Residential Permit Guide

Homeowners & Property Owners       

This information is intended to help our customers obtain building permits.  Sections describing the required steps in the building permit process and required reviews from other agencies are included to assist you in preparing your building plans and other required submittal documents. 

Permits ensure that licensed contractors do the work if the homeowner doesn't handle the job. The City of Cincinnati issues permits only to contractors who are properly licensed.

The information in this guide will help you navigate the permitting process and get you on your way to making your home a better place.

Summary of the Building Permit Process

There are three basic phases to the building permit process, application submittal, plan review and construction inspection.  From the Customer Service Counter, applications received are checked for completeness, all project information is entered into the computer system (Permits Plus) and a permit file (APD number) is created; documents are scanned and routed simultaneously to other City agencies for their approval. During plan review City staff reviews the permit application and building plans for compliance with the Zoning and Building codes.  Plan review must be completed prior to the issuance of a building permit.  Construction inspection takes place after a building permit has been issued.  The Building Inspector approves each part of the project as it progresses, check to see that the work is done safely and in accordance with the approved plans and codes.

Building permits can be processed either as a “regular permit” where the plans are submitted for review, or as a “walk through permit” where the plans are reviewed “on-the-spot” at the Business Development and Permit Center.

 Step 1:  Is the Property located in the City of Cincinnati?

To verify if an address is located within the City of Cincinnati, use the on-line Zoning Map to determine the zoning on your property and what jurisdiction it falls under.   

Check Jurisdiction and Zoning


 Step 2:  Do I Need a Permit?

Permits are required for all new construction, major repairs, alterations, and additions, which include structural, plumbing, mechanical and electrical changes.  An application shall be made by the owner, person in control, or the authorized agent, architect, engineer or contractor employed by the owner or person in control in connection with the proposed work. Once the permit is issued, you can begin work. The permit must be on site and available to the inspector and if your permit has accompanying approved plans, they must be available as well.

Construction and repairs for 1, 2, and 3 family dwellings are exempt from permit requirements as follows:

  1. Fences 6 feet or less in height (Historic)
  2. Repair and replacement of windows (no increase in opening size) or along fire escapes
  3. Roof coverings (no more than two layers of roofing material)
  4. Gutters and downspouts (includes valleys, flashings, soffits, fascia and associated trim work)
  5. Siding
  6. Flag poles
  7. Storage sheds not greater than 100 square feet in area that is no higher than eight (8) feet in average height and located in a rear yard in accordance with the zoning code.

However, when the property or building is locally designated as historic, a Certificate of Appropriateness is required to be obtained from the Urban Conservator (513-352-4848) prior to proceeding with the work.

Separate permits are necessary for plumbing, electrical, fire suppression and alarms, signs, elevators, retaining walls, excavation, filling of land, heating, ventilating, and air conditioning work, whether the work is done in conjuction with other work performed under a building permit or not.  Permits are also required for relocating or replacing plumbing fixtures or plumbing applicances which are built into the structure, such as dishwashers.

When work is done without a permit, the code requires an investigation fee equal to and in addition to the regular permit fee. No portion of the investigation fee shall be refunded. 

Other departments and agencies have regulations which control certain phases of construction.  Generally the City Planning and Buildings Department will forward project plans to these departments and agnecies for review.  It is the applicant's responsibility to secure any permits required by other departments or agencies.  Check here to view the list of permits that are required by other departments, and download information about how to obtain them.

Other Enforcement Areas

Zoning Administration:  The City’s zoning code regulates the use and development of land.  This code is designed to protect property values by preventing the location of incompatible uses in close proximity to one another.  Zoning regulations also help to maintain the character of established neighborhoods and prevents inappropriate activities such as auto repair, in residential areas.  Each application is reviewed for Zoning code compliance.  Phone (513)352-3313.

HVAC and Mechanical:  Heating (furnaces, wood burning stoves, fireplaces, etc.), ventilating, air conditioning, fuel burning and related devices require permits for installation or replacement.  These inspections are designed to minimize the dangers which can be associated with the installation and use of such mechanical equipment.  Phone: (513) 352-3781.

