City of Pittsburgh Building Permits (Part II)

Don’t get caught without a commercial building permit in Pittsburgh – it can cost you!

Last week we published the article “City of Pittsburgh Building Permits (Part I), which was focused on when you need a Pittsburgh residential building permit, and the process you need to go through in order to get one. This week we’ll continue the discussion and talk about when a commercial building permit is required in Pittsburgh, and what some of the key differences are in obtaining a commercial building permit vs. a residential building permit in the City of Pittsburgh. 

Pittsburgh Commercial Building Permit Questions

Do I need a commercial building permit?

A commercial building permit is required in the City of Pittsburgh if you are planning to do work on any structure larger than a 2-unit building. This includes everything from a triplex (3-units) up to a large office tower in downtown Pittsburgh. A common misconception is that a commercial permit is only required for commercial properties (i.e. properties that have businesses in them), but this is not the case. If you own a rental property with 3 units or more, don’t be caught off guard. Make sure you follow the procedures for applying for a commercial building permit.     

What is the difference between a residential and a commercial building permit in Pittsburgh?

The permit itself isn’t necessarily different, but the application process and the requirements for the work that is being done can be very different. One of the main differences in the application process is that drawings are required to be submitted with the application for a commercial permit. These drawings must be stamped by a Pennsylvania-licensed architect or engineer in order to be considered valid. If you are planning a renovation to a commercial building in Pittsburgh, make sure you keep this in mind as it can be a significant expense. Two hard copies of the stamped drawings are required when submitting the application.

What work does not require a commercial building permit?

Similar to residential permits, there is some work the City of Pittsburgh has stated does not require a commercial building permit. While the list is somewhat extensive, it’s important to call out these common projects that don’t require a commercial building permit:

  • Carpeting
  • Painting
  • Tiling
  • Papering
  • Cabinets
  • Countertops

How do I obtain a commercial building permit?

The process for obtaining a commercial building permit is similar to that of obtaining a residential permit. First, make sure you have all the required documents for your project. Once you’ve gathered all the appropriate documentation, you can submit it either through the OneStopPGH portal online, or you can take it to the OneStopPGH counter at 200 Ross St. in downtown Pittsburgh. After the application and associated documents are submitted, the City will review the application and notify the applicant of any revisions that are required. If no revisions are required, the permit will be issued. For commercial building permits, the City has committed to responding within 30 business days for an initial review, and 15 days for a review of any revisions that were required.

What are the consequences if I do construction work without a permit?

Constructing/remodeling a building without a permit may result in penalties and significant problems. According to the City’s fee schedule, completing work without a commercial building permit carries a penalty of up to 0.2% of the cost of the project, with a minimum fine of $550. It’s also likely that you will have to take out or undo the work that has already been done so that the inspector can check to make sure the work is up to code. That could be a huge extra cost and a big delay to your project.         

When in Doubt, Call the Pittsburgh Permit Office!

If you’re still unsure about whether you need a commercial building permit, or if you aren’t sure what is required in order to submit an application, be on the safe side and call the permit office at 412-255-2175! If you decide that you don’t have time, or just don’t want to deal with the steps involved in getting a Pittsburgh commercial building permit, consider giving us a call to get a no-obligation offer on your property. We are experienced working with the City on construction projects and understand the process. If this is something that interests you, contact McIntosh Management, LP today. We will make you a fair offer that can help take away the stress and time involved with obtaining a commercial building permit!

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