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  • Frequently Asked Questions

Department: Building

  • Buying or Selling a Home
  • General Building Codes and Procedures
    • When is a permit required?

      A permit is required to construct, enlarge, repair, renovate, alter, reconstruct or demolish a structure or to install or alter equipment, such as heating or air conditioning. There are exceptions for ordinary maintenance.

      The following are not considered ordinary repairs and would require a permit:

      ·        Cutting away of any wall, partition or portion thereof.

      ·        The removal or cutting of any structural beam or bearing support.

      ·        The removal or change of any required means of egress.

      ·        Any work affecting structural or fire safety.

      ·        Any work that will increase the nonconformity of any building or structure.

      ·        Addition to, or alteration, replacement or relocation of water supply, sewer drainage, gas, soil, waste, vent or similar piping.

      ·        Addition to, or alteration, replacement or relocation of electrical wiring other than low voltage communication wiring in a one or two family home.

      ·        Installation of wood paneling.

      The following are considered ordinary repairs and would not require a permit:

      ·        Exterior or interior painting.

      ·        Installation, repair or replacement of less than 25% of plaster or drywall in any given room.

      ·        Vinyl or Paper wall covering.

      ·        Replacement of glass in any door or window. (The glass must be of the type required by code)

      ·        The installation and replacement of any window or door, including garage doors, in the same opening without altering the dimensions or framing of the original opening. This includes storm windows and doors. Replacement Egress doors and windows shall not reduce the required height, width or net clear opening of the previous window or door.

      ·        Repair or replacement of any non-structural member such as kitchen cabinets.

      ·        The replacement or installation of any flooring material in a one or two family home.

      ·        The repair or installation of interior or exterior trim or molding.

      ·        The repair of existing roof material not exceeding 25% of the total roof area in any 12-month period.

      ·        The repair of existing siding, with like material, not exceeding 25% of the total building exterior wall area in any 12-month period.

      ·        The repair or replacement of any part of a porch or stoop, which does not support a roof.

      ·        The replacement or installation of screens.

      ·        Installation of roll or batt insulation when installed within 1 ½ inch of an interior finish

      ·        Replacement of exterior rain gutters and leaders.

      ·        Replacement hose bib valves in single-family homes, replacement hose bib valves must have an atmospheric vacuum breaker.

      ·        Refinishing of any plumbing fixtures. Relining of plumbing fixtures is not considered an ordinary repair.

      ·        Repair of leaks by replacement of piping between two fittings only.

      ·        Clearance of drain clogs.

      ·        Replacement of faucets or working parts of faucets.

      ·        Replacement of valves other than shower or combination bath/shower valves.

      ·        Replacement of working parts of valves.

      ·        Replacement of traps in single-family homes.

      ·        Replacement of a toilet, bathroom sink or kitchen sink, provided no change in pipe arrangement is needed. Replacement toilets shall use a maximum of 1.6 gallons per flush.

      ·        Replacement of existing domestic clothes washers or dishwashers.

      ·        Replacement of any receptacle (outlet), switch, or lighting fixture rated at 20 amps or less and operating at less than 150 volts. Replacement of a receptacle in a location requiring a ground fault circuit interrupter by the electric code is not considered an ordinary repair and requires a permit.

      ·        The installation of battery operated smoke detectors.

      ·        Repair or replacement of heating or air-conditioning components; motors, pumps and fans of the same capacity; heating supply and return piping and radiation elements not requiring the rearrangement of the piping system; ductwork or control devices (thermostats).

      ·        Replacement of kitchen range hoods in a single family home.

      ·        Replacement of clothes dryers, stoves or ovens within dwelling units provided no change in fuel type, location or electrical characteristics is required.

      If you are unsure whether you need a permit, please call the Building Dept. and we will be glad to assist you.

    • My hot water heater broke on a Friday night, do I need to wait till Monday and get a permit before I have it replaced?

      No. You are allowed to make emergency repairs and get a permit as soon as possible but not more than 72 hours later and have all required inspections.