 Plumbing:  By examining all plumbing permit applications and inspecting the work as in progresses, this section strives to protect the health and safety of the community.  All plumbing, including replacement and repair or alteration as well as storm drainage and sewers on private property, is inspected by the Plumbing Section.  Complaints pertaining to plumbing are also handled by this section.  Phone:  (513) 352-3280.

Elevators:  The staff of the Elevator Section examines plans for the installation, alteration, or repair of freight and passenger elevators, sidewalk lifts, ash hoists, dumbwaiters, and moving stairways.  Inspections are performed at the time of the initial installation and periodically thereafter to assure compliance with the Cincinnati Building Code.  Phone (513) 352-3270.

Appeal Board:  Several boards are available to those seeking relief from the interpretations, orders, or rulings of the Department.  Please contact the appropriate board at the following phone numbers:

                Board of Building Appeals: (513) 352-3313
                Board of Housing Appeals: (513) 352-3275
                Zoning Board of Appeals: (513) 352-3313

Inquiries and Complaints:  Please contact the section which has jurisdiction over the problem.  Where code violations do exist, the section will take action to end the violation or to abate the nuisance.  Doing so may involve a combination of personal contacts, official notices, and ultimately the filing of charges in Municipal Court.  All of these actions can take a period of time before the problem is corrected.

Planning: City Planning makes recommendations to the City Planning Commission, Council and citizens regarding the land use and development issues as regulated by zoning, subdivisions, and special overlay district regulations/guidelines or charter.  If your project requires a Zone Change, Historic Conservation Review, Variances or Pre-Development Conference, you should start by contacting the Division of Planning. Please call the following numbers to get more information;

               Zone Changes:  (513) 352-4859
               Historic Conservation Reviews:  (513) 352-4848
               Variances:  (513) 352-4847
               Pre-Development Conference:  (513) 352-4847

Electrical Permit Process

Electrical permits, inspections and plan review are outsourced to the Inspection Bureau, Inc. (IBI).   The IBI process is fully integrated with the City’s electronic building permit processes.  The electrical contractor submits permit applications and plans directly to IBI at their office.  The turnaround time for electrical plan review is 3 days.  The turnaround time for electrical permits (at IBI’s counter) is about 15 minutes.  Permit submittals and scheduling requests can also be submitted on-line.  In extremely rare cases, a developer or builder may choose to undertake these tasks instead of the electrical contractor.  In these cases the developer or builder may complete the necessary forms at the Permit Center and IBI will pick them up.  IBI has staff dedicated to the Permit Center that is immediately accessible via telephone should any questions arise.  For more information please call IBI at (513) 381-6080.

When are plans required?

A complete description of information to be submitted on the plans is specified in Section 1101-21 of the Cincinnati Building Code and Section 4101: 2-1-19 of the Ohio Basic Building Code. Generally, plans, specifications and energy report forms are required for any new building, addition or alteration to an existing building.  All plans must be drawn to scale and must accurately show all detail of proposed work.  A plot plan and/or site survey usually is requested for exterior site work, building alterations, changes of use, new buildings and building additions.  Plans and associated construction documents for new construction and major alteration work for buildings and structures regulated by the Ohio Basic Building Code are required to be prepared by an Ohio registered architect or professional engineer.

Plans for 1, 2 and 3 family detached dwellings, in general, do not require sealed documents, unless prepared by a registered architect or professional engineer. 

Alterations and repairs not involving the analysis or design of the means of egress, structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing or fire protection are exempted from the certification requirements. 

Typically, three (3) sets of documents, drawings and specifications of the proposed work will have to be submitted for review. *For digital submissions we require two (2) sets of hard copies of plans/specs.

An energy report is necessary for alterations involving Energy Code items such as new windows, insulation or a new shower.  Form E is for commercial or more than 3 units.

Which code for which project?

