BZS Frequently Asked Questions

Overview

Welcome to the City of Columbus Building and Zoning Services FAQ page! We understand that navigating the world of building permits, plan review, zoning regulations, licensing and code enforcement can be complex, so we're here to make it easier for you. Here, you'll find concise answers to frequently asked questions about the difference sections within our department. We're dedicated to providing you with the information and support you need to ensure your projects at home or on the job are compliant and successful.

 

BZS Sections

Homeowner's Guide

While keeping the Columbus homeowners in mind, the guide below was created to provide simplicity to the permit process. This information is valuable for homeowners and property owners who are unfamiliar with the building permit process, offering guidance to those with limited experience.

Step by Step Permit Guide - Residential

Step 1: Do I live within City of Columbus boundaries?

To verify that your property falls within the City of Columbus jurisdiction. You can check this on our City of Columbus Zoning Map.

Step 2: Do I need to apply for a building permit?

Any planned work, regardless of whether it involves new construction, alterations to an existing building or space, or a change in occupancy, requires a building permit with plan review. Permits can be issued to property owners or City of Columbus licensed/registered contractors. Check out our easy to read quick guide for permit and plan review requirements for Typical Residential Projects. 

Property owners can acquire the following types of permits for work they will be doing themselves: 

  • Structural work
  • Mechanical, electrical or plumbing: addition, alteration and or repair or replacement work to an existing single-family dwelling in which the property owner resides
  • Demolition of an accessory structure to an existing single-family dwelling. Property owners cannot purchase permits for work that they will hire a contractor to perform.  

 

Common work that does not require a building permit: 

  • One-story detached accessory structures used as tool and storage sheds, playhouses and similar uses, provided the floor area does not exceed one hundred twenty square feet and playground structures.
  • Fences not over six feet (1829 mm) high.
  • Sidewalks and driveways not more than thirty inches (762 mm) above grade and not over any basement or story below and which are not part of an accessible route.
  • Minor electrical repair work, including the replacement of lamps or the connection of approved portable electrical equipment to approved permanently installed receptacles.
  • The repair of leaks in drains, water, soil, waste or vent pipe; provided, however, that if any concealed trap, drain-pipe, water, soil, waste or vent pipe becomes defective and it becomes necessary to remove and replace the same with new material, such work shall be considered as new work and an approval shall be obtained and inspection made as provided in this code.

For a complete list of work that does not require a building permit, visit Ohio Building Code 102.10.

 

Associated documents to help you get started: 

 

Step 5: Do I need a registered contractor?

A homeowner is allowed to perform work on their single-family home or get help only from their immediate family. The home must not be part of a multiple-occupancy dwelling and must be occupied or intended for occupation by the homeowner's family. If immediate family assistance is unavailable, non-family members can help, but no payment should be given or implied. The permit application must specify the individuals performing the work, which is limited to altering or extending existing mechanical or electrical systems.

Step 4: Do I need to submit building plans with my application?

In general, new construction, additions, or alterations to existing buildings require plans and specifications. Exterior site work, building alterations, changes of use, new constructions, and building additions typically require a site plan. If you are building a new structure or a commercial addition, an energy report is also necessary.

Step 3: How do I submit my application?

Online 

Some applications can be submitted through our Citizen Access Portal, which is the preferred method when available. After you create an account and log in, a Purchase Permit or Inspection Trip link will appear under the building section on the page. Click the link. Once you agree to the terms and conditions, the application category page will provide a list of the types of projects that are eligible for online submission. Select the appropriate option and follow the steps to apply for the permit. Drawings and other documents to be uploaded must be in pdf format detailed in our User Guide and Submission Standards for online permitting through the Citizen Access Portal. Be sure to use the naming standards from the Submission Standards document. Records must be paid for before they are assigned to a reviewer. Once assigned, the reviewer has twenty business days to issue a plan approval or corrections letter. Plan approval is not permit issuance. After approval, the record will be reviewed for completeness, accuracy, and to ensure that any other associated plans, such as the final site compliance plan and any civil engineering plan(s), have been approved before the permit is

 

In Person

A completed application along with the specified number of copies of your plans (see Plan Review and Zoning Review) and a Certificate of Appropriateness, if applicable, can be delivered to our office during business hours. Records must be paid for before they are assigned to a reviewer. Once assigned, the reviewer has twenty business days to issue a plan approval or corrections letter. Plan approval is not permit issuance. After approval, the record will be reviewed for completeness, accuracy, and to ensure that any other associated plans, such as the final site compliance plan and any civil engineering plan(s), have been approved before the permit is issued.

Applications can be found on in our Document Library.

Business Hours:
Monday - Friday
9:00 - 4:00 PM

Address:
Building and Zoning Services
111 North Front Street
Columbus, OH 4321

Step 6: My permit was issued, am I ready for inspections?

Schedule an Inspection 

Inspections for the next day of business, or an upcoming business day of your choice, can be scheduled until midnight through our Citizen Access Portal or automated phone system. 

