With few exceptions for minor equipment repairs, renovations and certainly new construction of a pool or spa will require a municipal building permit from your city or county.
The building permit and subsequent building department inspections serve several purposes. Permits protect the consumer by assuring that the proposed work is planned and completed according to the applicable codes and rules. The proposed pool location will be checked for encroachment into setbacks and easements. The permit fees pay for building department operations. Cities issuing permits also verify that the permit applicant is properly licensed to perform the work.
Besides the city or county permit, there are other pool and spa-related permits. For example, if a pool or spa is planned in a protected or regulated area, such as the Coastal Development Zone, it may require a federal permit for review and approval of that location.
Another important permitting entity is the Florida Department of Health (FDOH). The FDOH is responsible for issuing annual operating permits for all Florida pools and spas.A TYPICAL BUILDING PERMIT PROCESS FOR A NEW POOL OR SPA
Notice of Commencement (N.O.C.) – The pool contractor, prior to the start of the permitting process, will file a N.O.C. with the county. This is a standard procedure that the State of Florida requires. In brief, the basic purpose of the N.O.C. is to have as part of public record, the name and address of the Owner, pool contractor, and other pertinent information. A filed N.O.C. is required to obtain a municipal building permit. You will not need to submit plans for a N.O.C., just fill out the forms and pay a fee. The N.O.C. is typically submitted to the local county clerk or appraiser’s office for recording. Each county in Florida may have a slightly different N.O.C. application, so you will need to check with your local authpority s to their specific guidelines and forms. Most N.O.C. forms are readily available online from your local building department’s website.
Submitting a Permit Application – With over 600 building departments in the State of Florida, you will find that each city has its own forms, fees and procedures for obtaining a municipal building permit. To save time doing it themselves, many pool contractors use permit runners or permit expediters to submit the permit applications and documents. Runners and expediters are experienced dealing with building departments and can be a wise investment to process a building permit application faster.
Building permit application forms may be obtained online either at the building department office or most cities have these available online. There may be a permit application form for each discipline (plumbing, electric, mechanical, etc.) You will need the permit applications filled out and signed by the pool contracting company’s qualifier and/or the Owner. These signatures usually need notarization.
The permit fees and how they are calculated also differ from city to city. They can be calculated on the square footage, value of contract, type of work, or combination of these.
When submitting your building permit application, you will need to submit proof the N.O.C. was filed, and submit the appropriate number of sealed plans your city requires. The city may also require brochures of certain products, such as pool heaters and heat pumps.
Plans and Plan Review – Pool and spa plans, also known as drawings, shop drawings, and blueprints, are produced and sealed by an aquatic engineer. Plans submitted to the city when applying for a municipal building permit will be reviewed by various building department disciplines such as zoning, plumbing, electrical, mechanical, structural, fire and others. Each plan reviewer will check that the plans comply with codes such as the Florida Building Code and rules specific to that city.
If something in the plans you submitted does not meet code requirements, the reviewer will provide ‘comments’ for you to address. Some cities will notify you by phone or email, while others will rely on you to check their online permitting site for a permit status update. You will usually need to resolve any comments from that particular discipline before it will be forwarded to the next discipline for review.
Correcting problems with plans can be a time consuming and frustrating task. The reviewer may not be as familiar as you might expect on certain pool-related work. They may erringly use an incorrect code for the review and make comments that are mistaken. Many times they will want the plans reproduced and sealed again by the aquatic engineer. Ultimately, you will need to resolve each and very comment and this could take weeks, or even months. You need to manage your client’s expectations on the time for permit processing, as you have no control over how long this will take.
Besides the plans, the building permit applicant may be required to provide a property survey or site plan, a geotechnical soil boring report, or other documents.
Permit Issuance and Inspections – When the permit is issued, you will receive a permit card or document, and permit-set of plans that must be maintained on the jobsite at all times. These documents are usually stored in a plastic, weatherproof bag, and then placed into a permit box that the contractor will mount on the jobsite in a conspicuous place.
As the job progresses, the contractor will call the city for inspections during incremental stages of construction. The inspector will need to access the plans and permit card, to sign off for a satisfactory inspection or to document comments for a failed inspection. The city may require the contractor to be onsite for an inspection. While it may seem like a waste of time to wait around for the building department inspector, the contractor’s input while the inspector is onsite may prevent time delays and costs for reinspections if the contractor can convince the inspector to pass the inspection.
When the construction work is completed, the contractor will call for each discipline to do a ‘final’ inspection. The last final inspection is usually the ‘final building inspection’. If this inspection is satisfactory, the contractor will receive a Certificate of Completion, or a similar document showing that it passed. This documentation is also commonly referred to generically as a C.O., or certificate of occupancy.
Pool and Spa Operating Permits - The Florida Department of Health (FDOH) is the regulating agency in Florida for all commercial pools and spas. FDOH must issue an operating permit before a new pool or spa, or modified existing pool or spa, can be opened to bathers for public use. PRIOR to submitting the permit application and plans to the municipal building department, a FDOH Application for Swimming Pool Operating Permit Form DH4159 and a set of plans must be submitted to the FDOH for review.
The pool contractor will submit the required FDOH forms, plan review fee (fee varies by county) and operating permit fee, and a set of plans to the local county FDOH office to review the plans for critical safety items. The pool contractor does need to wait for the FDOH plan review to be completed before submitting the pool plans to the local municipal building department for a building permit.
When the FDOH completes their plan review, the FDOH will send a ‘Letter of Compliance’ with any comments to the new pool applicant and the local municipal building department. Deficiencies noted on the FDOH letter must be corrected prior to the final FDOH inspection at the end of the project.
Upon completion of the work, satisfactory final inspections and issuance of a Certificate of Completion from the building department, the pool contractor will contact the FDOH for an inspection. Upon passing the FDOH inspection, the FDOH will issue an operating permit for the pool or spa and the facility may be opened for bather use.