Professional Signature, Stamp and Seal

Plans prepared by a registered architect or a registered professional engineer must be licensed in the State of Ohio and must meet the State of Ohio stamp/seal requirements.  The Zoning/Building Plan Examination Section will provide any further details you may need about plans and requirements.  Please call (513) 352-3313 during working hours.

Architect Seal Requirements                              FAQ Ohio Seal Law                             Ohio P.E.&P.S. Seal Requirements

Step 3:  Consultations (Optional)

 Pre-Development Conference:  

The "Pre-Development Conference" is a staff preliminary review session offered to assist developers with identifying regulatory conditions that impact their project. The City Planning Division facilitates the conference with cooperation from the various permitting agencies such as; Zoning/Plan Examination, Greater Cincinnati Water Works, Metropolitan Sewer District, Cincinnati Fire Department and Department of Transportation and Engineering of the City of Cincinnati. The Pre-Development Conference is not a required part of the permit process.

If your project will require approval through a planning process, you must file a planning application and pay required fees.  Those fees are separate from the building permit fees.  Required planning approvals must be granted before you are allowed to apply for a building permit.  Approval may require action by the Architectural Review Commission or the City Planning Commission.

The Pre-Development Conference does not result in the issuance of a building permit nor are approvals granted during the conference session. Our goal is to help each applicant get his or her project started in the right direction. Staff may suggest ideas to make the building process easier for you.  Asking us questions at the outset may save you processing time.  We’re glad to take the time to help you – it’s part of why we are here in one location. To schedule a Pre-Development Conference please call (513) 352-4847. 

 Helpful Hints Before You Apply From Other Departments

  Step 4:  Do I Need a Registered Contractor?

When performing construction within the City of Cincinnati contractors are required to be registered by the City prior to the start of work.  Building permits cannot be issued until all applicable contractors are registered.  All contractor registration information shall be submitted in a single packet.  Our contractor registration section will review information for accuracy and enter your information into our database.  City registration of State licensed contractors is valid until the expiration of State license, whereas city registration for all other contractors that are registered is valid for a one year period from the date of registration issuance.

The following are exempt from Contractor Registration:

  • The owner of a one, two or three family dwelling shall be exempt from registration as long as the homeowner personally performs the work upon the premises and said owner will occupy the residence for at least one year.
  • Under such circumstances where the property owner is physically unable to work on the premises family members/volunteer may assist with the work. This circumstance will be reviewed on an individual basis.
  • Maintenance work as described in CBC 1101.17, that is performed by the property owner would be allowable without registration.
  • An architect, professional engineer, or any other such person who is required by the Ohio Revised Code to attain standards of competency or experience is considered a professional service provider. When such an individual is acting exclusively within the scope of the profession for which they are either licensed or registered, they are exempted from registration as a contractor.

Contractors wishing to be registered shall make application to the Department of Planning & Buildings where their application for registration will be reviewed and processed based on the minimum requirements that are listed in the ordinance. Questions?  Please call the Contractor Registration Section, we will be happy to answer any questions you may have.  (513) 352-3271.

Contractor Registration

Find a Registered Contractor

Department of Planning and Buildings allows building permit applicants to view contractors who are registered to do work in the City of Cincinnati. If the contractor you are looking for is not listed, please call the Contractor Registration section at (513) 352-3271, for further assistance.

Find a Registered Contractor


Are There Any Related Certificates and Licenses?

Certificate of Occupancy:  When the occupancy type of a building is changed or when an addition or new building is completed, a Certificate of Occupancy must be obtained before the structure can legally be occupied.  In many cases a Certificate of Occupancy is necessary for insurance or financing.  A Certificate of Occupancy is required for all alterations except those in 1, 2, or 3 family dwellings, which do not create new habitable space, e.g.; finishing a basement.

Temporary Certificate of Occupancy - The Building Construction Inspections section may issue a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy when a building is safe to occupy temporarily while remaining issues are resolved and approved. A Temporary Certificate of Occupancy expires 30 days after issuance.

