Pinole's Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need a Permit?

Building permits are typically required for all structural, electrical, plumbing, or mechanical work whether inside or outside of the building. Permits are usually required for new buildings, additions (bedrooms, bathrooms, family rooms, etc.), residential work (decks, garages, fences, fireplaces, pools, water heaters, etc.), renovations (garage conversions, basement furnishings, kitchen expansions, reroofing, etc.), electrical systems, plumbing systems, HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning) systems. Although a contractor will often secure the necessary permits, the responsibility for obtaining building, mechanical, electrical or plumbing permits lies with the property owner. Before beginning ANY construction or remodeling project, be sure to contact the Building Division. A staff member can verify what permits are needed, the cost and the proper procedure. 

RESIDENTIAL
The following is a partial list of common residential and commercial projects that require Building Permits: 

  • Installation of free-standing fireplaces (wood burning not allowed) 
  • Fireplace inserts 
  • Replacement of hot water heater, furnace or air conditioner 
  • Water softeners 
  • New sewer, water or gas line 
  • Changes or replacement of retaining walls 
  • Room additions 
  • Window Replacement 
  • Fire damage repair 
  • Electric service upgrade, electric service panel relocation, and new wiring or electric outlets 
  • Installation of heat pumps or solar panels 
  • Reconstruction or modification of a dwelling 
  • New siding or new roof 
  • Termite repair work 
  • Pools, spas and hot tubs 
  • Patio covers, decks over 30 inches high OR over 120 square feet OR attached to the house, and gazebos 
  • Permanent affixed or freestanding signs 

COMMERCIAL 

  • Accessibility Upgrades 
  • Change in use 
  • Replacement of hot water heater, furnace or air conditioner 
  • New or replacement electrical panel 
  • New siding or roof 
  • Window replacement 
  • Swimming pool 
  • Tenant Improvements 
Why should I get a permit?
Your home or business is an investment. If your construction project does not comply with the codes adopted by the State of California and the City of Pinole, the value of your investment could be reduced. Property insurers may not cover work done without permits and inspections. Lenders require proof a building permit has been secured and work done without permits typically requires retroactive inspection and documentation, which costs time and money. If you decide to sell a home or building that has had modifications without a permit, you may be required to tear down the addition, leave it unoccupied, or make costly repairs. A property owner who can show that code requirements were strictly and consistently met––as demonstrated by a code official’s carefully maintained records––has a strong ally if something happens to trigger a potentially destructive lawsuit. Your permit also allows the code official to protect the public by reducing the potential hazards of unsafe construction and ensuring public health, safety, and welfare. By following code guidelines, the completed project will meet minimum standards of safety and will be less likely to cause injury to you, your family, your friends, or future owners. 

Another (costly) reason to secure a permit is financial. Retroactive, or after the fact, Building Permits will be assessed a penalty equal to the original permit fee, and work without a permit will be subject to code enforcement citations. 
What types of permits may be issued over the counter?

As of October 1, 2022, the Building Division is pleased to offer the following in-person over-the-counter appointments for same-day permit issuance of:  

  • Residential reroofs 
  • Residential water heater replacements (in-place or replacement with on-demand)  
  • HVAC replacements (like for like)  
  • Electric panel replacements (like for like) 
  • Residential Generators
  • Electric Vehicle Charging Station
  • Residential Swimming pool/spa replaster
  • Window/Door retrofit/repair
  • Residential rooftop solar of below 10kw
Note that remote processing of "over the counter permits" is now offered for the types of permits above. Note this option is not in person, and may take up to seven calendar days for processing.

For more information, and to book an appointment, view the Permitting Process Page
What is the permit process like?
The City of Pinole offers over the counter service for minor permit types. If a permit does not qualify for Over-the-Counter review it will be sent out for third-party plan check. Plans examiners review plot plans, roof plans, elevations, structural details, and truss and engineering calculations to ensure they meet the minimum local and state laws regulating the construction of a building. That includes all auxiliary components, such as electrical, plumbing, mechanical, and State of California energy requirements. For more information, and to book an appointment, view the Permitting Process Page
How do I apply for a refund?

The City of Pinole Building Official may authorize the refund of required permit fees as follows:

BUILDING PERMIT APPLICATIONS
The following applies to the withdrawal of a building permit application prior to issuance of the permit. Prior to plan review commencing, up to 80% of the plan review fees may be refunded. If plan review has commenced, no refund shall be allowed.

ACTIVE BUILDING PERMITS
(a) Unused Building Permit. The following applies upon the canceling of a building permit within three hundred sixty five (365) days after issuance, no work having been done and no inspections having been performed:

  1. If the building permit fee was greater than one hundred twenty-five dollars ($125), eighty percent (80%) of the building permit fee paid shall be refunded.
  2. If the building permit fee was one hundred twenty-five dollars ($125) or less, no refund shall be allowed.

No refunds of plan check fees for issued permits shall be allowed. Any unused plumbing, electrical, or mechanical permit(s) taken in conjunction with a building permit are governed by the refund procedures in subsection (b) of this policy.

(b) Unused Plumbing, Electrical or Mechanical Permits. No refund of fees for these permits (including sub permits issued in conjunction with building permits, and miscellaneous permits) shall be allowed, except for the following:

  1. Upon the canceling of a permit within three hundred sixty-five (365) days after issuance and, where fees paid were in excess of one hundred twenty five dollars ($125), and no work having been done and no inspections performed, the applicant may be allowed a refund of the amount of no more than eighty percent (80%) of the plumbing electrical or mechanical permit(s) fees paid.
  2. If the fees paid were one hundred twenty-five dollars ($125) or less, no refund shall be allowed.

EXPIRED BUILDING PERMITS
Expired Unused Building Permit. When a building permit is requested to be canceled and the permit is expired, a fee of one hundred twenty-five dollars ($125) is required at the time of the cancellation request. A field inspection will be scheduled to confirm that no work was performed. If the result of the inspection confirms that no work was performed, the permit shall be canceled. However, if work is determined to have been performed, an additional inspection fee will be assessed against the permit. Additionally, the work under the scope of the permit may be required to be completed and obtain all requisite inspections. If the permit process is not completed, the matter may be forwarded to the code enforcement officer for further action.

The Building Official shall have the discretion to make any decisions regarding the refund policy for unusual circumstance.  

Refund Policy Last Updated: February 18, 2022

Why do I need a special inspection?
Section 1704.02 of the California Building Code states "Where application is made to the building official for construction as specified in section 105, or 1.89.4, as applicable, the owner or the owner's authorized agent, other than the contractor, shall employ one or more approved agencies to provide special inspections and tests during construction on the types of work specified in section 1705 and identify the approved agencies to the building official.  These special inspections and tests are in addition to the inspections by the Building official that are identified in section 110."

The code also explains those conducting the special inspections must be approved by they building official.  The City of Pinole has a list of approved special inspection agencies which are contained in our Special Inspection Agreement.
Where can I view copies of permits or plans?
To inquire about permits or plans make a public records request through the City Clerk's office.
How do I identify my property lines?
Property lines are established at the time a parcel is created. After permit final for structures that are built on the property, confirmation of property lines must be done by a licensed surveyor.  Contra Costa County has an on-line mapping tool which you can print your APN map to know how long and wide your property is and whether or not there are recorded easements on the property.
How do I reactivate an expired permit?
Every permit issued shall become expired unless the work on the site authorized by such permit is commenced within 12 months after its issuance, or if the work authorized on the site by such permit is suspended or abandoned for a period of 180 days after the time the work commenced. To obtain a new permit and recommence work, please complete the Request to Reactivate an Expired Permit Form.