Residential Construction Preparation
For residential projects, the property owner, licensed contractor or the owner's agent (with written permission from the owner) can apply for residential building permits. A building permit is required for most work done to your home, except for some ordinary or minor repairs.
The building permit grants you the legal permission to start construction of a building project. It also allows the Building Inspection Department to enforce the building codes that have been adopted as law by the Commonwealth of Virginia and Chesterﬁeld County.
Residential Construction Codes
Chesterfield County, Virginia, enforces the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code (USBC). The USBC is based on the International Code Council (ICC) international codes. The USBC prescribes building regulations applicable to the construction, repair, renovation, maintenance and/or change of use of buildings and structures or portions thereof. Code books are available free on-line and for purchase at the International Code Council website.
Building codes provide protection to the public from tragedies such as fires, structural collapse and general deterioration of the structures that surround us: our homes, schools, stores and workplaces. Building codes provide the construction industry with uniformity in building materials and practices, that allows builders and suppliers to do business on a larger scale regionally, statewide and nationally. This results in cost savings that are ultimately passed on to the consumer.
The contractor must have a valid business license from a Virginia locality for jobs valued at $25,000 or less. For jobs valued at more than $25,000, the contractor must have a valid Chesterfield County Business License.
Hiring a Contractor
The State of Virginia allows the homeowner to perform all of the construction work without having to hire a licensed contractor. However, many homeowners do not have the time or the knowledge to tackle such an undertaking and therefore hire a contractor to do all or part of the work. Following these few steps can alleviate much anxiety when selecting a contractor:
- Check to See if the Contractor is Licensed - Ask the contractor for a copy of their business license and state contractor’s license, which are required by each city, county and state in order to do business in Virginia. If you are unsure of the validity of the license, you can verify it through the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR) at 804-367-8500.
- Check to See if the Contractor is Fully Insured - Ask the contractor for copies of their certificates of insurance.
- Check with the Local Better Business Bureau and Homebuilders Association - Ask if there have been any complaints filed against the contractor.
- Check to See if the Contractor has a Reputable Business Establishment - Confirm a physical address and local phone number. Call number to verify its validity.
- Inquire About Employees and Sub-Contractors Who Will Be Working on Your Project - Ask the contractor for a copy of their names.
- Ask for References from Previous Clients - Contact referrals whose projects are similar to yours. Ask specific questions regarding timelines, response to concerns and requests, job clean-up, and overall job quality. Ask to see a completed job. Your idea of a job well done may differ from someone else’s.
- Have the Contractor Provide a Contract- Read the fine print; do not assume anything. The contract should include a set of plans, which will help identify the details of your project. The contract should clearly define:
- The name and address of the contractor.
- The contractor's license number, expiration date, license class and any specialty license information.
- A detailed scope of work.
- The price of the job, preferably broken out into specific tasks or subcomponents of the project (including taxes, and contractor fees), and then tallied into a total price.
- The time frame in which the project will be completed, including start date, any milestones which might be important and completion date.
- Payment schedule (example: 10% down due within seven days after signing contract, 40% to be paid within a week after passing the rough framing inspection, and 50% to be paid before the certificate of occupancy is issued).
- Who will obtain the permit.
- Cancellation rights of both parties.
- Penalties for non-performance (if any).
- The warranty, etc.
- Any special materials or finishes.