What are the benefits of having a Building Permit?

As a homeowner you have someone (Inspector) that is watching out for your best interest and safety, so that your project conforms to the Building Code. The Code can be looked at in numerous ways. It makes sure that your project is built to a minimum standard. The standard is how the code was developed based on past experiences to assure safety in a number of areas such as Structural, Fire Safety, Egress, Light and Ventilation, Healthy Environment, Energy Conservation and to provide systems that work the way they were designed along with many other benefits.

Why do I need a Building Permit?

It’s the law, MA Gen Ch. 143 Sections 93 - 101. There is also language in the Town’s Zoning Bylaws pertaining to Certificate of Occupancies and other aspects of Code Enforcement pertaining to permit requirements. See the Town Zoning Bylaws Section G

When is a Building Permit required?

A Building Permit is required whenever a project includes construction, reconstruction, alteration, repair, removal or demolition of a structure. Also, a permit is required for any change of use of a building or structure, and/or the installation or alteration of any equipment that is regulated by the State Building Code. Should you have any questions about your project, and if it requires a permit, please call the Building Department at 508-528-5088.

Is there work specifically exempt from requiring a Building Permit?

Section 105.2 of the State Building provides a list of work that is specifically exempt from requiring a building permit.

Who can be issued a Building Permit?

Building Permits are issued to construction supervisors licensed by the Board of Building Regulation and Standards. An exception to this requirement is that a building permit can be issued to homeowners doing work to the single or two family dwelling where the homeowner resides or intends to reside. Homeowners who receive building permits under this exception may be liable for contracting work on their property and are not eligible for protection under the provisions of the Home Improvement Contractor Law (c. 142 A section 1).

How long does it take to obtain a Building Permit?

By law, the Building Department has 30 days from the date it was completed and submitted to review your permit application (780 CMR section 111.1). However, permits are usually issued within two to four weeks for larger residential and commercial work. Generally speaking, it will take less time for smaller scope of work projects. The time it takes is often dependent on the scope of work and completeness and accuracy of the application. Be sure to check the Required Submittal Documents List for your project, and include all the necessary information with your application..

How long is a Building Permit good for?

Any building permit issued shall be deemed abandoned and invalid unless the work authorized by it shall have commenced within six months after issuance or determined by the Building Commissioner. An expiration date is listed on your Permit Card. If you feel your project will surpass the expiration date, you do have the ability to extend the permit. Contact the Building Department for more information.

Are permit applications on the Town's website?

Yes. For your convenience, the Town offers an Online Permitting Portal, where you have the ability to apply for Building, Electrical, Plumbing, Gas, and Mechanical Permits, as well as annual inspection requests for commercial uses. You can log in and create a new user registration, and once it is completed, you can apply for permits, review your account, pay balances, and check the status of your application or permit. Click here to visit the Online Permitting Portal

Are there things that I should be aware of that can help during the building permit application process?

Some simple things to be watchful of to ensure a smooth Building Permit application process are: 1.) Complete ALL applicable sections on the online permit application 2.) Check the contractors license, HIC registration and workman compensation and liability insurance binder. 3.) Complete a zoning analysis 4.) Make sure that all signature lines for either you and/or your builder/contractor have been signed. 5.) Take your time compiling all the data and paper work for your permit. See our Required Submittal Documents List

I am having trouble getting started with the Online Permitting process. Are there instructions for me to follow?

We have a step-by-step guide for getting started on the Permitting Portal. For New Users, click here (Link to New User Instructions). If you are already registered, click here(Link to Existing User Instructions).

I forgot my username/password to log into the Online Permitting Portal. How do i retreive this information?

You have the ability to reset your username/password on the log in page. Click the "Forgot your Username" or "Forgot your Password", and follow the prompts. The Building Department is not responsible for lost usernames/passwords, so please be sure to retain this information for future use.

What do I need to file an application for a Building Permit?

There are many components to the building permit application. Please review the Required Submittal Documents List regarding your project. Should you have additional questions, please contact the Building Department.

Do I need the property owner's signatire as part of my applications?

When you apply for your Building Permit, you will find an optional button to upload a Signed Contract. While this is not always required, the Inspector may ask for a copy as part of your application. If you have a contract as part of the job, it is best to simply upload it, so that we do not have to send a follow up request for it. The more information you provide with us up front, the better off your application process will be.

Do I need a Plot Plan as part of my Building Permit Application?

