Review Plans Before Plan Checks

            My father was a building official for a city in Southern Florida.  He had done hundreds of plan checks. 

            I once asked him the percentage of plans that get approved the first time without corrections, and he said that about one out of every seven or eight first-time plan checks are successfully approved.

            He said that many of the same corrections occur over and over again, and if the builders would simply spend an hour reviewing their plans before submittal they could save the cost of a two to four-week added delay between the time the plans are submitted and the time they are actually approved. 

            For example, every city in southern Florida requires a products approval package to be submitted with the building plans for plans review because of wind-loading requirements. 

            Single and double-hung windows, sliding glass doors, and garage doors must be approved by a national testing lab for a particular sized opening. 

            A special brand and model of an 8’-0” wide sliding glass door, for example, can be approved ahead-of-time up to a 10’-0” width if the proper paperwork is submitted.

            This does not mean that a brand and model of a 10’-0” wide sliding glass door unit isautomatically approved simply because it is approved up to 8’-0” wide.

            The problem that often occurs is the builder submits the products approval package along with the building plans without checking whether the products approval package actually matches the opening sizes in the building structure as shown on the plans. 

            The loose and disorganized stack of papers then shows an approved 8’-0” wide sliding glass door units, but for a house that has a 10’-0” wide slider at one of its bedrooms.

            In this case, the plans checker must then return the plans to the builder for correction. 

            The sliding glass door opening is then reduced on the plans to 8’-0”, or the architect specifies another sliding glass door that is approved up to 10’-0” wide.

            If the builder would spend a little time going through the products approval package before plans submittal, many corrections like this example could be eliminated.

            In southern Florida, every set of building plans must show the minimum finish floor elevation to qualify for flood insurance under FEMA standards.

            This finish floor elevation is taken off the lot survey and usually requires the finish floor to be at least 18 inches above the crown of the street, although this dimension changes for different communities.

            Building plans often come into a city or county without showing the finish floor elevation and the plan checker must then return the set of plans to the builder for correction. 

            Again, in southern Florida, many other omissions on building plans occur over and over, such as not showing the garage slab seven inches below the house slab elevation, not identifying an egress window as a secondary means of escape, and not calling-out 60 square inches of garage vent per car, etc. (check current building codes for your location).

            The builder must then pay construction loan interest for every day the plans are not approved, while the architect is correcting mistakes and omissions found during city plan check.

            Many cities and counties have a generic check list of building code violations that commonly occur during plan checking.  One of the questions a builder should ask when choosing an architect is whether the architect has a plan review check list for the city or county in which the project is located, and for other adjacent cities as well.

            The builder should also begin compiling their own plan review checklist expanded from the city or county version, so the plans can be reviewed in-house for code violations before submittal.    

Note: For builders, architects, interior designers, tradespersons, college professors, and students around the world viewing these construction blogs and videos, go to my You Tube channel at Barton Jahn to see longer videos.

Author: Barton Jahn

I worked in building construction as a field superintendent and project manager. I have four books published by McGraw-Hill on housing construction (1995-98) under Bart Jahn, and have eight Christian books self-published through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). I have a bachelor of science degree in construction management from California State University Long Beach. I grew up in Southern California, was an avid surfer, and am fortunate enough to have always lived within one mile of the ocean. I discovered writing at the age of 30, and it is now one of my favorite activities. I am currently working on more books on building construction.

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