Online

  • Under the building section, click the Schedule an Inspection Link
  • This will redirect you to a search page
        If you do not know the permit number, you can enter the address into the Street No. and Street name fields
  • Click the search button at the bottom of the page
  • On the page that appears, click the red Schedule an Inspection button
  • Follow the steps to schedule the inspection for the business day of your choice
  • You can also purchase additional trips or cancel an inspection on the Citizen Access Portal

By Phone

  • (614) 645-8235

 

Important Information 

Most permits are issued with a base number of inspections, also called trips. Trips and inspections are specific to a permit. In other words, a plumbing inspection is scheduled using the plumbing permit number, which will debit an inspection trip from the plumbing permit.

Each time an inspector visits the site, regardless of the inspection type (i.e. rough, final) or result (i.e. approved, disapproved, partial approved) a trip is debited form the permit. When the balance of trips is zero (0) additional trip(s) need to be purchased before an inspection can be scheduled.

Inspectors are in the field from 8:00 am until 4:00 pm on days of business. The inspection can take place anytime during that window. When scheduling through Citizen Access you have the ability to write a comment and request a time of day (AM or PM) or a call ahead. While we accept these requests and try our best to fulfill them, they are not guaranteed.

 

Common Projects - Residential

Decks

BUILDING PERMIT APPLICATION: One completed copy per project.

HOMEOWNER’S PERMIT AFFIDAVIT: Attached to Building Permit Application. A licensed contractor is required if homeowner is not doing the construction.

PLANS REQUIRED: TWO (2) sets of the following:

  • Site Plan
  • Footing Plan
  • Framing Plan
  • Elevation with Connection Details
  • Guard Rail / Hand Rail Detail
  • Stair Detail

 

INSPECTIONS REQUIRED:

  1. Footing – After all post holes are excavated with all loose debris and water cleaned out but before concrete is placed.
  2. Framing – After all posts and beams are in place with joist hangers, lag/carriage bolts (see details), and fasteners exposed.
  3. Final – After all work is completed including stairs, handrails and guardrails.


 

Driveways

Driveways and Parking Pads

Frequently Asked Questions:

Do I need Zoning Clearance to expand a driveway or parking pad? Yes, Zoning Clearance is required. The Zoning Code limits the location of where additional parking can be added. Please see the question on Widening Driveways below.

Do I need Zoning Clearance to pave a new driveway or parking pad? Yes, Zoning Clearance is required. Here is a link to the form: https://www.columbus.gov/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=45573

Do I need Zoning Clearance to repave an existing driveway or parking pad? Zoning Clearance is not required when a previously approved driveway or parking pad is being repaved.

Can I use gravel for my new driveway or parking pad? Gravel is not an approved surface for new driveways/parking pads. Residential properties that have had gravel prior to 1985 can continue to maintain their gravel surface.

Can I expand my driveway for additional parking? Maybe. The Zoning Code limits where additional parking spaces can be located. Here is the typical situation where a driveway cannot be widened: The Zoning Code does not allow you to widen a driveway to create an additional parking spot within the Parking Setback (CC3312.27(2)). You can find more information on this document

Relevant code sections:

  • A parking pad cannot be located in the parking setback (which is generally the same as the building setback). Please note, corner lots have a second building/parking setback, 3312.27(2 and 3)
  • A parking pad cannot be in the minimum required side yard, 3332.28 • Parking space needs to be 9’x18’, CC3312.29
  • The parking pad/driveway must be paved with a hard surface like asphalt or concrete.
  • Gravel is not an approved surface. 3312.43
  • A driveway must be a minimum of 10 feet wide, 3312.13(A). Max width is 20’ for a 2-car garage.
  • Adequate maneuvering of 20’ is required into a parking spot. This can be accommodated by the street or alley, 3312.25

 

Other helpful information:

Zoning Clearance Review Application: https://www.columbus.gov/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=45573

Online Zoning Map: http://gis.columbus.gov/zoning/

A Right of Way Permit (https://ca.columbus.gov/ca/) is needed for a curb cut and any paving in the right of way: contact Public Service at 614-645-7497 or ColsPermits@Columbus.gov.

Please be advised this is general information, some zoning districts may have more restrictive driveway standards. So the zoning for each site needs to be checked each time. You can find zoning district information on the Online Zoning Map: http://gis.columbus.gov/zoning/. Contact the Zoning office with questions: zoninginfo@columbus.gov or call 614.645.8637.

 

 

Fences

The Columbus Zoning Code regulates the height and location of a fence public or private. Deed restrictions, easements or covenants may also prohibit certain kinds of fences or specify allowed locations of fences in the subdivision. The city does not regulate or enforce deed restrictions or easements; other homeowners or civic associations in a subdivision may regulate them as well as other subdivision rules.