    • Can the Building Dept. Recommend a Contactor?

      No we can not recommend a contractor. See our Choosing a Contactor page for tips on choosing the right contactor.

    • Do I need a permit to re-roof my house?

      Maybe. As of March 5, 2018 a roof permit is NOT required for the repair or replacement of a roof on DETACHED one and two family dwelling.  All other buildings will require a permit.

    • Do I need a permit to re-side my house?

      Maybe. The repair or replacement of like material on a ONE and TWO family will not require a permit.  Siding repair or replacement of like material on all other buildings is limited to 25% of the total building area before a permit is required.  In ALL cases, the repair or replacement of polypropylene siding shall require a permit.

    • Where can I get information on the Highlands Act?

      You can get information on the "Highlands Act" from the NJDEP's Website. Information about local policies, procedures and form is avalible from the Planning Departments  Highlands Act Info Page.

    • What are the Building Department’s hours?

      The office is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.

    • When are inspections performed?

      Building inspections are performed Monday through Friday between 10:00 am and 3:30 pm. Fire inspection are performed Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 10:00 am and 3:30 pm. Plumbing inspections are performed Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 7:30 am-3:00 pm. Electrical inspections are performed Monday between 12:30 pm and 4:30 pm and Friday between 9:30 am and 3:30 pm.

    • Can I request a specific time for inspections?

      No. Unfortunately due to the volume of inspections we cannot guarantee a specific time.

    • What forms will I need for my permit application?

      We use standard multi-part State application forms. They are available at the Building Department office at no charge.

    • Can you fax me the forms?

      No. The forms are multi-part carbon copy forms.

    • Can I use forms from another town?

      Yes. As long as they are the standard New Jersey State forms.

    • Can I draw the construction drawings myself or do I need an architect?

      Maybe. You can do your own drawings if they are for an owner occupied single family home. All other structures need to be drawn and sealed by an architect and/or engineer licensed in New Jersey.

    • How many copies of the construction drawing do I need to submit with my application?


    • What needs to be on the construction drawings?
      • Occupant load
      • Construction type.
      • Use Group(s)
      • Scale, 1/4 inch = 1 foot minimum, showing all dimensions.
      • Code and Year used for the design.
      • Floor plans of all levels with all rooms labeled.
      • Location of smoke detectors.
      • Elevations (front, sides, and rear) indicating window and door dimensions.
      • Insulation R-values. ( An Energy Code Compliance Report must be included with your application for more information click here )
      • Location of safety glazing.
      • Manufacturer's design specifications for prefabricated fireplaces.
      • Foundation plan.
      • Footing details (minimum footing depth is 42").
      • Structural framing plans of all levels accurately detailing all members.
      • Structural details of connections.
      • Typical wall section with sheathing thickness and type (special products or devices require a research or evaluation report).
      • Roof framing plan.
      • List of material specifications including, but not limited to: grade and species of lumber, concrete strength, and steel strength.
      • List of design load criteria: live load, dead load, snow load, wind load, bearing capacity, and lateral earth pressure (for West Milford: ground snow load = 40 PSF and wind speed = 80 mph).
      • Name of the person preparing the drawings.
      • If plans are prepared by a registered design professional, both sets of plans must bear the original seal and signature. 
      • Truss Shop Drawings for pre-engineered floor or roof trusses.
      • Plumbing fixture layout and riser diagram.
      • Electrical plan.
    • How long will it take to get my permit after I make an application?

      The Building Department has up to 20 business days to review your complete application after all prior approvals (Health Dept., Planning, Engineering, etc.) are met. Smaller projects like decks and sheds are generally done more quickly.

    • Do I need a permit for a shed?

      Maybe. Sheds 200 Sq. ft. and under do not require a building permit, they do require a Zoning Permit. Sheds over 200 sq. ft. require a building permit and a zoning permit and require a foundation. A guide detailing all the requirements for sheds is available, click here to download.

    • Do I need a permit to put up a fence?