Possibly. A Plot Plan is required if the proposed construction involves a change in building footprint like an addition, a deck, or construction of a free standing structure such as a fence 7ft tall or over, an accessory building, a pool or hot tub, a retaining wall over 4 feet, a sign, ground mounted solar panels, tents and towers. See our Required Submittal Documents List for more information, and additional requirements.

What do I need to obtain a plumbing, wiring or mechanical permit?

These permits are only issued to Massachusetts licensed plumbers, gasfitters, electricians and sheet metal/mechanical contractors.

What do I need to obtain a Mechanical/Sheetmetal Permit?

When any provision covered under 780 CMR 271 is performed. This includes the installation of any HVAC equipment and associated duct work. It does not include ordinary repairs or maintenance to existing equipment. All new heating and cooling systems need a Manual J load calculation for permitting. Any HVAC system that any duct or the air handler is outside of condition space will need an air leakage test for final inspection. Our Required Submittal Document List will detail the specific documents we require for each respective mechanical permit type.

Does the Fire Department review the plans?

The Fire Department reviews all Commercial projects and any Residential Projects that are substantial in scope or add living space. The Fire Department reviews plans on our online portal as part of the permit review process. There is no fee due at the time of review.

During my home renovation, do I need to replace existing smoke detectors in rooms/areas that are NOT under construction?

One and Two-Family Dwellings and Town Houses. When one or more sleeping rooms are added or created to an existing dwelling, the entire dwelling shall be provided with smoke, heat, and carbon monoxide detection located and installed in accordance with the provisions for new construction. This would include hardwiring all new and existing detection devices together. Complete Reconstruction. If a dwelling or townhouse building undergoes reconstruction such that more than 50% of walls and ceilings are open to framing, then the entire existing building shall be provided with smoke, heat and carbon monoxide detections located and installed in accordance with the provisions for new construction.

I think I may have asbestos building materials, is there a list of licensed asbestos removers?

Yes. The Massachusetts Division of Occupational Safety offers a list of Licensed Asbestos Removers. Click here to view this list.

My contractor asked me to pull the permits. May I obtain the relevant permits myself, or is the contractor required to do that?

While you may certainly obtain your own Residential Building Permits, be aware that if you do, you will fall into a homeowner exemption that will disqualify you from being eligible to receive recourse through M.G.L c. 142A, the HIC Law, or the statutorily authorized Guaranty Fund, should a problem arise. It is the responsibility of the registered HIC to obtain all permits necessary for work covered by the Home Improvement Contractor Registration Law, M.G.L. c. 142A. If the HIC you are contracting with refuses, you may wish to reconsider using that contractor’s services. Furthermore, as the permit applicant, you are responsible to make sure all work is performed to Building Code requirements and that all required inspections are conducted.

If my builder is not familiar with Norfolk, what requirements are unique to Norfolk that I should highlight?

Norfolk enforces the same Building Code as all other Towns in Massachusetts. It is advised that your builder reach out to the Norfolk Building Department to discuss your project with the Building Official. We also have Building Resources Page available to you/your builder, to assist in understanding what the Building Department, along with Building Code requires for each scope of work. Additionally, Zoning is unique to every community in the commonwealth. Your contractor and/or architect should review the Zoning By-Laws in order to ensure that your proposed project will comply with local zoning. Click her to review our local Town Zoning Bylaws

I'm selling my house and I have open permits, what should I do?

If you are planning on selling your home, you should stop in at the Building Department and have a look at your property file to verify the status of any permitted work at your property. Most mortgage lenders will not close on a loan for a home purchase if there is major work that was never inspected. If there are open permits, you should reach out to each contractor involved and request that they take the necessary steps to have their work inspected and permits closed. The Building Department is available to review your file with you and help guide you through this process.

What if I start work without a permit?

Failure to obtain a building permit or starting work before a permit is issued may result in increased permit fees, fines up to $1000 per day, imprisonment or any or all of the foregoing.

Are there any restrictions on working hours?

Yes. Refer to the noise regulation found in the Town Bylaws section F.10.c.2


What are my setback requirements?

The setback requirements in all Residential Districts are 50 Feet to the front lot line and 25 Feet to the side and rear lot lines. For more information on minimum dimensional requirements see Town Zoning Bylaws Section E.1.b

What zoning district is my property in?

