Frequently Asked Questions

Can’t I get existing plans for my building/property from the local building department?

If you are very lucky, yes (though, it doesn’t hurt to try!) Most building departments these days, due to lack of space, staff, or funds, do not keep old plan sets for very long after a previous project has been completed or “signed-off”. It is always a good idea for a property owner to keep all plans pertaining to their property, no matter how old.

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Will my project require permits and plans?

More and more these days, the answer is yes. This stems from many factors -- fear of litigation, poor quality control of past un-permitted projects, and the desire of the building department to understand the scope of any project. Exceptions to this rule can sometimes include: concrete or asphalt flatwork, retaining walls 3 ft or less in height, painting, installation of floor coverings, termite work.

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Will I need a structural or geotechnical engineer?

Best to ask your building official after thoroughly describing the scope of your intended project.

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What is design review?

The need for design review, typically mandated by the government planning department, is often triggered when a proposed project will include changes that impact neighbors or the “ambience” of a neighborhood. This can involve an addition to a building, or some other alteration which markedly changes the exterior. Design review can also be required when a “variance” is being requested, i.e. a deviation from a typical zoning standard, such as a building setback requirement. During the design review process it is typical for the government planning entity to notify impacted neighboring property owners of the planned changes, and these neighboring owners are given a period of time to respond with their comments and concerns.

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How do I get the assessor’s parcel map for my property?

Check with your county recorder’s or assessor’s office. Many counties now allow access to these records from the web. Your title insurance company can also often provide you with the map or APN (assessor’s Parcel Number).

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Why is drainage so important?

Our past experience indicates that a large percentage of all foundation failures stem from poor handling of site water (rain or other). Water collecting anywhere near a foundation can often soften or displace the soil below the foundation, resulting in settling and cracking of the foundation. Hence the importance of collecting as much water as possible (via downspouts, catch basins, french drains, etc.) and getting it as far away from the subject structure as possible, while taking into account the location of neighboring structures.

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Beckmann Engineering & Design, Beckmann Construction, 49 Chamberlain Avenue, Novato, CA 94947
415.897.5382 (Office) 415.897.3582 (Fax)