Frequently Asked Questions

1. When is a permit required?

NOTE: Local jurisdiction may have adopted more stringent requirements

Pennsylvania Uniform Construction Code – Section 403.42a
“Any owner or authorized agent who intends to construct, enlarge, alter, repair, move, demolish or change the occupancy of a commercial building, structure and facility or to erect, install, enlarge, alter, repair, remove, convert or replace any electrical, gas, mechanical, or plumbing system regulated by the Uniform Construction Code shall first make application to the building official and obtain the required permit.”

2. What type of work is exempt by the PA UCC from permit requirements?

NOTE: Local jurisdiction may require permits for the following

  • Utility and miscellaneous use structures, (detached garages, sheds), that are accessory to detached one family dwellings and less than 1000 sq. ft. (zoning approval might be required).
  • All residential alterations under Section 104 if there are no structural or egress changes.
  • Agricultural buildings as defined by Act 45 Section403.1 (b) (4), (zoning approval might be required).
  • Recreational cabins used for noncommercial purposes.
  • Fences that are not more than 6 feet high, (zoning approval might be required).
  • Retaining walls not over 4 feet high.
  • Sidewalks and driveways that are 30” or less above adjacent grade and not placed over a basement or story below it.
  • Painting, papering, tiling, carpeting, cabinets.
  • Swings and playground equipment accessory to one and two family dwellings.
  • Minor electrical repairs and maintenance.
  • Clearing of plumbing stoppages or repairing of leaks as well as removal and reinstallation of water closets.
  • Prefabricated swimming pools that are less than 24” deep.

3. How do I certify an existing building?

An existing building MUST have a current Certificate of Occupancy in order for a building permit to be issued for any UCC related repairs, alterations, additions, or change in occupancy classification. If the building was constructed prior to April 27th, 1927, and documentation of such can be verified and provided to the BCO, the building may be considered to be legally occupied for the current occupancy classification. Below are the PA UCC references:

TITLE 34 – Labor and Industry
§ 403.28. Uncertified buildings

(a) Under section 902(b)(6) of the act (35 P. S. § 7210.902(b)(6)), an uncertified building that was built before April 27, 1927, is deemed to be legally occupied until the owner proposes to renovate, add an addition, alter or change the occupancy of the building. The renovation, addition, alteration or change in occupancy must comply with the Uniform Construction Code.

(c) The following apply to uncertified buildings where the Department does not have jurisdiction and which are not governed under subsection (a):

  1. A construction code official shall issue a certificate of occupancy to an uncertified building if it meets the requirements of the latest version of the “International Existing Building Code” or Chapter 34 of the “International Building Code.” The construction code official shall utilize the code for the municipality which best applies, in the official’s professional judgment.
  2. A construction code official may deny the issuance of a certificate of occupancy if the official deems that a building is unsafe because of inadequate means of egress, inadequate lighting and ventilation, fire hazards or other dangers to human life or to public welfare.
  3. A municipality governed under this subsection may utilize the standards of subsection (b) for the issuance of certificates of occupancy to uncertified buildings if the municipality adopts an ordinance.

In order for the BCO to issue a Certificate of Occupancy, a design professional should complete the Compliance Alternative Work Sheets in the IBC 2009, Section 3412, or the Performance Compliance Methods Work Sheets in the IEBC 2009, Chapter 13. The design professional shall base this study on the most recent occupancy classification of the building.

Once the Work Sheets are completed, and if a passing score is achieved, the work sheets can be submitted for review by the BCO. If the BCO deems that the building meets adequate life safety requirements, the BCO may issue a C of O for the building for the most recent occupancy classification.

Once the building is certified, the process of plan review and building permit approval may begin for future repairs, alterations, additions and changes in occupancy classifications.