If you are unsure what zone your property is in, please click to see the Town's Zoning District Map.

What is a certified plot plan and where can I find one?

A certified plot plan is a stamped drawing, drawn to a measurable scale by a state registered engineer or a state registered land surveyor. It shows a piece of land, its boundary lines, total square footage, and locates all the existing structures on the land. You may contact the Building Department or the Board of Heath to see if we have a plot plan on file. If we do not have a plan on file, you may need to contact a surveyor to have one produced.

What is an As-built plot plan and when will I need it?

An As-built plot plan is similar to the certified plot plan except that it will be created after a project is completed. It will show the parcel of land and all new structures “as they are built”. It should be stamped by a registered land surveyor or registered engineer and include all dimensions and distances of the lot and new structures. The As-Built plan should be submitted to the building department to verify all work performed has met the zoning requirements.

What do I need to consider if I am putting a Pool in my yard?

A Building Permit is required for any structure intended for swimming or recreational bathing that contains water over 24 inches deep. This includes in-ground, above ground, and on-ground swimming pools, hot tubs, and spas. An electrical permit is almost always required as well and should be pulled by a licensed electrician at the same time as the building permit. Pools, hot tubs, and spas must adhere to the zoning requirements of section F.5.c and the fencing requirements of section F.6.c of the Town Zoning Bylaws. A certified plot plan must be submitted with the Building Permit application and should include the proposed location of the pool with distances to the lot lines as well as including the fencing location and fence construction details. The set-back line must be staked out on site by a surveyor at the time of the first building inspection. Temporary fencing must be maintained around the construction site at all times. Final fencing must be in place at the time of the Final Inspection and will be verified by the inspector for compliance with all fencing regulations.

What do I need to consider if I am putting a Shed in my yard?

A shed is considered an Accessory Building and will only require a building permit if it is over 200 square feet. Regardless of size, the shed must still follow the zoning requirements of section F.5.a. of the Town Zoning Bylaws. Keep in mind that if you live on a corner lot or a through lot you have multiple frontages which will further limit the placement of your shed.

Are animal enclosures (ie: Chicken Coops, Barns, etc.) allowed in my yard?

No fence or other STRUCTURE enclosing animals, except house pets, shall be within 100 feet of a DWELLING on an adjoining property.(Town Zoning Bylaws F.5.b ). Your structure may require a Building, Electrical, Gas, Plumbing and/or Mechanical permit, depending on the scope of work. For example, if the enclosure is over 200 sq ft it will require a building permit, and if you plan to have electricity to the building, this requires an Electrical Permit (all electrical work to be performed by a licensed Electrician).


What is a Home Improvement Contractors License (HIC)?

A Home Improvement Contractor (“HIC”) is defined as any person who owns or operates a contracting business who, through himself or others, undertakes, purports to have the capacity to undertake, offers to undertake, or submits a bid for residential contracting work to an owner, as such work is defined in 780 CMR R6 and Massachusetts General Law chapter 142A (which are the rules and regulations pertaining to the program). All HICs must be registered with Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation.

What is a Construction Supervisor License (CSL)?

A Construction Supervisors License (CSL) allows you to legally supervise persons engaged in construction, reconstruction, alteration, repair, removal or demolition of certain limited types of buildings.

How do I check my contractors CSL are valid?

Click here to redirect to the MA Board of Building Regulations and Standards website.

What is the difference between an HIC and a CSL Contractor?

A CSL is required for any work that involves a building’s structural elements and the holder had to have passed an examination which demonstrates knowledge of the building code. A holder of an HIC registration is not required to pass an examination. The HIC holder is registered with the state and must pay a fee which is deposited in to the Guaranty Fund at the Office of Consumer Affairs. These serve as protections for consumers in the event of a dispute between a homeowner and an HIC.

Why should I hire a registered Home Improvement Contractor?

To protect you as the consumer! When contractors register with the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, they must make a contribution to the Guaranty Fund. Consumers may be eligible for reimbursements through the fund should something go wrong during the construction process. Please see M.G.L, c. 142A, § 5.

What if my contractor doesn't have a Construction Supervisor's License, and my project requires a CSL license?

A Home Improvement Contractor may enter in to contracts with homeowners, however if he/she does not hold a valid CSL, he/she must hire an active Construction Supervisor Licensee to supervise the project. It is the responsibility of both the Home Improvement Contractor and the Construction Supervisor’s Licensee to obtain all building permits prior to beginning the project.