A few things to remember:

  1. Fences 6 feet or less in height are not regulated as a structure and can be placed in the rear yard with no setback from the property lines.
  2. Know property lines to avoid possible disputes with a neighbor. The city does not locate property lines or mediate property line disputes resulting from misplaced fences. A fence 6 feet or less in height does not require a building permit, but the Zoning Code regulates the placement of fences even if they are less than 6 feet tall under certain circumstances related to safe visibility for motor vehicle operation.
  3. Privacy fences over 6 feet in height are regulated as a structure and are subject to setback requirements, including side yards. Fences over 6 feet in height also require a building permit. If considering a fence over 6 feet tall, please call the Zoning Office, 645-8637.
  4. The Zoning Code regulates the placement and opacity of fences in the front yard when a lot or any abutting lot has a driveway to the street. The purpose of this is to ensure the vehicle operator can see other vehicles and pedestrians. Call the Zoning Office, 645-8637, if considering any type of fence in the front yard.
  5. The Zoning Code regulates the height, location, and opacity of fences on corner lots. Zoning staff encourages anyone considering a fence on a corner lot to come to the Department of Building & Zoning Services Customer Service Center with a site plan before the fence is erected so compliance with corner lot requirements can be verified.
  6. The city does not regulate which sides of fences are oriented inward or outward.
  7. Multifamily, Commercial, Office, Manufacturing, and Institutional projects are required to submit a Final Site Compliance Plan prior to installing a fence – contact Engineering at 614-645-0032 or engineeringinfo@columbus.gov.

Zoning encourages review of a proposed fence before the fence is erected. Fence review is done “over the counter”. No appointment is necessary. Please visit the Department of Building and Zoning Services Customer Service Center during the hours of 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday or submit an email inquiry to ZoningInfo@columbus.gov.

 

Download and review complete information about fences here.

 

 

Rooftop Solar Panels

To install rooftop solar arrays on residential or commercial buildings an applicant must submit engineer or architect stamped drawings that demonstrate the structure’s roof can sustain the added weight of the solar array. In addition, the Ohio Building Code requires Building and Zoning Services Department (BZS) to review the drawings to ensure safe installation and connection to the electric grid.

Special Notes: Roof top solar panels are allowed in all zoning districts by right which means no special variances are needed for the Zoning review. One exception to this is if the project is located within a historic or design review commission area. (Downtown District, German Village, Italian village, etc.) In those areas the applicant will need to present the project details to the commission and acquire a Certificate of Appropriateness (CofA) prior to submitting documents to BZS. For more information regarding the historic or review commission areas call 614-645-4437 or email your questions to PlanningInfo@columbus.gov. Solar panels are not considered when determining the height of a roof in any zoning district. In addition, required screening in commercial zoning district will not apply to solar arrays.


How to Apply For a Permit

Below are the steps necessary to acquire a plan approval for your solar array.

Step 1: The applicant and their design profession (architect or engineer) should review the Construction Industry Communication (CIC) #40 which is attached below to ensure all information and documentation is ready for review prior to submission to BZS offices.

Step 2: Complete the Building Permit Application – Universal Form located on our web site Columbus.gov/BZS, under the Document Library tab, it is within the Building and Permit Applications section.

How to Complete the Application

When completing the application Check the box marked “Plan Review only”. In the project \ work description section include the phrase “install rooftop solar panels”.

As part of assembling your documents please include the name of the third party inspector that will perform the city’s required inspection. To see the list of city registered Photovoltaic Inspectors go to our web page, Columbus.gov/BZS, under the Document Library tab click on Inspection Information and go to the document Special Inspection Testing Agencies and Inspectors. From there, scroll down to Photovoltaic Systems. This will be our most up to date registration list of photovoltaic inspectors.

How to Submit For Review

Upon completion of the steps above, there are 3 methods to submit the application for review and approval.

  1. The quickest method: Email your completed application and documents to BZS-intake@columbus.gov
  2. Mail the completed application and documents to 111 N. Front St, Columbus, Ohio 43215
  3. Drop the completed application and documents at our office located at 111 N. Front St, Columbus, Ohio 43215

Once the application and documents are received, you will receive an email to pay fees. Once you make that payment, review will begin. If all is correct and submitted by email, then you will receive an email within 3 business days stating your permits are approved and can be printed. At this point the project begin construction.

NOTE: Your city registered electrical contractor, not the home owner, will need to pull the electrical permit showing how the solar panels will connect to the structure’s electrical system.

If you have any question please call 624-645-7562 or email BuildingPlanReview@Columbus.gov

 

Swimming Pools

When is a permit required for a swimming or wading pool?

A building permit is required for the installation, repair, maintenance, or location of any swimming or wading pool that is capable of a water depth of more than 24 inches.

Fencing and Gate Requirements - No person shall locate, construct, install, make, change, maintain or use any swimming pool or wading pool unless the pool is enclosed by a fence or other permanent barrier (i.e. fence) not less than forty eight (48) inches in height, measured from the ground.

