Residential Permit FAQs

What codes are the State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) enforcing?
The SFMO has adopted the 2009 edition of the International Residential Code (IRC) with a few amendments.  The SFMO will allow energy code compliance to be met through meeting the standards of either Chapter 11 of the 2009 IRC or the 2006 edition of the International Energy Conservation Code.
Where can I obtain a copy of the adopted codes?
The 2009 International Residential Code (IRC) and 2006 International Energy Conservation Code and published by the International Code Council. The code books can be purchased through the International Code Council or other retail bookstores.
Does the code adopted by the SFMO apply to renovations?
No. The regulations apply to new construction and, beginning October 1, 2011, additions over 30 square feet.
Will the code adopted by the SFMO require residential sprinklers?
The law prohibits the SFMO from requiring sprinklers in one and two family residences. Under the adopted rules, sprinklers will be required for three unit townhouses up to 5,000 gross square feet that are not separated by 2 hr fire barriers and townhouses built with four or more units regardless of square footage.  A local government may require sprinklers in one and two family dwellings.
Do I need a residential building permit to place a manufactured home or modular home?
No. Manufactured and modular homes are inspected at the factory. Manufactured homes must be installed by licensed installers and must have an installation decal applied after completion of the set-up. If a manufactured home owner chooses to have an inspection of the installation, he or she should call (615) 741-7192.
Do I need a permit for a manufactured home or modular home?
Only if a custom addition, site built deck, porch or stoop is built next to the home. A Manufactured/Modular Site Work Permit is required for that work. This will be inspected after the work is complete.
Why is the state residential building permit only required in some areas of the state?
When the state residential building permit program was passed, many areas of the state, generally the most populous areas, had a robust residential building code enforcement program in place.  Those jurisdictions may continue to operate as they always have so long as they have a building code that is current within seven years of the most recent edition of the code.  Additionally, a county legislative body may vote to remove the unincorporated areas of the county or a city legislative body may vote to remove the city from the state program. This action must be by a two-thirds vote.
Will the state be enforcing various locally adopted one and two family residential codes?
No. The SFMO will only be enforcing the codes it adopts.  Local governments will be responsible for enforcing any other code or requirement.
Where will builders or property owners go to obtain a building permit?
A list of Issuing Agents, those authorized to issue building permits on behalf of the state, is available here.  Permits may also be purchased at this site.
Do I need other permits if I have a state residential building permit?
The state residential building permit is a building permit only. It is not:
  • Grading or fill approval
  • Determination of flood plain compliance
  • A septic or sewer permit; or
  • An electrical permit.
  • Zoning approval
The permit does not authorize any violation of any state law or regulation or any local ordinance.  A permit only gives you the right to build if you are in compliance with all other state and local laws, regulations and ordinances.
Can a homeowner build his/her own house?
Yes. Pursuant to TCA § 62-6-103, an owner of property may construct a single residence once every two years for his/her own use, as long as it is not for resale, lease or rent without being a licensed contractor.  However, anyone hired by the homeowner whose portion is $25,000 or more would not be exempt from the contractors’ licensing requirements.
How do I check to see if my contractor is licensed?
You can check it online at verify.tn.gov
How long is my permit valid?
Work must be started within 180 days after the permit is issued.  A permit expires upon completion of the work and every building permit expires two years from the date of issuance or upon issuance of a certificate of occupancy, whichever occurs first, unless:  (1) the inspector determines that substantial progress has been made in the work authorized by the permit; and (2) the Commissioner of Commerce and Insurance, or designee thereof, grants an exception in writing after receiving a written request.
When I submit my online permit application, what happens?
Online permit applications are processed by staff of the State Fire Marshal's Office.  You will be contacted by phone to make payment of the fees due and a permit can be emailed to you for temporary use until you receive a permit with an affixed decal in the mail.
Who is responsible for requesting/scheduling an inspection?
The permit holder is solely responsible for requesting an inspection.  Subcontractors should not schedule an inspection.  Homeowners should only schedule an inspection if the homeowner is the permit holder.
How long will it take to get an inspection?
The law requires all inspections to occur within three working days of when the request is made to the inspector, except for footer inspections which are to be performed within one working day of the request.  Additionally, the rules allow any inspection to be waived if an inspection letter approving the work is signed and submitted by an architect or engineer currently registered in the State of Tennessee.
How many inspections will be required?
Three inspections will be required: the foundation prior to pour, the rough-in/framing, and at final construction. If your foundation is to be a concrete slab under a living space with separately poured footing, you will need a fourth inspection.  After October 1, 2011, inspections will also be required on plumbing and mechanical systems.
When should I request an inspection?
  • Foundation Inspection - After poles, piers, trenches or basement areas are excavated and any required forms erected and any required reinforcing steel is in place and supported prior to the placing of concrete. The foundation inspection includes excavations for thickened slabs intended for the support of bearing walls, partitions, structural supports, equipment and special requirements for wood foundations. If rebar is required in the footing or slab, it should be in place prior to the inspection. Monolith poured slabs are inspected the same as a footing.