Certificate of Inspection:  A property owner or his agent may apply for a Certificate of Inspection.  This is sometimes done at the request of a potential buyer.  A special inspection of the property is made, and the results are recorded on the Certificate of Inspection.  The certificate will either state that at the time of the inspection the property was in substantial compliance with the Building and Zoning Codes for its current use, or a list of the major violations will appear on the certificate.  Major violations become orders after 60 days from the issuance of the Certificate of Inspection.

Elevator Certificates:  A Certificate of Inspection and Operation is required before an elevator, escalator, dumbwaiter, hoist or other lifting/lowering device can be operated.  When a permit is closed for the installation, construction or alteration of one of these devices, a certificate is issued.  Semiannual or annual inspections are required for these devices, and the resulting Certificate of Inspection and Operation must be posted in a conspicuous location.

Plumbing Registration and Licenses:  In order to obtain either a journeyman license or be registered as a licensed plumbing contractor, the candidate must present a certificate from the Board of Examiners of Plumbers or a plumbing contractor’s certificate issued by the Ohio Construction Industry Examining Board and pays the prescribed fee.  Plumbing registrations/licenses must be renewed annually.  Failure to do so requires reexamination by the Board and payment of the licensing fee.

Other Licenses:  The installation of fire protection equipment such as fire alarms, sprinklers, smoke detection systems or standpipes must be performed by a company certified by the State of Ohio Fire Marshall.  Concrete work performed in the City right-of-way must be done by a contractor licensed by the Department of Transportation and Engineering. Please call, (513) 352-3413 for more information.

Step 5:  Submit Application:

Permit Application Forms, Checklists & Informational Handouts

Welcome to our “virtual library” of information!

A list of permit types and the forms you need to submit for permit review is provided in the link below.  This is not a comprehensive list of everything you may need to submit.  Submission requirements can vary depending on the scope of the project. All or some of the following documentation may be required for your project. 

Permit Application Forms & Informational Handouts


Apply In Person

Applications for permits, certificates or licenses can be made at the Business Development and Permit Center, 805 Central Ave., Suite 500, Cincinnati, Ohio, 45202, between 7:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.   To apply you must submit:

  • Completed application and supporting documentation (structural, energy, soils analysis)
  • Three (3) sets of documents, drawings and specifications of the proposed work (where applicable).
  •  All permit applications will be assessed a onetime non-refundable fee which is due at the time of application and plans submittal. (This fee does not apply to Elevator, Plumbing and HVAC repair/replacement applications not requiring plans).
  •  Applications along with the processing fee may also be mailed to that address. 

For digital submissions we require 2 sets of hard copies of plans, properly stamped by a registered architect or engineer along with your digital submittal.  When a digital version of plans is submitted, the scanning fee is waived.

Digital Handout


Apply On-line

EzTrak also offers you an easy way to apply and pay for licenses and permits with the touch of a button.  Once your permit application is received, a Customer Relations Representative will be notified.  You will receive notification when your application is processed and is ready for payment.  If additional information is needed, you will be contacted by email.

You can currently apply and pay for:

 Journeyman Renewal Licenses

Mechanical Permits

Plumbing Repair Permits

Decks Permits

Link to Online Permitting (EZTRAK)

Online Permitting



This service is designed to provide easy and rapid access for obtaining permits for commercial and residential work which does not require drawings.  Permits for items such as furnace or air conditioning replacement, repairs, and plumbing work can be faxed.  Prerequisites for using this service are an active trust account to pay for the permit; an application does not require plans, and a fax number for receiving the permit.  As an alternative to a trust account, a credit card number and expiration date can be called into the Customer Service Section.  Faxed applications received by 9:00 a.m. on a City workday will generate a faxed permit by 4:00 p.m. the same day.  The fax number for permits is (513) 352-1598.


A new tool is available through the City of Cincinnati website to help finalize plans as effectively and efficiently as possible. Digital Document Submission Assistant will help you streamline document submittals.  It offers step-by-step directions to help you prepare a set of documents along with the indexing file (submittal.xml) for submittal using appropriate media like CDs, DVDs, etc.  All digital submissions must be accompanied with two sets of paper drawings and an application for the proposed work to be performed.