  • Fences 6 feet or less in height are not regulated as a structure and can be placed in the rear yard with no setback from the property lines. See zoning information form Z-38 for additional information concerning fences.
  • Access gates must open outward from the pool and must be self-closing and have a self-latching device and shall be equipped to accommodate a locking device.
  • Gate releases must be located at least 54 inches from the bottom of the gate, or be located more than three (3) inches from the top of the gate on the inside and have no opening greater than ½ inch within 18 inches of the release mechanism.
  • Where a wall of a dwelling unit forms part of the required barrier and direct access to the pool is through a door from the dwelling, one of the following must be provided.
  1. The door shall be equipped with an alarm that sounds when the door and/or screen door is opened. A touch pad used to deactivate the alarm shall be mounted at least 54 inches above the floor.
  2. The door must open away from the pool area, be self-closing with self-latching device. Self-latching devices with the release mechanism shall be located a minimum 54” above the floor.
  • A swimming pool at least 48 inches high measured from the grade with a removable ladder or barrier around the ladder is exempt from 48 inch high barrier requirement. Non-removal ladders must have a barrier around the ladder capable of self-latching and be self-closing or be secured to prevent access. Drawings or other information for this assembly are required to be submitted.
  • Swimming pools with a power safety cover, spas and hot tubs with a safety cover complying with ASTM F 1346 shall be exempt from the barrier requirement.

 

Zoning Restrictions - A pool capable of a depth greater than 12 inches must be located in accordance with all applicable zoning regulations. A pool cannot be located in any front yard or required side yard. No pool can be permitted that is specifically prohibited by limitation text for the zoning district. Contact the zoning department at 645-8637.

Drainage Requirements - Any water drained from a swimming pool should go to a sanitary sewer. Pool water may also be used for the watering of the owner’s garden and lawn, but it must not leave that owner’s property except through a sanitary sewer.

Electrical Requirements -A storable swimming pool or wading pool located on or above ground with a maximum height of 42 inches or a pool with nonmetallic, molded polymeric walls or inflatable fabric walls (regardless of height) requires the pump/filter motor to be provided with a ground-fault circuit interrupter that is an integral part of the power cord and be plugged into a GFCI protected outlet. In-ground pools and on ground or above ground pools greater than 42-inches high are required to comply fully with Article 680 of the National Electric Code. For swimming pools with light fixtures and pools with metal parts such as metal sides, reinforcing strips or caps, contact a licensed electrician or call the City of Columbus at 645-6076 for additional information.

 

What you need to obtain a building permit for a private swimming pool?

  1. Completed Building Permit Application form by owner or licensed home improvement contractor.
  2. A completed Electric Permit application by the homeowner or a licensed electrical contractor must accompany the building permit application when electric work is required.
  3. Two (2) copies of a site plan. The site plan should show the following items at a minimum:
    1. Electric service line (underground or overhead) distance from electrical lines
    2. Sanitary sewer line location for in-ground pools only (CALL 645-5825)
    3. Fence location and height
    4. Diameter or length and width of the pool
    5. Height of the pool
    6. Material pool is constructed of
    7. Distance from the pool edge to the property lines
    8. Distance from the pool edge to any structure located on the property
    9. Location of all electric outlets within 20 feet of any part of the pool (no electrical outlets are permitted closer than 6 feet to the pool)
  4. Literature on pool entry systems for other than perimeter fencing. This literature should illustrate the spring latching type lock or catch, and show how the gate will close by spring action to the locked/latched position.
  5. All in-ground and/or in-door swimming pools and all pools greater than 42-inches in height require two (2) copies of the pool structural drawings sealed by an architect or engineer. If there is a deck that is metal and part of the pool assembly, the deck drawings must be sealed as well. Wood decks must conform to C.C. 4113 and do not require a seal.

 

 

Fees - FAQ 

Current Fee Schedule

Is the plan review fee required upfront?

Payment is required at the time of submission.

 

Are permit fees paid at time of plan approval?

Generally, fees are only due prior to permit issuance if more than one correction letter was issued. When this occurs, we charge by the hour for our review time.

 

What are the accepted payment types?

In Office - Payment can be made in our office with cash, check, or payment card. Check should be made payable to the Columbus City Treasurer.

If the applicant opted to pay online,  an automated email will be received with a direct link to pay the fees by electronic check or payment card through our Citizen Access Portal. 

 

Does the City have any impact fees required for a new building?

Yes. They depend on the scope of the project. Requesting a free preliminary site plan review gives you the opportunity to discuss the project with the appropriate City staff who will provide details on what the fees might be. Send a PDF of the proposed project to engineeringinfo@columbus.gov to start the request process.

 

Are there any fees other than basic permit fees required?

We do not issue blanket permits. All trade permits are pulled by appropriately registered contractors after the building permit is issued. In addition, our permits are issued with a set number of inspection trips. Each time an inspector visits the site, regardless of inspection type or result, a trip is taken. Once all trips are used, additional trip(s) need to be purchased before an inspection is scheduled. We do not refund trips or transfer them between permits.

 

Citizen Access Portal - FAQ

Citizen Access Portal

What can I do on Citizen Access Portal?

  • Apply for permits that are available for online submittal
  • Track the Progress of a Permit 
  • Schedule Inspections
  • Cancel Inspections within the allowed time period
  • Purchase Additional Inspections
  • Record Searches

Helpful Information

  • Submission Standards - Submit documents in accordance with the Department of Building and Zoning Services electronic review requirements.
  • User Guide - Learn how to apply for a commercial or multi-family building permit and electronic review.
  • Document Library -  View other user guides and training manuals, including how to create an account and attach a license to your citizen portal account.
  • Help Tutorials - A YouTube playlist of tutorial videos that cover some aspects of Citizen Access can be viewed here. 
  • Public Records - Search the address or parcel in the appropriate section. Remove the beginning date if searching for documents prior to three years ago. 