  • Slab Foundation Other Than a Monolith Pour Inspection - This occurs when a slab is poured that does not have integral footings. An inspection is required in addition to the foundation inspection. The inspection should be requested after excavation, fill material is placed and compacted, and reinforcement and forms are in place. This is not required for garage slabs, only for slabs of living spaces.
  • Rough-In/Framing Inspection - After floor, wall and roof framing; fire stopping; draft stopping; bracing; rough-in plumbing; rough-in mechanical and rough-in electrical are in place. If batt or roll wall insulation is used, it must be in place prior to requesting an inspection. If a plastic vapor barrier is used, it should be installed after the inspection. If loose-fill or spray applied insulation is used, the request should be made before it is installed (a manufacturer’s product data sheet and installation certificate stating the product meets or exceeds the energy code will be required).
  • Final Inspection - after the permitted work is complete and prior to occupancy.
What happens when I call for an inspection and when can I expect to hear from an inspector and get an inspection?
When you call 1-866-283-6191 and select Option 2, you will need your permit number.  At that time, we will call and notify the inspector of the inspection request.  The inspector will then contact the permit holder and schedule a time for the inspection.
Can an inspection be waived?
Any inspection may be waived if an inspection letter approving the work is signed and submitted by an Architect or Engineer currently registered with the State of Tennessee.
Do I have to pay for a re-inspection?
One re-inspection per permit may be performed without any additional fee.  A second or subsequent re-inspection costs $100 each, which may be paid online or to any Issuing Agent.
If I have a complaint about an inspector, who do I call?
You may email a complaint to the Department by clicking here, or you may call the Department at 615-741-7170.
What happens if my contractor or owner permit changes?
If, during the construction process, a property owner hires a contractor or there is a change of contractor, a new permit must be obtained.  A refund of any inspection fees for inspections not performed on the original permit may be requested from the Department.  Refund requests must be made from the Department and not an Issuing Agent.
If my permit gets lost or destroyed, what should I do?
Complete the request form required by the Department of Commerce and Insurance (available at homebuilding.tn.gov) and submit payment of $10 to the Department for issuance of a duplicate building permit.  Only the Department may issue a duplicate building permit.  Issuing Agents may not issue duplicate building permits.
When can a local government opt out of the residential building code requirements?
A city or county may opt out at any time. The law allows a city or county to opt out through the passage, by a two-thirds vote, of a resolution to exempt the city or county. The opt out resolution expires 180 days following the date of the election for the city or county's legislative body. If the subsequent legislative body does not vote to opt out prior to the expiration of the opt out resolution, the SFMO will begin to enforce the residential building code requirements and will enforce them until the city or county decides to enforce residential building codes or passes another opt out resolution.
If a city or county is currently enforcing a one and two family residential code, and does not opt out, will the city or county be affected with respect to its one and two family residential code enforcement?
The SFMO has developed a simple form for cities and counties to complete to become an “exempt” jurisdiction for residential building code enforcement.  As long as the city or county has a code that is current within seven years of the latest edition (other versions can be approved in writing by the SFMO) the jurisdiction will not be affected except to show that it is adequately enforcing its code.  The Department requests 90 days notice if a city or county wants to change who enforces residential building codes to ensure deputy building inspectors and issuing agents are obtained or notified of the changes.
If a city or county does not opt out and does not enforce its own residential code (current within seven years or approved in writing), will the SFMO enforce the one and two family residential code in the jurisdiction?
Yes. The SFMO will utilize contract employees (like it does with the electrical inspection program) and/or agreements with local governments to provide for inspections.  The SFMO has been offering classes to ensure that we have certified inspectors available to perform the required inspections.
What is the cost to a local government for the SFMO to enforce residential building codes?
None. There is no cost to local governments. Inspections are performed by contract employees who are paid by the State.
How do you become an issuing agent?
The Department is advertising for and contracting with entities to be issuing agents. Issuing agents will receive $15 for each permit sold.
What are the benefits for and costs to citizens in a city or county with a qualifying one and two family residential code?
  • First, consumers will have protection from substandard construction and will benefit from the reduced energy costs in soundly constructed homes. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that homes built to a modern code save 30% to 50% in energy usage costs.  Appraisals of energy-efficient homes could be higher than one that does not meet energy standards, which could impact mortgage loan to value ratios positively.
  • Identifying any mistakes before they have been concealed by further construction will make any correction less costly.  Reputable home builders benefit from having standards that apply to all contractors and from enforcement of those standards.
  • Homes built to a residential code are safer.
  • Homes required to properly dispose of waste will protect the environment.
  • New homeowners in cities and counties with codes that are effectively enforced may benefit from an ISO Building Code Effectiveness Grading System premium discount on their homeowner’s insurance.  Homes that are constructed meeting higher standards may suffer less damage in a storm, for example, and in the long term reduced claims would impact risk-based insurance rates.
  • Reduced energy costs more than offset applicable permitting and inspection fees in a very short period of time, which impacts the long-term affordability of a residence.
What is the cost of a permit?
The permit fee is based on the cost of construction. You can use this fee schedule to estimate your permit fee. This fee covers the cost of all required inspections and one free re-inspection. Additional re-inspections cost $100 each.
My question is not answered above, how should I contact the Department?
Click Here to email your question to the Department or you may call 615-741-7170.