Determining When Work Permits are Required

By: Kevin Duffy 

Sullivan Engineering recently published an article on what’s needed in order to file DOB work permits. However, another question we often hear is “When do I need to obtain a work permit?” While the DOB usually requires that a work permit be filed, the DOB does allow certain projects and types of work to move forward without a permit. It is helpful to know when you do and do not need a permit as the DOB roughly charges a 1.5% fee that is calculated based on the cost of the project, which can exponentially increase a project cost. While there are various types of permits, Sullivan Engineering will focus on when a permit (typically known as an Alt 2) is required for an exterior restoration project.

While most façade restoration projects require permits, small-scale repairs can save building owners thousands of dollars in DOB fees and expediting costs with a better understanding of Rule  101-14, Chapter 100. Mortar repointing, coping stone installation, existing parapet guardrail replacement, window sill replacement and masonry repair with crack injections are examples of restoration work that do not require work permits. Permit requirements for brick replacement can be somewhat tricky, again, especially if an owner is unfamiliar with the permitting regulations. The law states that a permit is not necessary for the replacement of 10 SF or less of individual bricks within 100 SF of wall area, provided that no more than 150 SF of brick replacement is performed on the entire building. Additionally, the brick replacement cannot exceed 4’ in horizontal length. Therefore, a work permit is almost always required when a significant amount of masonry work is being performed.

Exterior restoration or maintenance involving stone or concrete repair almost always requires a permit, with the exception of injecting grout into concrete cracks. Cleaning or coating a façade does not require one. Certain types of stucco installations do not require a permit; however, it’s best to consult a design professional to explain the rules that apply here.

Determining whether a permit is required for a roof replacement can be somewhat complicated, especially if a design professional is not involved with the project. The general rule of thumb is that a DOB work permit must be obtained if additional insulation to meet the New York City Energy Conservation Code is required. Due to recent changes to the, additional insulation is almost always required as many of the existing roofs in the city do not meet the code. However, if the building has wood deck with an attic space, interior batt insulation may be present that meets the code requirements and additional insulation may not be necessary, and therefore no permit required.

Recently, fire escape failures have been in the headlines. Sullivan Engineering can’t stress enough the importance of maintaining well-functioning fire escapes, especially should disaster strike.  We implore all building owners/managers to arrange for yearly fire escape inspections to determine areas in need of repair and to plan for future restoration projects. The reinforcement or repair of existing fire escapes almost never requires work permits. Therefore, these repairs are less costly, and can be expeditiously implemented.

Building owners are often surprised to find out that the DOB does not always require that work permits be obtained for all types of exterior maintenance and repair. It is best practice to always confirm with you designated design professional to confirm when a permit is required.

It is also important to note that, even when a work permit may not be required, all other rules and regulations must be followed. This might include but is not limited to: Landmarks Preservation Commission filing, installation of a sidewalk bridge, capturing the water runoff from pressure washing, or having a contractor file for the correct scaffolding permits.

As evidenced, involving a design professional to assist ownership in establishing a realistic repair budget, and outlining all requirements prior to the start of construction, is a prudent strategy. If you are considering any exterior work and are unsure of whether or not a work permit is required this table on the DOB website can be helpful. If you still aren’t clear, please don’t hesitate to contact a Building Envelope Consultant at your favorite Exterior Restoration Services firm.

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