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How to get an Over the Counter Building Permit

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By Compton Staff
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Insider Pro Tip: Getting an Over the Counter Building Permit


A building permit is often viewed as a nuisance or just another cost associated with construction. The process of obtaining a permit can be challenging, confusing and frustrating. However, building permits are critical to ensure safety and accurate construction. In the wake of a disaster, construction according to building codes and standards can save your life.

Building permits are the way that municipalities enforce their building codes and ensure that at least the minimum structural and safety standards are met. These standards are updated every so often, and are constantly improving the standards of the construction industry, as new materials and methods are introduced.

Obtaining a permit is a shared responsibility between the owner and general contractor. Typically, the general contractor will “pull” a permit, and ensure the work meets the building codes. The owner needs to be aware of this process. Since they will own the work, the owner could be responsible if permits were over looked, and they might pay the price of fines and other issues arise.

In certain tenant improvement projects, the City of Columbus allows for Over the Counter Building permits. This process is much easier and faster in obtaining the required permit to start work. However, it cannot have any structural or major mechanical changes in the scope of the work.

A step by step guide on How to Obtain an Over the Counter Building Permit:

Step 1. Prepare Plans and Application for Permit Submittal

A quality set of drawings that clearly define the work to be done will be required (Over the counter permits are only available for limited scope projects – ie. No structural changes, no additional penetrations for HVAC, Hoods, etc.). The Building Permit Application must be filled out and completed before heading to the Building Department.

Make sure to give your self about 2 hours to complete the following steps…

Step 2. Visit the Building Department

The Columbus Building department is located at:

Building and Zoning Services
757 Carolyn Avenue
Columbus, OH 43224
(614) 645-7433
Open Weekdays: 9:00AM to 4:00PM

Be sure to park near the South Entrance.

Step 3. Get in line to see the right person

Ask for a commercial or residential plans examiner, receive a number, and wait. This might take 5 minutes or it could take 45 minutes.

Step 4. Provide the drawings and explain the project to the Plans Examiner

Explain your project to the plans examiner, clarifying any issues they may have or questions regarding the construction plans. Wait for plans examiner to complete a further in depth review of plans (this could take another 15 or 30 minutes).The plans will be either denied, giving the applicant items to correct and/or directed to normal building permit application, OR accepted, upon which time you’re directed to wait in line for payment.

Step 5. Pay for the permit

After getting your drawings stamped and approved, you will need to sit down and wait for your number to be called a second time. Once your number is called, you will visit the correct station to pay for your permit. The cost of an over the counter permit ranges from $75 to as much as $1200 depending on scope and construction type. You can pay with a credit card of check. This step will take some time as the cashier takes some time keying in all the information from the application.

Step 6. Construct

Congratulations! Now the work begins.


Things to consider:

  • A general contractor is required to……..
  • This permit is for tenant improvements without structural, or mechanical upgrades
  • It may take revisions to the plans or other requirements to obtain
  • Multiple Copies of the plans will be required


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