4. What are the requirements for stamp and signature of drawing?

The PA UCC requires that drawings shall be prepared under the Architects Licensure Law and the Engineer, Land Surveyor and Geologist Registration Law. Each of these regulations has requirements for stamps and signature:

ARCHITECTS: Each Page of Drawings submitted shall be stamped by the design professional that is registered within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and at least the first page shall bear the signature, stamp and date of issuance by that design professional:

ENGINEERS: Each Page of Drawings submitted shall be stamped, signed, and dated by the engineer that is registered within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

PA UCC § 403.42a – Permit application

(c) A licensed architect or licensed professional engineer shall prepare the construction documents under the Architects Licensure Law (63 P. S. §§ 34.1-34.22), or the Engineer, Land Surveyor and Geologist Registration Law (63 P. S. §§ 148-158.2). An unlicensed person may prepare design documents for the remodeling or alteration of a building if there is no compensation and the remodeling or alteration does not relate to additions to the building or changes to the building’s structure or means of egress.

Architects Licensure Law (63 P. S. §§ 34.12)

Section 9.141 – Architect’s Seal of Licensure – Requirement
(a) A licensee shall, upon licensure, obtain a metal seal, of the design authorized by the Board, bearing the licensee’s name and license number and the legend, ‘‘Architect.’’ A stamp design identical to the prescribed seal may be obtained and used in lieu of, or in conjunction with, a seal.

(b) The following rules govern the proper use of an architect’s seal:

(2) When an architect issues final or complete documents to a client for the client’s records, or when an architect submits final or complete documents to public or governmental agencies for final review, the seal and signature of the architect who prepared or who personally supervised the preparation of the documents, along with the date of issuance, shall be prominently displayed on the first page of all documents. Facsimile seals shall appear on all subsequent pages of plans.

(3) When an architect’s signature is applied, it shall be applied near or across the seal, but not in a location that obliterates the license number.

Engineer, Land Surveyor and Geologist Registration Law (63 P. S. §§ 148-158.2) 

Section 6 – Practice by Firms and Corporations

The practice of engineering, of land surveying and of geology being the function of an individual or of individuals working in concerted effort, it shall be unlawful for any firm or corporation to engage in such practice, or to offer to practice, or to assume use or advertise any title or description conveying the impression that such firm or corporation is engaged in or is offering to practice such profession, unless the directing heads and employees of such firm or corporation in responsible charge of its activities in the practice of such profession are licensed and registered in conformity with the requirements of this act, and whose name, seal and signature, along with the date of signature, shall be stamped on all plans, specifications, plats and reports issued by such firm or corporation. (6 amended Dec. 16, 1992, P.L.1151, No.151)

5. What is a certificate of occupancy?

After the building official inspects the building or structure and finds no violations of the provisions of this code or other laws that are enforced by the department of building safety, the building official shall issue a Certificate of Occupancy.

Certificate of Occupancy contains the following:

  1. The building permit number.
  2. The address of the structure.
  3. The name and address of the owner.
  4. A description of that portion of the structure for which the certificate is issued.
  5. A statement that the described portion of the structure has been inspected for compliance with the requirements of this code for the occupancy and division of occupancy and the use for which the proposed occupancy is classified.
  6. The name of the building official.
  7. The edition of the code under which the permit was issued.
  8. The use and occupancy, in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 3.
  9. The type of construction as defined in Chapter 6.
  10. The design occupant load.
  11. If an automatic sprinkler system is provided, whether the sprinkler system is required.

6. What is a temporary structure?

  1. erected for the purpose of participation in a fair, flea market, arts and crafts festival or other public celebration.
  2. less than1,600 square feet in size.
  3. erected for a period of less than 30 days.
  4. not a swimming pool, spa or hot tub.

7. What is a recreational cabin?

  1. utilized principally for recreational activity;
  2. not utilized as a domicile or residence for any individual for any time period;
  3. not utilized for commercial purposes;
  4. not greater than two stories in height, excluding basement;
  5. not utilized by the owner or any other person as a place of employment;
  6. not a mailing address for bills and correspondence; and
  7. not listed as an individual’s place of residence on a tax return, driver’s license, car registration or voter registration.