Building an addition to your home can seem like an exciting new project that will add to the value of your home and increase the functionality of your space. Fortunately, ORB is here to help you get started on the right foot: obeying all the local laws and building codes for residential and commercial renovations. We frequently have clients who want to build on their own property but do not understand the engineering and permitting process in place which ensures everyone’s structures are up to code and safe. This blog is to help explain that process and to make everything clear from the beginning.

Say you want to add a room to the back of your store or home. Well first you probably think of what the room is for, where you want to add it, where you want the doors to be and any other details. The first step is to take this information to a licensed engineer, ORB can help with that. We will review any hand sketches you have and any pictures of the existing property to get an idea of what you want. Some details to consider during this phase is type of building material you want to use and whether or not the addition will have A/C. These details are critical to the price that we will ultimately give you for design and drawings.

Next, ORB will have a site visit if necessary to greater assess the existing structure and solidify details for the drawings. ORB will then draw up your design ensuring that the addition will comply with all existing building codes. This preliminary design will be sent to you for review to finalize all the details and ensure you will be satisfied with the final project. After your review, the final drawings will be signed and sealed and delivered to you.

You have your signed and sealed drawings from ORB Engineering, Inc. Now it is time to get your permit. Each city and county building department has a slightly different process for getting building permits. However, the basic process remains the same. The first step is to apply for a permit. Some building departments, like Polk County and City of Lakeland, will allow you to apply online and digitally upload your plans. Other building departments require that you bring a minimum of two sets in and apply in person and drop of your plans. ORB will be sure to provide you with at least three sets of plans, two for the building department and one for you.

Once you have applied for your permit and provided the plans, the building department will review the plans and provide comments. Comments are a normal and expected part of the permit process. They will often contact you when comments are ready. You can also view these comments online through the same website you applied for the permit. Please forward a copy of these comments to your project manager. ORB will answer the comments and make any minor changes requested. This will again be submitted to you to provide to the building department to review. After this review, most projects are typically issued a permit.

What if your project did not get issued a permit at this point? It could be you just need another round of comments and revisions, which ORB will happily do. Alternatively, the review by the building department could create a scope of work change for your project. This is not typical and often we will know in advance if this is likely to happen. However, if comments from the permit office require a change in the scope of work, we will re-assess your project and discuss any costs or changes with you before proceeding.

After the building department approves the plans, the real fun begins! Now you can hire a contractor or builder (required for renters or commercial property) or build yourself (only allowed if you own and live at the property). Provide your contractor with the additional set of plans ORB gave you and get to work building. Keep in mind that your contractor or yourself will need to schedule inspections with the building department throughout the building process. These inspections are performed by a building department official and will not be coordinated by ORB Engineering unless specifically included in your scope of work. The inspections can be scheduled online through the same website as the permit application or can be scheduled by calling your local building department. The structure must match what is drawn by ORB Engineering in order to pass inspection. If the structure deviates from the drawings, then the plans will need to be revised and this can often lead to additional revision costs.

Please understand the burden of permitting rests on the client, not ORB Engineering, Inc. ORB will assist with changes and revisions prior to the permit being issued, but the client must forward the comments to ORB to initiate the process. Also, once a permit has been issued, the agreement between the client and ORB is complete. As such, any changes requested after the permit has been issued and throughout the construction process will require an assessment as to the scope of work and costs.

Hopefully this can provide some clarity to the groundwork that goes into adding a revision to your home or business. All these steps must be completed before laying the first brick, so make sure you have everything ready to go in advance and make your renovation much smoother.

More to come soon.


  1. October 5, 2019

    If a footing passed inspection but the rebar is not as the engineer drawings. Does the inspector over rides the engineer? Or does the contractor has to redo the rebar even though It passed inspection?

    • October 7, 2019

      Great question! There are a couple different ways this could be addressed. One option is to have the engineer of record assess how the rebar was installed and decide if it is still structurally sound. If it is still OK, then the engineer can provide a letter or revised drawings to the building department. The building department will then re-inspect using the updated documents from the engineer of record. If the engineer finds that the rebar is not OK, then they will most likely have to provide you with a repair solution. This may even involve a contractor having to re-do it. Your best option here is to get in contact with your engineer of record and see what they can do for you!

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