Frequently Asked Questions

When is an engineer's letter or structural calculations required?

An engineer’s letter or structural calculations are required if seeking a permit for new buildings, building additions or any structural reconfiguration.

When is a zoning approval letter required when seeking a building permit?

If seeking a building permit in the City of Memphis or unincorporated Shelby County, an applicant should first determine whether the use is allowed by looking at Article 2, Districts and Uses as set forth in the Unified Development Code (UDC). If the use is listed in the Permitted Use Table, Section 2.5.2 of the UDC, then the use is considered permitted by right. A separate zoning approval letter is not required if the use is permitted by right. 

If the use cannot be determined by referring to the Permitted Use Table, the applicant should contact the Office of Construction Code Enforcement for assistance. A separate zoning approval letter is always required if seeking a permit in the cities of Millington, Germantown, Lakeland, and the Town of Arlington.

If a Zoning Approval Letter is required, the application can be submitted separately from the Building Permit application.

What documents are required for submittal?

If submitting a paper application to obtain a building permit, submittal documents should consist of four (4) sets of original construction plans. Copies are also accepted.

A statement of special inspections shall be submitted if required.

If submitting by paper, the construction plans shall be submitted on sheets of 11” X 17” minimum size. Larger sized plans may be required if the smaller, 11” X 17” sized documents are not legible.

Does the management company need to be licensed and registered?


Is contractor registration required in Memphis and Shelby County?

State licensed contractors are required to register their licenses with our office, a registration fee and surety bond is required except for those working exclusively in disciplines regulated by the State Alarm Board. Contact our Licensing Section at (901) 222-8390 for more information.

Are mechanical, electrical and/or plumbing (MPE) design drawings required at the time of submittal?

This question can only be answered on a case by case basis. However, if you are doing any work in these areas, chances are that some sort of drawings will be required before the issuance of a permit for the project. Plans are passed to reviewers in building, plumbing, electrical and mechanical for review prior to a permit being issued. If they have nothing to review, the plan review process will not get completed until they can review and approve the proposed work and the permit issuance will be delayed.

Am I required to have a contractor listed on the building permit application when I submit plans for review?

No, a plan review can be performed without a contractor being listed. In such cases the fields on the application for the contractor’s information should be left blank and the application should not be signed. Once the plan review is completed and approved, the permit can then be issued to a contractor that is registered with our office. The contractor will complete the contractor information fields and sign the application when the permit is ready to be issued. Only the owner or authorized agent of the contractor is permitted to sign the application.

Do cell tower projects require a separate Zoning Approval?

Zoning is required only for new towers and changes to the compound or tower expansion. Existing towers have been approved by zoning. An approval letter is required from the City of Millington, City of Germantown, City of Lakeland, and the Town of Arlington.

Which editions of the various codes are you enforcing?

Effective January 1, 2019, Memphis and Shelby County Construction Enforcement

will implement the following codes along with local amendments:


2015 Edition International Building Code with Local Amendments

2015 Edition International Existing Building Code with Local Amendments

2015 Edition International Residential Code with Local Amendments

2015 Edition International Fire Code (Implemented by the Fire Marshal)

2014 Edition National Electric Code

2018 Edition Joint Electrical Code

2015 Edition International Mechanical Code with Local Amendments

2015 Edition International Fuel Gas Code with Local Amendments

2015 Edition International Plumbing Code with Local Amendments

2015 Edition International Energy Conservation Code with Local Amendments

2009 Edition ICC A117.1 Accessibility and Useable Buildings and Facilities (by reference)

2013 Edition ASME 17.1 Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators (by reference)

Does the residential plan review fee apply to projects other than new homes?

The fee applies to the following residential projects which require plans to be submitted: all new homes; additions over 400 sq. ft.; all detached accessory buildings over 400 sq. ft. The fee does not apply to renovations, decks, additions 400 sq. ft. or less or detached accessory buildings 400 sq. ft. or less, pools, retaining walls or fences.

Does your department do the complete review or do I need to submit to other departments, like fire, zoning, etc.?

After your application is submitted, we will review your plans. We will inform you on our plan review comment sheets if additional submittals will be necessary. Depending upon the nature of the project, the review could involve several other departments. The Office of Construction Code Enforcement will determine compliance with building, plumbing, mechanical, and electrical regulations. The Fire Department will check for compliance with fire safety requirements. City and or County Engineering will check for compliance with flood control, drainage, parking, driveway standards and other public improvement requirements. The Zoning Department will verify compliance with zoning regulations including authorized uses within zoning districts, required parking, and property development standards such as lot coverage, building height, setback, and density requirements. If you’re advised during the plan review there is something needed from the Zoning Department, it would be best to contact that department directly for more information about their review process at (901) 636-6619. Any approval required through the Zoning Department, i.e., landscaping, ASPR approval, planned development recording, etc., must be obtained prior to the issuance of a permit.

In addition to the four (4) sets of plans submitted with the application, an additional submittal would be required to the Health Department since we do not route plans to that department.  

Can a homeowner build his/her own house or make improvements to their existing dwelling?

Yes. Pursuant to TCA § 62-6-103, a property owner may construct, alter, repair, or add to a single-family dwelling that is intended for the individual use of the owner and is not intended for resale, rent, or lease. A licensed and/or registered contractor is required for all mechanical, plumbing, and electrical work unless otherwise provided in the Technical Codes. A statement of ownership letter is required before the permit can be issued.


What inspections are required?

The building official, upon notification from the permit holder or his agent, shall make the following inspections and such other inspections as necessary, and shall either release that portion of the construction or shall notify the permit holder or his agent of any violations that must be corrected in order to comply with the Technical Codes.

  • Foundation inspection: To be made after trenches are excavated and forms erected
  • Frame inspection: To be made after the roof, all framing, fire blocking, and bracing is in place and all concealed wiring, all pipes, chimneys, ducts, and vents are complete
  • Rough-in inspection: To be made after the roof, framing, fire-blocking, and bracing is in place and prior to the installation of wall or ceiling membranes (exception: in metal stud wall construction, one side of the membrane may be installed)
  • Rough-in piping inspection: To be made after all piping authorized by the permit has been installed and before all portions which are to be concealed by sheetrock, plastering or otherwise have been so concealed, and before any fixtures or gas appliances have been connected. This inspection shall include a pressure test.
  • Underground inspection: To be made after trenches or ditches are excavated, the conduit or cable is installed, but before any backfill is put in place
  • Air test inspection: To be made after all new piping authorized by the permit has been installed, and before any such piping has been covered or concealed or any fixtures or gas appliances have been connected
  • Final inspection: To be made after the building is complete; all required fixtures are in place, properly connected, or protected; and the structure is ready for occupancy

Do we enforce all of Chapter 9, Roof Assemblies, in the 2015 International Residential Code (IRC)?

Numerous questions are forwarded to Construction Enforcement staff as to whether Chapter 9, Roof Assemblies, in the 2015 International Residential Code (IRC) is enforced. The simple answer is yes.  Please see this policy announcement dated October 26, 2020 here.