Residential Construction

When do I need a Building Permit?

South Whitehall Township adopted Pennsylvania’s Uniform Construction Code known as Act 45 of 1999, on June 16, 2004 with Ordinance No. 797. Ordinance 937, adopted August 17, 2011, regulates building permits. There are some exemptions, which are listed below. For residential construction, the building code of record is the International Residential Code 2015, more commonly called the IRC 2015. The IRC applies to the construction, alteration, movement, enlargement, repair, equipment, use and occupancy, location removal and demolition of detached one- and two-family dwellings, and townhouses not more than three stories in height above grade with a separate means of egress and their accessory structures.

Permit Requirements and Exemptions

  • An owner or authorized agent who intends to construct, enlarge, alter, remove, move, demolish, or change the occupancy of a residential building, or erect, install, enlarge, alter, repair, remove, convert, or replace an electrical, natural gas, mechanical or plumbing system regulated by the Uniform Construction Code shall apply for a permit.
  • An emergency repair or replacement of equipment may be made without first applying for a permit if a permit application is submitted within 3 business days of the repair or replacement.

General Exclusions

The following structures, if the structure has a building area of less than 500 sq. ft. outside dimension, and is accessory to a detached one family dwelling:

  • Carports
  • Detached private garages
  • Greenhouses
  • Sheds

Note: The above structures would require zoning permits.

  • Installation of tubing, piping, and propane gas burning appliances, equipment or fixtures related to liquefied petroleum gas under the Propane and Liquefied Petroleum Gas Act.
  • Fences that are no more than 6 feet high. (Fences require Fence or Zoning permits depending on their size).
  • Retaining walls that are not over 4 feet high measured from the lowest grade to the top of the wall unless the wall supports a surcharge.
  • Water tanks supported directly on grade if the capacity does not exceed 5,000 gallons and the ratio of height to diameter or width does not exceed 2 to 1.
  • Sidewalks and driveways 30 inches or less above grade. (These require Zoning and or Driveway permits).
  • Exterior or interior painting, papering, tiling, carpeting, flooring, cabinets, counter tops, and similar finish work.
  • Prefabricated swimming pools that cannot hold 24 inches of water or more.
  • Swings and other playground equipment accessory to a one or two-family dwelling.
  • Window awnings supported by an exterior wall which do not project more than 54 inches from the exterior wall and does not require additional support.
  • Replacement of glass in any window or door.
  • Installation and replacement of a window, door, garage door, storm window, or storm door in the same opening if the dimensions of the framing are not altered. The installation of means of egress and emergency escape windows may be made in the same opening, without altering the dimensions or framing of the original opening if the required height, width or net clear opening of the previous window or door assembly is not reduced.
  • Replacement of existing roof material without structural changes to the roof framing.
  • Replacement of existing siding.
  • Repair or replacement of any part of a porch or stoop that does not structurally support a roof located above the porch or stoop. (If the value of this work exceeds $250.00 it will require a Zoning permit).
  • Installation of roll or batt insulation.
  • Replacement of exterior rain gutters and downspouts.
  • Installation of a deck without a roof where it is less than 30 inches or less above grade measured horizontally 36 inches at any point from the edge of the deck. (All decks will require a Zoning permit).

Electrical Exclusions

  • Replacement of lamps or the connection of approved portable electrical equipment to approved permanently installed receptacles.
  • Replacement of a receptacle, switch or lighting fixture rated at 20 amperes or less and operating at less than 150 volts to ground with a like or similar item. This does not include the replacement of receptacles where ground-fault circuit interrupter protection is required.
  • Replacement of installed electrically operated equipment such as doorbells, communication systems and any motor operated device.
  • Installation, alteration or rearrangement of communications wiring.
  • Replacement of dishwashers.
  • Replacement of kitchen range hoods.
  • Installation of battery operated smoke detectors.

Mechanical Work Exclusions

  • A portable heating appliance.
  • Portable ventilation appliances.
  • Steam, hot or chilled water piping within any heating or cooling equipment governed under the Uniform Construction Code.
  • Replacement of any minor part that does not alter approval of equipment or make the equipment unsafe.
  • Self-contained refrigeration systems containing 10 pounds or less of refrigerant or that are put into action by motors of 1 horsepower or less.
  • Portable evaporative coolers.
  • A portable fuel cell appliance that is not connected to a fixed piping system and is not inter connected to a power grid.

Plumbing Work Exclusions

  • Replacement of bib valves if the replacement hose bib valves are provided with an approved atmospheric vacuum breaker.
  • Refinishing of existing fixtures.
  • Replacement of ball cocks.
  • Repair of leaks.
  • Clearance of stoppages.
  • Replacement of faucets or working parts of faucets.
  • Replacement of valves other than shower or combination shower/bath valves.
  • Replacement of traps.
  • Replacement of a water closet, lavatory, or kitchen sink.
  • Replacement of domestic clothes washers and dishwashers.

Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning Exclusions

  • Replacement of motors, pumps, and fans of the same capacity.
  • Repair and replacement of heating, supply and return piping and radiation elements, which do not require rearrangement of the piping system.
  • Repair and replacement of duct work.
  • Replacement of clothes dryers if there is no change in fuel type, location or electrical requirements.
  • Replacement of stoves and ovens if there is no change in fuel type, location or electrical requirements.

Ordinary repairs do not require building permits. The following are not ordinary repairs and do require a building permit:

  • Cutting away of a wall, partition, or portion of a wall.
  • The removal, cutting, or relocation of a structural beam or load-bearing member.
  • The removal or change of any required means of egress, or rearrangement of parts of a structure affecting the egress requirements.
  • The addition to, alteration of, replacement or relocation of any standpipe, water supply, sewer, drainage, drain leader, gas, soil, waste, vent, or similar piping, electrical wiring, or mechanical.

What permits do I need to submit for new home construction?

  • Building/Zoning Permit
  • Grading Plan as may be required by Planning
  • Plot Plan
  • Electrical Permit (for home)
  • Electrical Permit (for well and/or septic pump if applicable)
  • Plumbing Permit (must be applied for by a licensed master plumber)
  • HVAC Permit
  • Driveway/Curb/Sidewalk Permit
  • Tapping Permit (only required if connecting to municipal water system)
  • Sanitary Sewer Privileges Permit (only required if connecting to municipal sewer system)
  • Street Excavation Permit (if applicable)
  • Construction Water Permit (if applicable)
  • On-lot Septic Permit (only required if installing an on-lot system)
  • Well (Plumbing) Permit (only required if installing an on-lot water well), including plot plan with well, septic, and property line locations

What type of plans and/or construction details do I need to submit with my building permit?

Two copies of the plot plan containing the following information:

  • Scale that the plan is drawn to, for example: 1″ = 30″
  • Building setback dimensions to property lines
  • Location of driveway
  • Location of well and/or septic system if applicable
  • Street address and tax parcel number
  • Property dimensions and north point
  • Location and dimensions of all accessory buildings
  • All streets, alleys, right-of-ways, and easements

Building elevations and/or building height calculations sufficient to determine that the building does not exceed thirty-five feet in height when measured from the average elevation of the finished grade at the perimeter of the building to the highest point of the building.

Two complete sets of the building plan containing the following information:

a) Foundation and framing plan (one view as cross sectional) indicating:

  •  Stair detail – rise, run, width, handrail and guards
  •  Bedroom egress window compliance
  •  Smoke detector location
  •  Carbon Monoxide Alarm locations
  •  Door type and size between the house and garage
  •  Indicate tempered glass in all hazardous locations
  •  Stair illumination
  •  Exterior foundation drain system
  •  Size, thickness and depth (below grade thirty-six inch minimum) of footings
  •  Location, size and thickness of isolated piers
  •  Size of foundation walls and method of damp proofing or waterproofing
  •  Size, location and depth of anchor bolts to sill plate
  •  Height of backfill against foundation wall
  •  Sill plate size and type
  •  Thickness of basement and garage slab and type of vapor barrier under all  interior slabs
  •  Size of floor joists, span and distance of repetitive member
  •  Type and thickness of floor sheathing
  •  Size of wall studs
  •  Size of lintels or headers
  •  Exterior wall covering (provide details of masonry) and insulation
  •  Delineation of Shear Walls
  •  Interior finish on wall and ceiling
  •  Roof ventilation
  •  Pitch of roof
  •  Size of rafters, span and distance of repetitive member (same for truss)
  •  Type and thickness of roof sheathing
  •  Type of roof covering
  •  Access to all attic areas
  •  Size, type and span of all girders
  •  Size and type of girder supports and method of anchorage

b) Provide heating, ventilating, and air conditioning information and/or designs
c) Provide information on which Energy path will be used, along with the design, notes, and/or calculations to support the path.

What other information and/or applications do I need to submit with my
building permit?

  • Serial number verifying that a PA One Call was made. The phone number for the PA One Call System is 1-800-242-1776.
  • Each builder/contractor shall obtain a South Whitehall Township Business Privilege License.
  • Each builder/contractor shall submit a copy of their Certificate of Insurance showing Workmen’s Compensation insurance coverage OR a notarized affidavit indicating Workers Compensation insurance is not required.

How and when do I schedule inspections?


  • Footers – before you pour
  • Foundation – before you backfill (a separate pre-concrete pour inspection of forms and rebar required as necessary)
  • Framing – after plumbing, electrical, and heating and/or air condition are roughed in
  • Insulation – before drywall and/or wall coverings
  • Wallboard – before spackle
  • Final – when job is complete


  • Rough – boxes mounted, wire cut in and grounds spliced.
  • Final – when job is complete
  • Service inspection for new or updated main electrical service equipment.


  • Underground water/sewer service piping – before you backfill
  • Rough – after all piping is installed, before it is concealed.
  • Well only – submit test report indicating that the water is safe to drink (potable)
  • Final – when job is complete

Who do I contact if I have a question?

Community Development Office at 610-398-0401