I am having my roof/window/siding work done. Will I need both a registered HIC and a CSL holder?

Beginning July 1, 2008, all individuals who perform roof replacement, siding, and window replacement will be required to hold both a Home Improvement Registration and a Construction Supervisor’s License..

If I am building a new home (new construction), will I need a Home Improvement Contractor?

No. An HIC is not required for new construction. The Construction Supervisor Licensee however must apply for all required building permits and architect plans for review by the local inspector. When the local inspector is satisfied that the project meets the requirements of the Building Code/BBRS the building department of your local city/town will issue your building permit.

What if I choose to do the work or hire unlicensed, unregistered persons?

If you choose to perform building construction work on your own home, or if you choose to hire unlicensed, unregistered persons, you must secure your own building permit under what is called the homeowner exemption. In doing so, you assume all responsibility for the project (i.e. ensuring the end product conforms with all pertinent codes, inspections, laws and ordinances) and you forfeit any and all rights under the Home Improvement Registration program.

What if my registered Home Improvement Contractor does not have a Construction Supervisor's License, and the project requires a CSL holder, what do I do?

Most construction projects will require both a licensed and registered contractor. A contractor possessing only a home improvement registration may perform only small projects that would typically be considered ordinary repairs to a property (such as painting, wallpapering, repairing existing decking and similar jobs). Larger projects, such as building a deck or an addition to an existing home or any project that includes structural work (to an existing single to four family, owner occupied home) would require both a license and registration. However, the license and registration may not necessarily be possessed by the same person. For example, a registered contractor could subcontract larger projects to another individual and\or company as long as that individual or company possesses both a license and registration to perform the work. The important thing to remember is that most construction work performed on your single to four family, owner occupied home will require the services of a licensed and registered contractor and that the registered contractor is required to secure the permit for such work, clearly listing the subcontractor if he/she is to act a s the supervisor of construction (in possession of the construction supervisor license). Homeowners who secure permits for such work under the homeowner exemption clause may forfeit all protective rights identified by M.G.L, c. 142 A (The Rules and Regulations for Home Improvement Contractors). Homeowners should make sure that the contractor and/or all subcontractors that will be employed are appropriately licensed and registered. The municipal building official will also ask to see both the license and registration of a contractor (or contractors) at the time of building permit application is filed.


How do I schedule an inspection?

Please have the Permit Applicant call the Building Department to schedule all inspections. See our Inspection Schedule for more information.

How many days' notice is needed to plan for inspections?

Generally, 1 - 2 days’ notice is needed for building, plumbing/gas, electrical and mechanical/sheet metal Inspections. An Inspector may make an exception depending on the type of inspection or if there is an emergency or public safety issue.

Do I need to be on site for an Inspection?

We recommend that the permit applicant be onsite for all inspections but it is not always required. A homeowner may stand in for their contractor. In some cases, the inspector may not need anyone onsite for an inspection that is outdoors but we WILL NOT enter a residence without an adult present.

How will I know the results of an inspection?

After every inspection the inspector will create an inspection report on the online permit portal. This report will list whether the inspection passed or failed and will include any reasons why it failed or other important comments. The online permit portal will automatically send an email to the permit applicant with the full inspection report.

Do I need a separate inspection from the Fire Department to close my building permit?

If the scope of work requires additional fire detection to be added, than Yes, the Fire Department will conduct an inspection and issue a final certificate for Residential projects. A Fire Prevention Inspector from Norfolk Fire Department will visit the site once the job is nearly completed, to check the location and operation of the smoke, carbon monoxide detectors, and/or heat detectors. Contact the Fire Department to schedule this inspection before scheduling the final building inspection. Additional Fees may be required.

What is a Certificate of Occupancy and when do I receive one?

A Certificate of Occupancy (C.O.) is a legal document issued by the Building Official certifying a building’s compliance with applicable building codes and other laws, and indicating it to be in a condition suitable for occupancy. The C.O. is issued for new dwelling’s and other larger renovation and reconstruction projects as a final step in the permitting and inspection process, once all requirements have been met. Please Note: A Certificate of Occupancy will not be issued the same day as a Final Building Inspection. It is the policy of the Norfolk Building Department to issue the C.O. a minimum of two days after the final inspection to ensure enough time to fully review the project file and verify all necessary inspections, files, and documentation is in order before closing out the permit file.