Welcome to Medford, Massachusetts!

Frequently Asked Questions

When is a building permit required?

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts State Building Code states that “it shall be unlawful to construct, reconstruct, alter, repair, remove or demolish a building or structure; or to change the use or occupancy or a building or structure; or to install or alter any equipment for which provision is made or the installation of which is regulated by 780 CMR (State Building Code) without first filing a written application with the building official and obtaining the required permit therefore.”

Are there any exemptions to the permit requirements?

Yes, the State Building Code allows the following work to be done without a building permit:

1. One story detached accessory buildings used as tool or storage sheds, playhouses and similar uses, provided the floor area does not exceed 120 square feet.

2. Retaining walls which, in the opinion of the building official, are not a threat to the public safety, health or welfare and which retain less than four feet of unbalanced fill.

3. Ordinary repairs such as any maintenance which does not affect the structure, egress, fire protection systems, fire ratings, energy conversation provisions, plumbing, sanitary, gas, electrical or other utilities. A building permit is not required for ordinary repairs.

How long does it take to get a permit?

The building official has thirty (30) days to review and take action on a building permit application. However, in most cases the permit review can be completed in a relatively quick manner, depending on the scope of work of the project. New buildings, and major projects such as those subject to site plan review, will be reviewed at weekly development meetings which occur on every Tuesday. These projects require sign-offs from several departments before a building permit will be issued.

How do I schedule an inspection of my property?

You should contact the inspector that issued the permit during the scheduled office hours, which are as follows:
– Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday from 8:30-10:00 a.m. and 3:00-4:30 p.m.
– Wednesday from 8:30-10:00 a.m. and 3:00-7:30 p.m.
– Friday from 8:30-10:00 a.m. and 12:00-12:30 p.m.

Can I obtain a building permit as an owner of the property?

Only the owner of a single or two family dwelling may obtain a homeowner’s permit, and he/she must reside in the structure where the work is being performed. A person who constructs more than one home in a two year period shall not be considered a home owner.

Can I do my own electrical and plumbing/gas work?

No, state law requires anyone performing electrical, plumbing or gas work to be licensed.

Is a building permit required to erect a fence?

No. However, the Zoning Ordinance restricts the height of fences in certain locations. In certain zoning districts the maximum allowable height of a fence is 4 feet in the required front yard setback, which is usually 15 feet back from the front lot line for 1 and 2 family dwellings. The maximum height of a fence beyond the required front yard setback is 6 feet. Before erecting a fence please contact the Building Department at (781)393-2511 to inquire about the regulations for your specific location.

Can you recommend a contractor for my project?

No. We cannot recommend or comment on any contractors. We can only suggest you obtain several quotes. You should also make sure any contractor you are thinking about hiring has a valid construction supervisor’s license, is registered as a home improvement contractor if your project involves an owner occupied 1-4 family dwelling, and has worker’s compensation insurance.

How many sets of plans do I need to submit when applying for a building permit?

The State Building Code requires three (3) sets of plans be submitted with building permit applications. The building official is permitted to modify this requirement, depending on the scope of the work.

How long is my building permit good for?

The Massachusetts State Building Code stipulates that any permit issued shall be deemed abandoned and invalid unless the work authorized by it shall have been commenced within six months after its issuance ;however , for cause, and upon written request of the owner, one or more extensions of time, for periods not exceeding six months each, may be granted in writing by the building commissioner. Work under such a permit in the opinion of the building commissioner, must proceed in good faith continuously to completion so far as is reasonably practicable under the circumstances.

Can I use the mortgage plan the bank gave me for my plot plan?

A mortgage plan is only a rough layout of the structure or structures on a lot, and is only prepared for mortgage purposes. In some cases they may be used, but in most cases, when a plot plan is required, you will need to have one prepared by a registered professional land surveyor.

Can I get a copy of my plot plan from the building department?

If your house was built recently, or an addition was constructed which required a plot plan, we may have it on file.

Can the engineering department do a plot plan for me?

No. The engineering department does not survey private property.

Do I need a building permit for a swimming pool?

Yes. The Massachusetts State Building Code – Section 421.0 regulates the installation of both above-ground and in-ground swimming pools. A private swimming pool is defined as any structure that contains over 24 inches of water in depth and which is used, or intended to be used, for swimming or recreational bathing in connection with an occupancy in Use Group R-3 or R-4 (one and two family dwellings or structures used as one and two family dwellings, i.e. attached row housing or townhouse condominiums), and which is available only to the family and guests of the householder. This includes in-ground, above ground and on-ground swimming pools, hot tubs and spas. An electrical permit must also be obtained with the building permit before commencing construction of any pools. No pool shall be filled with water or used in any manner before receiving a final inspection by this office and the electrical department.

Do I need a building permit to erect a shed in my yard?

Sheds up to 120 square feet in size do not require a building permit, but must be located a minimum of three (3) feet from any lot lines, a minimum of ten (10) feet from the principal structure on the same lot, and must be a maximum of fifteen (15) feet in height.

What are the setbacks and size limitations for a garage on my property?

A garage must be located a minimum of three (3) feet from the property lines, a minimum of ten (10) feet from the principal structure on the same lot, and must be a maximum of fifteen (15) feet in height.