 

 

Zoning - FAQ

BZS Zoning Page

Online Zoning Map

Are we required to submit to zoning? If so, what are the requirements?

Zoning is a section within this department. Zoning clearance is generally required for alterations to a site and for changes of use. Depending on the specific zoning for a site, additional projects may trigger the requirement to obtain zoning clearance. When not granted as part of the building permit review, zoning clearance is typically obtained as part of the final site compliance plan review process, overseen by the engineering (one stop shop) section. If zoning review is required, the plans will be routed to them as part of the building permit or final site compliance plan review process.

 

Is the site within the City of Columbus’ jurisdiction?

Jurisdiction can be verified with our Zoning Map.

 

Licensed Contractors

How do I become a licensed contractor in the City of Columbus?

In accordance with the Columbus City Code, Chapter 4114 - License and Registration - General Provisions, the Department of Building and Zoning Services issues licenses and registrations to individual contractors who wish to perform work within the city. All contractors performing work within the city are required to obtain the appropriate license or registration before they can apply for permits and begin the job. The purpose of issuing licenses and registrations is to provide minimum qualification standards and provide for the safety and welfare of the general public, owners and occupants of buildings and structures within the city.

Visit our Contractor Licenses page for various licenses and registrations required by our department, based on the specific area of work.

If you have additional questions, email our BZS Licensing team.

How do I find a contractor that is licensed in the City of Columbus?

Click the "Search for a Contractor" link under the General Information section on ourCitizen Access Portalto find a complete list of licensed contractors by trade with all their contact information.

 

Frequently Used Terms 

Accessory Structure – building, the use of which is incidental to that of the dwelling(s) and which is located on the same lot as the ‘primary’ structure, e.g., shed, garage

Addition – extension or increase in the floor area or height of a building or structure.

After-Hours Inspection – request for an inspection to be performed outside of normal business hours. After hour inspections are performed from 5:00 p.m. and 5:30 a.m. between days of business.

Advanced Construction Start – a certificate to start construction prior to the issuance of a building permit, available to begin some work prior to plan approval; work to be performed at applicant’s own risk; can also be issued for initial mitigation or investigatory purposes as a response to an unsafe condition.

Air Admittance Valve (AAV) - device used instead of traditional vent piping in plumbing work.

Alteration – any modifications or changes made to an existing structure or building which require one or more inspections.

Ampere – size of the main breaker or fuse that is being installed. This will be indicated on the breaker or fuses as a numerical quantity such as 200, 150, 100, etc.

Automatic Fire Alarm System – combination of devices that do not include a Manual Pull Station or any other means of manual activation.

Board of Review – General and Home Improvement Contractors - group appointed by department director; responsible for reviewing license applications for the trades of Home Improvement (General or Limited) and Demolition Contractors; also responsible for overseeing complaints filed against city-registered General Contractors or Demolition Contractors and city-licensed Home Improvement (General or Limited) Contractors.

Building Compliance Section (BCS) – a team that investigates reports of unsafe buildings, including those damaged by fire, vehicle impacts, weather events, and through deterioration and neglect. Other investigations include violations of the building code such as working without permits, occupying without a certificate of occupancy, and working as an unlicensed contractor.

Building Services Piping – All piping systems and their component parts that are part of a building system. Including, but not limited to, fuel-gas piping, refrigerant piping, chilled water, water/antifreeze systems, and steam and hot water for boilers.

Bus Duct - grounded metal enclosure containing factory mounted busbars consisting usually of copper or aluminum. Normally installed in industrial and larger commercial projects that allows for easier distribution of electrical energy throughout the facility.

Certificate of Occupancy - final document issued when establishing or changing the use, signifying that a structure has received and passed all inspections required to legally occupy the structure; sets the conditions of the use and occupancy of the building, requiring the owner to use and maintain the building in accordance with the Certificate.

Certified Address - address assigned by the City of Columbus, in accordance with Chapter 907 of City Code for use in the construction and occupancy of a residential or commercial building within the City; this address is assigned in the interest of maintaining public safety and must be prominently displayed upon that building at all times following construction.

Change of Occupancy – change in the purpose or level of activity within a structure which requires a submittal, review and approval of adjusted building and site plans, as well as inspections of work performed to bring about the particular change.

Chief Building Official (CBO) - responsible for the enforcement of the building code and the overall administration of the State of Ohio-certified building department.

Chief Plans Official (CPO)-responsible for managing the activities of the Engineering Plans Review Section and coordinating the timely review and evaluation of engineering plans for public/ private development projects to ensure compliance with City codes and standards.

