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Hold that hammer: got a permit?

Warm weather seems to bring out a fascination with tools. And it's no fun to have tools unless you can build something. So with tool time come home improvements. Who can resist the temptation to visit a do-it-yourself store and dream about all the fun projects that look so easy?

Even the most noted klutz is suddenly tempted to build a deck or fence or install a sprinkler system. After all, if we mess up, we can always call the professional. Right?

From eavesdropping on neighborhood conversations, it's evident not many people actually know what may and may not be done without a permit from the city.

Here is some general information to assist you; however, it is highly recommended you call Barry Critoph, residential plan reviewer/permit writer, at 892-5254 for information before you hit that first nail.

A homeowner doesn't need a permit to install a sprinkler system, according to Critoph. However, to hook it up to city water or reclaimed water, you must install a backflow system to prevent contamination of your inside water supply, and that requires a plumbing permit costing $30.25.

If you hook into reclaimed water, additional fees are required. The only other requirement noted by Critoph is that your sprinkler system cannot sprinkle your neighbor's yard.

A well requires approval by Swiftmud, the Southwest Florida Water Management District. Then the city requires an electrical permit for $30.25 for a pump. Call Swiftmud at (800) 423-1476 for details.

A shady wooden deck sounds inviting, but getting one is going to be a challenge if you don't have a roomy lot. In a nutshell, there is a fire concern if every neighbor suddenly decides to install a backyard wooden deck. Homes here are close together, and deck-to-deck fires could become a reality in an extreme case if not controlled, said Critoph.

There are setback and tie-down rules. There is a 25-foot setback from your front property line, 6-foot setback on sides and 20-foot setback in the rear. Your deck must also withstand winds up to 100 mph.

Assuming you meet the above criteria, you can take two copies of your site plan, floor plan and cross-section plan to 475 Central Ave. and apply for a permit. The permit costs $33 for the first $1,000 of work or materials. There is a $20 plan review fee and if installing a permanent roof, add a 1-cent-per-square-foot radon fee.

All fences require permits, and Critoph said there are numerous regulations concerning them. The best advice is to call him before you buy.

Briefly, fences, including those surrounding pools, must be 4 to 6 feet high. Fences in front yards may be a maximum 4-foot height. The permit cost is $33 for the first $1,000 worth of work or materials.

Other restrictions involve vision corners, or the ability to see around fences. Waterfront homes have even more restrictions, such as a 3-foot maximum height or a 50-percent see-through requirement. Critoph suggests you decide what you want, then call or visit him. His hours on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday are 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday; phone 892-5254.

Some may be tempted still to ignore permitting and proceed to make a home improvement. Critoph said you may want to note that an inspector could require you to tear it down or an insurance company may be reluctant to reimburse you for damage by floods, wind, rot or car damage if the improvement is not on public record.

Speaking of tools and fun new projectsthis reporter recently witnessed great neighborhood cooperation on Denver Street NE among three dads, Tom Jones, Mike Sibley and my husband, Bill, who decided to undertake the project of installing a basketball pole and backboard for Tom's son. The fact that son Sam Jones is only 2 months old seemed irrelevant to the determined dads.

The neighborhood moms were informed to keep their distance. This was a man's project. After three hours of collaboration, the dads managed to dig a hole, mix some cement and put the bottom part of the basketball pole into the cement to set for three days. They also added son Sam's footprints to the cement.

At the end of the third day, Sam's dad approached the other dads with a long face. It seems they had put the pole in upside-down.

Not to be discouraged, the three dads gathered again to discuss the situation. After several hours of discussion and observation, one dad found the solution. He picked up a 2-by-4 board and pounded the other poles into the upside-down one until there was a perfect fit.

As the dads stood around admiring their handiwork, the moms were allowed to reappear on the scene. The moms had only one suggestion for the dads: Next time, why don't you read the directions?

Happy early Father's Day, dads! Have a good week! Call us with questions or your own neighborhood anecdotes at 898-0019, category 8930.