Digital Document Submission Assistant                                                        Digital Handout


Scanning Fees

Scanning fees will be charged for all plans and/or specs of 13 sheets or more (EXCEPTION: Digital Submissions).

How Much Does A Permit Cost?

The permit fee for new buildings and additions is based on the valuation of construction as determined by the Department of Planning and Buildings using the fee schedule contained on Policy Directive 92.  Other permit fees are based on the estimated cost of work shown on the application form.

 An application processing fee is collected upon submittal of application and plans.  Payment may be made in cash, by check for the amount due, with MasterCard, Visa, or from a trust account.  For your convenience, a trust account can be established to deposit funds against which you can charge your future fee.

Details about the cost of your permit can be provided by the Customer Service Section staff at (513) 352-3271.

Fee Schedule


How to Track your Project On-line?

Welcome to ezTrak!  In addition to submitting your plans digitally, you can also track applications, inspections and plan review online.  This program is designed to let you check the status of applications by address or project number. For additional assistance, contact Customer Services at (513) 352-3271.


Track Your Project

Step 6:  Plan Review Options

Optional Premium Services: 

To better accommodate the often-changing needs of development while providing customized services and "just-in-time" permit approval and inspections, the City of Cincinnati's Department of City Planning and Buildings offers Optional Premium Services:          

  • Walk-Through Review: Permit applications for small to medium sized non-residential tenant improvements, including signs, awnings, tents, fences and roofing work; and residential alterations and additions including decks, retaining walls, fences and roofing work. This walk-through service will not be provided if in-depth zoning review is required.
  • Phased Permitting:  Separate permits covering the different phases of construction of a building or structure 
  • After hours/weekend plan examination based on plan examination availability 
  • Express Plan Examination:  Proposed project construction team (architect, developer, contractor, etc.) meet face-to-face with City permitting team daily during business hours until the project plans are either approved and permit ready for issuance or changes/revisions required are beyond what is possible during the express meeting
  • Same Day Permit Issuance:  Permit applications approved by all reviewing agencies will be issued the same day as approval as long as the request is received by noon
  • Same Day Building Inspections:  If a request for an inspection is received by noon, the inspection will be performed after-hours on the same day and,
  • After-hours and weekend inspections 

The additional fees that the developer or construction professional incurs when they ask for the premium services cover the enhanced service costs. This system enables those who do not seek the Optional Premium Services to receive the same level of service currently provided by the City.

Step 7:  The Review Process

Commercial applications are examined for compliance with the 2011 Ohio Building Code and all associated codes as adopted by the State of Ohio along with the most current updates.  

Residential applications are examined for compliance with the 2013 Residential Code of Ohio and the City of Cincinnati Building Code. Targeted plan review times are established and monitored by supervisory personnel.  Residential plan reviews involving 21 units or less are reviewed within 10 working days.  Other new construction projects are reviewed within 15 working days 90% of the time.  

Construction documents submitted for approval shall be reviewed in the order of receipt.  Although the City of Cincinnati, Zoning and Plan Examiination section have set targeted plan review times set internally, Ohio law does require that a permit application be reviewed within 30 days of receipt.

If all reviewing agencies determine compliance with the code and other applicable regulations, the application is approved and a permit is issued.  Other city departments and agencies have regulations, which control certain phases of construction.  Depending on the nature of the project, the review could involve several departments.  The Division of Buildings and Inspections will electronically route plans to these departments for simultaneous review. 

Zoning/Building Plan Exam                                                  Which code for which project?

Step 8:  Revision Process – Corrections, Clarifications and Changes

If an application does not meet the minimum requirements of the building codes, the plan examiner notifies the applicant by mail, email, and on-line with a adjudication order.  This is a  request for additional information and/or correction(s) to be made to the documents or drawings. The applicant is responsible for submitting corrected documents (revisions) to the plan examiner for re-review. Revisions are turned around in five working days or less 90% of the time.   A revision fee will be assessed to the permit fee when the permit is approved.  Applicants have six (6) months from the date of the adjudication order to respond before the application is considered invalid .  An extension can be granted.  If your application is denied you have the option to appeal this decision to the Board of Building Appeals. 