Columbus Building Commission (CBC) - seven (7) member group, appointed by the mayor, to determine the suitability of alternate materials and types of construction and to provide for reasonable interpretations of the provisions of the Columbus Building Code. Responsible for reviewing registration applications for the trade of Special Inspector. Members include: a practicing architect, a general building contractor, a residential home builder, a structural engineer, a mechanical engineer, a representative of building labor and a representative of building material supplies, each of whom have ample experience in their respective fields.

Consult Inspection – request made by an applicant to meet with an inspector at a job site to ask for the advice of, or to deliberate together, an issue involving an installation for code compliance; this special type of inspection usually occurs prior to the installation and the usual inspection request.

Contractor License/Registration Number – identification number issued by Building and Zoning Services to all licensed/registered general, home improvement, trade contractors and special inspectors.

Cost of Construction - monetary value as reported by the applicant, of the permitted work performed on a building/structure, which are recorded to provide to the US Census Bureau.

Demolition Permit - total removal of an existing structure to grade level (see grade).

Demolition Contractor - person registered by Columbus Building and Zoning Services Department to receive demolition permits for all types of structures.

Disconnect - switch used to disconnect service or appliance; safety switch.

Electric Heat Unit - self-contained factory unit that is being used to supply heat to a specific space or area; such as baseboard heaters, wall heaters, etc.

Fee Schedule – a City Council adopted ordinance which establishes the costs of all development related transactions involving various departments and divisions within the city of Columbus.

Final Air Test / Plumbing – test applied to the plumbing system at the final inspection after all fixtures are set.

Fire Protection Contractor - person certified by the State of Ohio and registered by Columbus Building and Zoning Services Department to perform work relating to fire alarm and fire suppression on all types of structures.

Footing – an enlargement at the bottom of a wall or column to distribute the weight of the superstructure over a greater area to prevent settling, usually concrete.

Foundation - the entire substructure below the first floor or grade of a building, including the footing, upon which the building/structure rests; may include a basement.

Gas Piping - gas connections to gas-fired appliances.

General Contractor - person registered by Columbus Building and Zoning Services Department to construct a NEW 1, 2 or 3 Family Dwelling, or perform structural work on all types of commercial buildings, including 4+ Family Dwellings.

Grade – the ground level surrounding any building or structure.

Gross Sq. Ft. Working Area – the exact size of the area, noted in total square feet, where the permitted work is being performed, reported to the US Census Bureau, used to determine some permit costs as noted in the fee schedule

Home Improvement Contractor - person licensed by Columbus Building and Zoning Services Department to perform all types of structural work on an EXISTING 1, 2 or 3 Family Dwelling.

Home Improvement – Limited Contractor - person licensed by Columbus Building and Zoning Services Department to perform structural work limited to a specific scope (ex: roofing, decks, fencing, etc.) on an EXISTING 1, 2 or 3 Family Dwelling.

HVAC - used in reference to any heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and/or environmental air system.

Hydronics Contractor - person licensed by the State of Ohio Construction Industry Licensing Board and registered with Columbus Building and Zoning Services Department to perform all types of work relating to hydronic piping systems; hydronic piping systems include steam and hot water from boilers, condenser and cooling tower water, chilled water, boiler condensate and ground source heat pump loop systems.

Inspection - review of construction to verify that the work is being performed in accordance with the approved drawings and applicable codes.

Industrialized Unit - prefabricated components comprised of closed construction manufactured at a location remote from the site of intended use and transported to a building site for its subsequent use.

In-kind repair/replacement (like-for-like) - changes made to an existing building using similar construction or materials that were originally incorporated.

Manual Fire Alarm System – system that includes at least one Manual Pull Station, or any other means of manual activation.

Manufactured Electrical Assembly – an assembly of electrical components and cables used to distribute electrical power to multiple locations which has been listed and labeled by an approved testing agency; these assemblies are used primarily for carnivals, festivals and other special events; the assembly must be listed in its entirety.

Maximum Capacity Card – certificate issued for assembly occupancies denoting the maximum approved occupant load for a room or space; rooms or spaces having more than one function require additional maximum capacity designations.

Mechanical Permit Application – application form used for the installation of items regulated by the mechanical code; includes HVAC, refrigeration and hydronics.

Minor Work Permit - construction or change to a portion of a building or equipment of a minor nature that requires only one (1) 15-minute inspection to verify the completed work.

Non-Permitted Inspection – inspection of an existing installation/condition, not permitted for work, in order to determine code compliance.

Partial (formerly Temporary) Certificate of Occupancy- certificate issued by building inspector to allow conditional occupancy of a structure or portion thereof, without endangering life or public welfare, until a final Certificate of Occupancy can be issued. Area of the structure to be occupied and duration of the certificate is determined by building inspector.

Permit Expiration – A permit expires if work does not commence within 12 months of plan approval. Once work has commenced, there can be no delay or suspension of work for more than 6 months. Typically, inspections are used to track the commencement and continuation of work.

Permit Extension – Extension requests must be made in writing to ExpiredPermits@columbus.gov and paid for in accordance with the fee schedule. They will be approved, as allowed by code: One (1) 12-month extension is available to start work. Two (2) six-month extensions for delays or suspensions of work are also available.

