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Design and Engineering

By David Brenner CEO of Prime Builders


A good design is the most important step in a successful home improvement project. By having a plan, the contractor and the home owner have a guide to follow with expectations made clear for both parties. This will eliminate confusion and result in a successful project. I have many years experience as a draftsman and engineer and can help with both design and engineering needs. In most cases a simple line drawing showing critical locations of important objects such as the location of a block wall, or maybe a fire pit or the locations of footings are all that is needed. More involved drawings may be required, but if we build the project, the cost is free. In isolated cases we may have an architect create working drawings that will be billed directly to the home owner. These types of projects are large and extensive and will require a lot of detail that would best done by a specialty firm.

Home Owners Associations or H.O.A.

If you are a member of a home owners association you need to familiarize yourself to your association rules known as C.C. & R’s. They may have plants, trees, products or processes that are not allowed, and you need to know what they are. As a general rule you will have a form to fill out that will require neighbors in front, each side, and rear to approve the project. You will be required to pay any fees for the project. Prime Builders will create a drawing and all the necessary information that the H.O.A. requires in regards to the construction of the project. We will submit a set of three drawings for you to send to the H.O.A. board. The approval can take from two weeks to a month or more, depending on your association. It is not advised to build without H.O.A. approval, but if you choose to do so, any repercussions will be on you. Also note that many H.O.A.’s have it set up with the City or County to not allow the issue of permits until the H.O.A. signs a release form.


Many home improvement projects require permits. Prime Builders will not knowingly build a project without a permit. Permits are designed to protect you, the home owner and are a third party to verify that the project is built correctly to the City or County standards.

Prime Builders will obtain the permits; customer is required to pay the City or County fees. We do not charge for the service of obtaining them.

This is a list of typical permits

Gas lines to BBQ’s or fire pits, spa’s etc.

Electrical (low voltage not required if 12 volts or less)

Patio covers. This is attached or unattached!

Block walls and retaining walls over three feet

Pilasters and privacy walls

Installation of hot water heaters


Water features

There are more, but these are the basics

Permits are processed through two or more departments.

Planning, Building and Safety, Environmental Heath, Fire, Public Works

Planning wants to know where the project is located on the property. They approve setbacks, or the distances from the sides, rear, and front of the property. Most areas will not allow a patio cover closer than five feet from the sides. Sometimes they are from the post, or the edge of the cover depending on the city. The rear setbacks can be five, ten, or even twenty feet or more. Every city has their own requirements and each neighborhood can differ.

Some areas, such as Colton, as an example requires lot coverage limitations. This can get a little complicated, but basically they do not want more than 25% of a lot covered. We will do the lot coverage calculations when we obtain the permits.

Building and Safety want the engineering of the project. Many simple projects require “boiler plate” or standard engineering which is obtainable to everyone free.

Some projects however require special engineering that have to be submitted to the building dept. with the engineer’s wet stamp. This can cost anywhere from $250.00-$2,500 depending on the complexity of the project.

Environmental Health will require verification of approval if you have a septic tank. They will require a certified drawing showing where the tank and leach lines are located. If you have a drawing it is helpful, but in most cases they have them on file. Drainage is also a concern, as well as the materials used that are environmentally sound.

Fire wants to know if you have updated fire alarms in your home. Some areas will not allow certain trees and plants near the home. Flammable materials are controlled or outlawed. Wood shake roofs are no longer allowed, and in some areas only aluminum patio covers are allowed due to the potential fire problems of a wood cover.

Public works are concerned with the buried utilities and the curbs, gutters and street. Driveways are commonly permitted through Public Works. Note: Public Works requires liability insurance as well as workman’s Compensation insurance. Prime Builders carries both policies, but many contractors do not!

Q. Who can obtain a permit?

A. The home owner can as an “owner/ builder”. This should be done with some thought because many contractors will try to have the home owner obtain the permit because the contractor cannot. This may be for many reasons. The license may be expired or not the proper category, or the contractor does not carry proper insurance, or may not even have a license. If you obtain the permit you are liable for the project, with little or no legal recourse.

The best situation is to hire a licensed contractor to obtain the permits, and be responsible for the project.

Q. How do we know if a contractor is properly licensed and insured?

A. Go to the Contractors State License board www.cslb.ca.gov go to “check by license” button. Put in the contractor’s license number, it should be on his business card, or other documents that he has given you. Prime Builders license number is 795780.

Our license categories are B1 general contractor’s license, C08 Concrete, D03, (C64) for patio covers, C17 for doors and windows, C27 for landscaping. Our Workman’s comp. carrier is Everest National Insurance Company.

Q. When the permits are obtained, what do I do next?

A. Prime Builders will post the permit in a plastic bag on the job site. It must remain there until the job is complete! Please let us know when the inspector signs off for an in process stage. As an example: footing, gas or electric, track inspection, etc. Check the card for his signature or comments and let us know as soon as possible so we can go to the next stage. If the card is in your house the inspector cannot sign it!

When the job is finished, and the final is signed, keep the card in a safe place with the rest of your house documents.

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