Work Exempt from Permits
Some types of building, electrical, mechanical, and plumbing work do not require a building permit from the City of Berkeley.
All construction work and most repairs require building permits unless specifically exempted. You will need a permit if you want to construct, enlarge, alter, repair, move, demolish or change the occupancy of a building or structure. You will also need a permit to erect, install, enlarge, alter, repair, remove, convert or replace any electrical, gas, mechanical or plumbing system.
Some types of building, electrical, mechanical, and plumbing work do not require a building permit from the City of Berkeley. Even if you don’t need a permit, you do still need to follow the California Building Standards Code and applicable Berkeley City laws and ordinances.
If the work you are planning to do is not on the list below, you should assume that you will need a permit from the Permit Service Center.
Building projects that do not require a permit
- One story detached accessory structures used as tool and storage sheds, playhouses and similar uses, provided the floor area is not greater than 120 square feet.
- Fences under 7 feet high do not require a building permit. Fences over 6 feet high require a zoning permit.
- Oil derricks.
- Retaining walls that are not over 4 feet in height measured from the bottom of the footing to the top of the wall, unless supporting a surcharge or holding flammable or combustible Class I, II or IIIA liquids.
- Water tanks supported directly on grade if the capacity is not greater than 5,000 gallons and the ratio of height to diameter or width is not greater than 2:1.
- Sidewalks and driveways not more than 30 inches above adjacent grade, and not over any basement or story below and are not part of an accessible route.
- Painting, papering, tiling, carpeting, cabinets, counter tops, and similar finish work.
- Temporary motion picture, television and theater stage sets and scenery.
- Prefabricated swimming pools accessory to a Group R-3 occupancy that are less than 24 inches deep, are not greater than 5,000 gallons and are installed entirely above ground.
- Shade cloth structures constructed for nursery or agricultural purposes, not including service systems.
- Swings and other playground equipment accessory to detached one- and two-family dwellings.
- Window awnings in Group R-3/ U occupancies, supported by an exterior wall that do not project more than 54 inches from the exterior wall and do not require additional support.
- Nonfixed and movable fixtures, cases, racks, counters and partitions not over 5 feet 9 inches in height.
- For Group R-3 occupancies including single family homes and duplexes: Decks not exceeding 200 square feet in area, that are not more than 30 inches above grade at any point, are not attached to a dwelling and do not serve the exit door required by Section R311.4 of the California Residential Code.
Electrical projects that do not require a permit
- Cord and plug connected temporary decorative lighting that is listed by an approved code safety agency (such as UL).
- Reinstallation of attachment plug receptacles, but not the outlets.
- Repair or replacement of branch circuit overcurrent devices of the required capacity in the same location.
- Installation or maintenance of communications wiring, devices, appliances, apparatus or equipment.
- Minor repair work, including the replacement of lamps or the connection of approved portable electrical equipment to approved permanently installed receptacles.
- Electrical equipment used for radio and television transmissions. This exception does not apply to equipment and wiring for a power supply and the installation of towers and antennas.
- Installation of any temporary system required for the testing or servicing of electrical equipment or apparatus.
Mechanical projects that do not require a permit
- Portable heating appliances.
- Portable ventilation equipment.
- Portable cooling units.
- Steam, hot or chilled water piping within any heating or cooling equipment regulated by the California Mechanical Code.
- Replacement of any minor part of an appliance that does not alter its original approval or make it unsafe.
- Portable evaporative cooler.
- Self-contained refrigeration system containing 10 pounds or less of refrigerant and actuated by motors of 1 horsepower or less.
- Refrigerating equipment that is part of the equipment for which a permit has been issued pursuant to the requirements of this code.
- A unit refrigerating system.
Plumbing projects that do not require a permit
- Stopping leaks in drains, water, soil, waste or vent pipe. However, if you need to replace a concealed trap, drain pipe, water, soil, waste or vent pipe, you will need to get a permit.
- Clearing stoppages or repairing leaks in pipes, valves or fixtures.
- Removal and reinstallation of toilets, as long as the repairs do not involve or require the replacement or rearrangement of valves, pipes or fixtures.