Permit Transfer - any permit may be transferred once from one (1) address to another prior to the start of any work, or changing the name on the permit from the original contractor who obtained the permit to a new contractor; permit transfers may also be utilized to correct the address on a permit.

Phased Construction – type of new construction permit that allows for incremental steps (or

phases) of construction, e.g., foundation, core and shell, fit-out, etc...

Plan Review Only - construction documents submitted for review and/or approval when not associated with the issuance of a building permit.

Product Refrigeration Permit - commercial storage for product preservation.

Proposed Work – description or scope of work intended for permitting.

Receptacle – A device installed in boxes that allows for the “plugging in” of appliances, lamps, televisions, radios, etc.

Rehab / Repair - remove and replace with new or repair of existing fixtures, equipment and other construction-related items.

Relocated Structure - any building/structure moved from one site to another.

Replacement - installation of a ‘like-for-like’ apparatus, system or fixture. Note: some items may not require a permit; the Residential Code of Ohio Section 105 and the Ohio Building Code section 105 list exempted items.

Revision - a change to an approved project affecting the scope of work or one which may affect building code requirements after the project has received plan approval.

Rough In Plumbing – all plumbing and plumbing fixtures that must be installed prior to concealment by building components and/or materials.

Safety Switch – switch used to disconnect electric power from equipment or appliances.

Sales Office - temporary utilization of a dwelling unit/part of a dwelling unit in a subdivision/community for conducting sales of other dwelling units within that same subdivision/community.

Secure Permit – A process to delay required repairs on a building declared unsafe, provided that the building can be secured from unauthorized entry, is structurally stable, and does not remain a hazard when secured. Valid for 90 days and renewable for up to two years, subject to the Chief Building Official.

Self-Contained Electrical Heat - heating system permanently wired into electrical system for heating purposes only.

Service - the equipment and conductors necessary to connect the serving utility company to the premises; usually constitutes the main shut off for the building or structure:

  • Temporary Service – a service that will be in use for 90 days or the length of construction.
  • Free Standing Service – a service that does not rely on a structure or building for its support apparatus.
  • Emergency Generator – a generator that is being used to supply emergency egress illumination, exit sign illumination or exit discharge illumination; typically installed in commercial property.
  • Standby Generator – a generator that is being used to supply loads not considered emergency; typically installed in homes.

Sewer Contractor - person licensed by Columbus Building and Zoning Services Department to perform work relating to sewers and excavation; this license is issued by the Columbus Division of Sewers and Drains.

Shed - a roofed one (1) story structure, open on one (1) or more sides used for storage purposes. All sheds in residential areas over 200 sq. ft. require a building permit.

Shell - any structure with minimal construction and mechanical work; later divided and occupied by multiple tenants/users; a Certificate of Occupancy is not issued for the shell portion of work.

Sign Erectors Board - group appointed by the director, responsible for reviewing license applications and overseeing complaints filed against a “Sign Erector (General or Limited)” licensed by Columbus Building and Zoning Services Department for violating Columbus City Codes.

Sign Erector General Contractor - person licensed by Columbus Building and Zoning Services Department to perform work relating to all types of signs – also referred to as graphics.

Sign Erector Limited Contractor - person licensed by Columbus Building and Zoning Services Department to perform work limited to a specific scope (ex: less than 64 sq ft in area and 16 ft in height) for signs – also referred to as graphics.

Skilled Trade Review Board - group appointed by the director, responsible for overseeing complaints filed against city-registered contractors.

Special Inspection - an inspection of construction requiring the expertise of an approved special inspector in order to ensure compliance with the Ohio Building Code and the approved documents. Generally speaking, it is an inspection requiring extensive knowledge, equipment or testing above what a certified building inspector or department can reasonably provide. A list of special inspections can be found in Chapter 17 of the Ohio Building Code and are listed on our Statement of Special Inspections form.

Special Inspector - person registered by Columbus Building and Zoning Services Department who has demonstrated competence for the inspection of a particular type of construction or operation requiring special inspection. A list of registered special inspectors can be found on our web site.

Sub-Contractor - licensed and city-registered contractor performing part of the scope of work for a primary licensed and city-registered contractor which has a valid permit for the same scope of work; the license and city registration requirements of the subcontracting company shall coincide with that of the primary contracting company as required to cover the particular work being subcontracted.

Sub Panel - a panel that receives its electrical supply from some other distribution equipment located upstream from it.

Swimming Pool – any structure intended for swimming or recreational bathing that is capable of a water depth over 24 inches, including in-ground, above-ground and on-ground pools, hot tubs and spas.

Team Inspection - concurrent inspections performed by structural, electrical, plumbing, mechanical and/or fire -- scheduled by appointment after CBO approval.

Temporary Structure - tents over 400 square feet, stages over 120 square feet or that exceed an occupant load of 10 or more persons; may also refer to membrane covers and platforms if a person may be under or on them. Permit(s) required.

Temporary Structure Permit - two types 1) temporary structures utilized for less than 180 days, for the purposes of sales promotions, advertising displays, and additional capacity for restaurants and bars, private or gated events 2) public events that utilize temporary structures and or temporary electrical services and are free and open to the public for five (5) consecutive days or less.

