceeding 180 days. The entire project shall be completed within 24 months of the date on which the permit was issued. The building official is authorized to grant, one or more extensions of time, for periods of 180 days. The extension shall be requested in writing and justifiable cause demonstrated. Additional fees will be necessary to renew a permit which has expired.

What are the building inspectors hours?

Office hours are from 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM. Typically, inspectors are in the field performing inspections from 9:00 AM until 3:30 PM and are available for questions before and after their inspections. We also attempt to have an inspector in the office between 11:30 AM and 12:30 PM when the schedule allows for it. Our office number is (319) 356-6085. Please leave a detailed voicemail if an inspector cannot be reached.

How do I get an address for my property?

An address for a new home or commercial building will be assigned by the Planning and Zoning Department once the building permit has been approved. A sign will be added to the property soon afterwards, depending on the weather.

Where do I get a septic and well permit for my property?

Contact the Johnson County Public Health Department: 855 S Dubuque Street Suite 217 Iowa City, IA 52240, phone 319-356-6040.

How long does it take for permit application approval?

A permit application may take between 5 to 10 working days to process. Please keep in mind that the more complete the information and drawings are at the time it is submitted, the more likely it is that we can speed up the review process. This time frame does not apply to a permit that will require a variance, rezoning, or a boundary line adjustment.

How do I apply for a permit within the city limits of Lone Tree?

Applications for City of Lone Tree permits shall be made at the city:

Lone Tree City Hall
123 North Devoe Street

Lone Tree, IA 52755

Contact:  Stephanie Dautremont
Phone: (319) 629-4615 Fax:  (319) 629-4285
[email protected]


Hours: Monday – Friday:  7:30 AM – 4:30 PM

How do I apply for a permit within the city limits of Oxford?

Applications for City of Oxford permits shall be made at the city:

Oxford City Hall
205 N. Augusta Ave
PO Box 481
Oxford, IA 52322

Contact: Adrian Sedlacek
Phone: 319-828-4742  Fax: 319-828-8095
[email protected]

Hours: Monday - Friday 9 AM - 6 PM

How do I apply for a permit within the city limits of Swisher?

Applications for City of Swisher permits shall be made at the city:

Swisher City Hall
66 Second St. SW
PO Box 279
Swisher, IA 52338

Contact: Tawnia Kakacek
Phone: 319-857-4539 Fax: 319-857-4529
[email protected]

Hours: Monday 9 AM - 6 MP; Tuesday 8 AM - 4 PM; Wednesday closed; Thursday 8 AM - 4 PM; Friday 8 AM - 4 PM

How do I apply for a permit within the city limits of Shueyville?

Applications for City of Shueyville permits shall be made at the city:

Shueyville City Hall
2863 120th St. NE
Shueyville, IA 52338

Contact: Laura Evans
Phone: 319-848-7626  Fax: 319-848-3293
[email protected]

Hours: Monday - Thursday 9 AM - noon; Friday closed