      Yes and No. A building permit is not required for a fence unless it is barrier for a pool. A Zoning Permit is required for all fences. If you are replacing a fence around a pool, a building permit is required and it must meet the current code.

    • When is a permit required for a pool?

      A permit is required if any of the following is true about the pool:

      ·        It is capable of holding water more than 24 inches in depth.

      ·        It has more than 250 sq. ft of surface area.

      ·        It has a recirculating filter.

      Requirements for pools can be complicated; we have a guide available click here to download.

    • I’m having replacement windows installed, do I need a permit?

      Maybe. If the replacement window does not require the wall framing to be changed and does not change the original opening size a permit is not required. If the wall framing or original size are to be changed a permit would be required.

    • Can the Building Department answer question about my well or septic system?

      No. Wells and Septic are handled by the Heath Department please direct all questions to them, they will be glad to try to answer any of your questions. Thier phone number is 973-728-2720

    • How are the fees for permits calculated?

      Building permits for new structures and additions are base on a fee per cubic foot of volume. Building permits for alterations are based on a fee per dollar amount of the estimated cost of the work. Roofing, siding, pools and sheds have a flat fee. Electric, Plumbing and Fire permits are based on the number of fixtures or appliances being installed. See the Fee Schedule Overview for specific fees.

    • My neighbor is doing work and I don’t think they have a permit can an inspector come check it out?

      Yes. Call the building department with the Address and we’ll check to see if a permit has been issued, if not we’ll send an inspector out to investigate, but please note to be fair to everyone the inspector may note violations on other properties in the neighborhood, which may include your home.

    • Are there certain hours that construction activities can take place?

      Yes. Construction activities  can be conducted 7:00 am to 6:00 pm on weekdays and 9:00 am to 6:00 pm on weekends. This ordinance is enforced by the Police Department.

    • What codes are used in West Milford?

      For a list of codes used CLICK HERE

  • Zoning
    • Can I keep horses on my property?

      Maybe. You need at least one acre of property to keep horses, with the exception of one acre lots in a subdivision of one acre lots, which is not allowed. You must provide a shelter for the horses. The shelter must have 100 sq. ft. per horse and the number of horses is based on the size of the shelter.

    • Can I run a business from my home?

      Maybe. West Milford zoning ordinance allows for two classes of home based businesses. The first being “Home Occupation” which would be Crafters, Electricians, Plumbers, Mail Order businesses etc.. The second being “Home Professional Offices” which would be Lawyers, Doctors, Architects, etc. “Home Occupation Businesses” may occupy up to 25% or 400 square feet of the home or accessory building. No more than one person other than family members residing at the home may be engaged in the “Home Occupation”. “Home Professional Offices” may occupy up to 50% or 800 square feet of the home or accessory building. No more than two persons other than family members residing at the home may be engaged in the “Home Professional Offices”.  The following apply to both classes of businesses. No traffic or parking in excess of three cars in addition to the cars of the normal residents of the home shall be generated. No deliveries shall be made in a vehicle larger than a standard UPS or Postal vehicle. The business shall not produce any dangerous, injurious, noxious or otherwise objectionable fire, explosion or other hazard; noise or vibration, smoke, dust, odor, or other form of air pollution; heat, cold or dampness; electromagnetic or other disturbance; glare; liquid or solid refuse or other wastes; or objectionable substance, condition or element. Commercial vehicles used in connection with the home business shall be parked off street and out of the general public view.

    • Are there any restrictions on fences?

      Yes. The maximum height of a fence is 4 feet in your front yard and 6 feet in your side or rear yard. Please be aware that if your house faces more than one street you have more than one front yard. The good side of the fence must face out. There is no setback for fences but we recommend that you keep it back from the property line so that you may maintain your fence without trespassing on your neighbor’s property. Fences cannot be topped with barbed wire or razor wire. Houses on corners may not install a fence in the “sight triangle” that would obscure the view of motorist approaching an intersection. A Zoning Permit is required prior to installing a fence, be sure to bring a copy of your property survey.