Time Limited Occupancy – a time limited occupancy may be issued provided: (1) there are no building code violation orders pending on the subject property, (2) it is established, after plan approval and subsequent inspection, that the proposed occupancy is not deemed to endanger public safety and welfare, (3) the CBO has approved the use for an alternative purpose on a temporary basis and, (4) the CBO has issued a Certificate of Occupancy indicating any special conditions under which the building can be used for the alternative purpose for the time limit specified – not to exceed 180 days.

Transformer - a device that transfers electric energy by increasing (stepping up) or reducing (stepping down) the voltage.

Temporary Electric - Non-permanent electric service (construction sites, festivals, Christmas tree lots, carnivals, etc.).

Temporary Electric – 200+ AMPS - nonpermanent electric service in excess of 200 amps.

Working Without Permit Fee - fees, charged in addition to the cost of the permit, when work has been or is being performed without first obtaining the required permit. All fees, including working without permit fees, are designated in the Fee Schedule.

Other Frequently Asked Questions

How do I obtain a contractor's license?

Contractors can apply for a license by going to the Document Library and downloading the application for your particular trade.

How do I find a licensed contractor?

Click the "Search for a Contractor" link under the General Information section on our Citizen Access Portal to find a complete list of licensed contractors by trade with all their contact information.

How do I get contact information for your department?

Our call center at 614-645-7433 is available from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. on days of business. General contact information is listed on our home page. A more detailed list of contact information can be downloaded at Additional Contacts(PDF, 146KB).

How do I find meeting agendas and minutes for board and commission meetings?

A complete list of meeting agendas and meeting minutes can be found at the Boards & Commissions landing page.

How do I find Zoning Variances and Rezoning?

Zoning Variances and Rezoning can be found in the Zoning section, which will also provide the public meeting schedules, agendas, results, case logs and forms.

Is a meeting with a DRB "Design Review Board" required?

Properties that are within the Downtown District, East Franklinton District, the University Impact Overlay District, or within a Historic District may be subject to review and issuance of a Certificate of Approval or Certificate of Appropriateness. Contact planninginfo@columbus.gov to confirm if your property is subject to a design review.

Will we need to submit to the planning department if we have a minor scope of work? If yes, can the review be concurrent, at the same time, with the building department review?

The building section within this department houses our plans examiners and inspectors. They can verify if your scope of work requires a permit. If separate zoning review is required for commercial or multifamily (four or more dwelling units in a single structure) projects, the permit and zoning reviews are concurrent. Our department of development is not involved unless the structure is within one of our historic or architectural review areas.

Are mechanical, electrical, and plumbing permits separate review and permits? Or reviewed under one permit all together?

We do not issue "blanket" permits. The plans you submit will include all structural and trade (mechanical, electric, and plumbing) work, but the trade permits will not be included when the building permit is issued. Instead, appropriately registered contractors with the City of Columbus will need to pull the trade permits after the building permit is issued. Fire alarm and suppression permits are separate applications that require plans to be included.

Is there an interior non-structural demolition permit available in case we fall behind on our schedule? What are the requirements for the submittal? What is the review time frame? What is required by the contractor to provide?

Our demolition permit is to remove a structure to grade. An advanced construction start (ACS) can be applied for once a building permit record is created. The building permit application or appropriate trade application needs to be completed requesting an ACS. Review Construction Industry Communication (CIC) 48 in our document library.

What is the time limit from permit issuance to start of construction? When does this "clock" start? At the time of final approval or when the permit is physically picked-up?

Once the permit is issued, you have twelve months to start construction. Once construction starts the permit will expire in six months, unless inspections are performed. The expiration date extends six months from the date of the last inspection. Inspections are performed and requested on all related permits. For example, an inspection on a related plumbing permit will extend all related permits by six months.

Are there any permit extensions available if needed? If the permit is near expiration a one year extension can be requested through our expired permit team. For work that has already commenced but is delayed or suspended for more than six months, two extensions shall be granted for six months each requested through our expired permit team. The expired permit team can be contacted at expiredpermits@columbus.gov

Is an Asbestos report required for plan review or permit issuance?

No.

Are we required to submit to zoning? If so, what are the requirements?

Zoning is a section within this department. Zoning clearance is generally required for alterations to a site and for changes of use. Depending on the specific zoning for a site, additional projects may trigger the requirement to obtain zoning clearance. When not granted as part of the building permit review, zoning clearance is typically obtained as part of the final site compliance plan review process, overseen by the engineering (one stop shop) section. If zoning review is required, the plans will be routed to them as part of the building permit or final site compliance plan review process. 

Do we need to submit to any outside agencies? (State, water, etc.)

If the project requires a site plan, our site engineering team routes the plans to the appropriate review agencies. Restaurants, nightclubs, and food service facilities must contact and submit construction documents for review by the Columbus Health Department.  All public swimming pools are required to have approval by the Ohio Department of Health in accordance with Section 3749.03 of the Revised Code prior to application for plan approval.  Medical gas plans are required to be filed for review and approval to the Franklin County Health Department.