When the plan examiner determines that the documents comply with the code, the computer record is updated and the application is signed as "Approved".

The review process and actions taken by all the reviewing agencies can be monitored through Eztrak. This program is designed to let you check the status of applications by address or project number.  For additional assistance, contact Customer Services at (513) 352-3271.

Track Your Project                                                              Revision Information


Step 9:  Issuing the Permit

Applications and/or plans are received back at the Customer Service Section when approved by the building Plan Examiners.  The application is then checked to ensure that all outside agencies have submitted their approvals to allow issuance of the permit.  The fees are checked for accuracy and the applicant is notified of any balance due. Payment of the balance due allows the permit to be issued and work to begin.  The permit must be posted on site and available to the Inspector and if your permit has accompanying approved plans, they must be available as well.

How long is a permit valid? 

For a wrecking permit to remain valid, demolition must begin within 120 days.  All other permits expire by limitation if work has not begun within twelve months from the date of permit issuance or when the work has been discontinued for six months.  However, if the owner requests a renewal prior to the expiration of the permit, the permit can be extended for an additional twelve-month period for a fee.

Step 10:  Inspections

Each phase of construction must be inspected to make certain the work conforms to the Code, Building Permit and the Approved Plans.  If an inspector finds that some work does not conform to approved plans, the inspector will advise that the situation is to be remedied.  If the violation is serious, a stop work order may be posted until the problem is resolved.

Inspectors are also responsible for investigating complaints about properties and having any code violations corrected.  Each permit or complaint is assigned to an inspector who will see that items conform to all provisions of the applicable building codes and/or the Cincinnati Zoning Code.

Inspectors may be reached between 7:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. on weekdays.  Normally, 24 to 48 hours advance notice is required.  To schedule an inspection pertaining to your specific project, please call the inspector listed on the front of your building, plumbing or mechanical permit.  To schedule an inspection not pertaining to a permit call (513) 352-3267. For additional contact information click

Inspection results are posted to the permit on the next business day, and those results, along with other permit history, can be viewed online. 


 Track Your Inspection                                                             Inspections


Step 11:  Field Changes (Engineering Change)

In general, the construction, erection, and alteration of a building, or additions, alterations, equipment and maintenance of the same, shall conform to required plans which have been approved by the

Department of Planning and Buildings. Minor changes to the approved plans may be submitted as an Engineering Change without submitting for an additional alteration permit. Minor changes do not include changes in the size, location, change of use of buildings or structures, or as-built drawings with multiple changes that will require a substantial plan review. An Engineering Change fee will be assessed at the time of filing. 

Engineering Change Information


Step 12:  Completing Your Project

Although it is essential that you complete the inspection process, you do not have to finish your project during any fixed time period.  From the day you pick up the permit, you are allowed one (1) year (OBC 105.3) to begin work on your project.  Once construction begins, you must continue to work on your project to avoid permit expiration.  When work is completed, you need to call to schedule your Final Inspection.  When all final inspections have been successfully completed, the Building Inspector may issue a Certificate of Occupancy, if required for your project. 

Request for Building Permit Records

All of our building permit records are available for public inspection.  You are entitled to access public records, under reasonable conditions, and to make copies of those records, upon paying the cost of making the copy.  Due to the method that our files are maintained and staff time constraints, we cannot scrutinize every report filed to find the exact information requested.  Searching for a specific item, such as a Certificate of Occupancy/Inspection, Housing Orders, Building Permits, etc., are filed by address but are intermingled with all other records pertaining to that address. A request to review a building permit record should be made to the customer service section.  The record will be pulled and we will provide a comfortable place and instructions for the requesting person to review the records.  Copies can be reproduced at a rate of five (5) cents per copy for 8 ½ x 11 and 8 ½ x 14 papers.  Please allow reasonable time to complete your search.


Building Permit Records


 Questions regarding the Building Permit Process?

Contact us at (513) 352-3271 or by clicking the link and we will be happy to assist you.

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