Building Planning

Home Planning Guide Step 7: Acquire Building Permit

You have your completed drawings in hand, the contractor selected, and you’re ready to apply for a building permit! Be proud of how far you’ve come. An HPM Home Planning Consultant will help you navigate your county’s permitting requirements and process to pave the way for construction. Keep in mind that securing the right paperwork before building a home is a complex process. The requirements for obtaining a permit vary from municipality to municipality. Here are some tips to prepare you for the process.


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What Kind of Building Permit Do You Need?


Permit Requirements

Depending on the project, residential building permits can involve a wide range of tasks and materials, such as plumbing, electrical wiring, demolition work, sewage systems and water treatment facilities. Each of these elements will require specific documents to obtain the permit, and the requirements may vary by the type of residential project. Review all relevant local regulations before beginning any residential construction or renovation work to ensure you have the proper building permit in place.

Regardless of which island you’re on, we’ll connect you with the appropriate permit channels and routers for assistance. On Hawai‘i Island, an HPM Home Planning Consultant will take care of permitting needs in their entirety. We are also equipped to help you with your permits for Maui County and Kaua‘i. We have building permit routing services available on O‘ahu. But the residential building permit itself is just the tip of the iceberg. Once granted, all of the other permitters will use it as a reference.

In most cases, the subsidiary permits are taken out and completed by the subcontractor hired — for instance, the plumbing permit is completed by the plumber and the electrical permit by the electrician. For a few items, authorities will need to approve plans. Anything on a property near wastewater, for instance, needs to have plans submitted to the State of Hawai‘i for approval, and these plans need to be drawn and stamped by a civil engineer.


Document Requirements

In general, the first step in building permits will be filing the proper paperwork at the Department of Public Works on your island. When you apply for a permit, the necessary documents and information may differ. Here are some linked resources:

Keep in mind that island requirements do vary, so be prepared to wade through a bit of legal minutia and gather plenty of documents. Depending on the project, you may need to provide drawings of your plans, soil tests and analysis results, zoning or environmental permits, and even neighborhood association or historic commission approval.

It’s important to stay on top of current regulations and requirements, as they’re constantly changing due to updates in local zoning ordinances or other governing laws. To determine what documents and information are needed for your building permit, it’s best to check with the local municipality directly or look up the current regulations online.

Although we will assist you with all of these elements, we find it’s best that you, as the future homeowner, do your own research. You’ll understand what’s happening at every stage much better if you do. But we’ve got your back! An HPM Home Planning Consultant will walk you through this process and ensure you’re well-informed.

What Does It Take to Get a Building Permit?

The Process

The building permit process can be tedious and lengthy, but it is a fundamental part of the overall construction journey. Generally speaking, the permit process starts with an application to the local jurisdiction where you intend to build. Depending on the complexity of your plans and specifications, different levels of review by inspectors are required for approval of the permit. This review involves close attention to safety considerations, such as building code compliance, inspections of structural elements and fire protection measures, and research into environmental considerations.

Also, keep in mind that a build often has to be approved by multiple departments within a county. It may take the signed authorization of your local Planning, Health, Water, Engineering, Wastewater Management and Building Divisions to get going. There are almost always some exceptions or additions based on the location and purpose of the structure, so be prepared for the occasional curveball.

The land you’re building on itself can pose challenges as well. You may need an additional grading or grubbing permit if you’re moving a large amount of dirt or clearing land. If you’re close to water, shoreline setback requirements will need to be in place.

The Timeline

When all requirements are met for a safe structure, the permit will be approved. But keep in mind that the process typically takes a minimum of eight months. That’s why all paperwork must be completed accurately before submitting your application to save time. We’re frequently asked about timelines, and the reality is it all depends on your particular situation. 

During this stage, patience and transparency are key. It’s a good idea to keep in touch with all of the reviewing agencies so you’re aware of the progress made or any delays and the reasons behind them. 


As Codes Change, Requirements May Change


When building codes are altered, the permit you initially applied for could become obsolete or inadequate. Typically, people are grandfathered into this process, but the initial permit request may be based on inaccurate or incomplete information. That’s why it’s important to remain informed about developments in industry standards and regulations to ensure that all necessary paperwork is in order. Without appropriate permits, workers can be at risk for liability should any issue arise. If you’re the Owner-Builder, this ultimately means you’re liable, too. 

This is a big part of why it’s beneficial to have an HPM Home Planning Consultant on your side as your advocate! We’ll help you stay on top of everything so you can avoid delays as much as possible and get into your new home sooner.



Ready to Begin Your Homeownership Journey?

Contact our HPM Home Planning Consultants to schedule a consultation.

Hilo: (808) 319-2249   |   Waimea & Kona: (808) 762-6246   |   Kaua‘i, O‘ahu & Maui: (808) 319-2421



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