Frequently Asked Questions


Building Services

Who should apply for a building permit?

You may obtain permits in your own name. However, it is strongly recommended that your properly-licensed contractor pull the permit as the responsible party so the City of Lincoln can assist you better in gaining compliance for any defective work.

Why do I need a curb cut permit?

A curb cut is a break in a curb allowing access from the roadway and across the sidewalk to a legal parking space within the property line. Curb cuts must not be installed too close to intersections, where exiting cars can interfere with traffic flow and possibly cause accidents. Also, curb cuts must not be located in bus stop zones or too near fire hydrants, trees, utility poles, guy wires, man holes, or street signs. The Building and Safety Department permit process ensures that curb cuts comply with the rules as stated in LMC Chapter 14.75.

When I bulid a new residential or commercial building do I need a sidewalk permit?

On public streets, yes. All new sidewalks, in the public right-of-way, require a sidewalk permit. If you already have a curb cut permit approved, your sidewalk permit is included. Sidewalk permits can be obtained from the Development Services Center on the 2nd floor of the City/County Building at 555 South 10th Street.

Sidewalks are required on all private streets unless waived by the subdivision agreement. Contact your subdivision developer for more information.

Why do I need a sign permit?

A permit is required for most permanent, temporary, and promotional signs in the City of Lincoln to ensure that the size, color, and location of the sign complies with the City's Zoning Ordinance. The construction and method of attachment of permanent signs must comply with the building codes. An electrical permit is required for illuminated signs. Freestanding temporary signs are not allowed, except for certain real estate signs (handled separately). Temporary signs must be renewed yearly.

For more information, call Mike Peterson at 402-441-6445.

How much does a sign permit cost?

Contact the Development Services Center at 402-441-6442 for sign permit fees.

When do I need a permit for a renovation project?

You may need a permit for the following projects:

  • Moving a sink
  • Demolishing a load-bearing wall
  • Changing the house's roofline
  • Punching in a new window or door
  • Altering the footprint of your house
  • Installing new electrical wiring
  • Parking your roll-off dumpster on a public street
  • Constructing or placing a new storage shed
  • Erecting tents for the sale of merchandise
  • Installing a new swimming pool

You may not need a permit for the following projects:

  • Laying in new shingles on an existing roof (if not putting on or replacing roof sheeting)
  • Parking your roll-off dumpster on your own property (however, if you happen to live in an association-controlled neighborhood, make sure you do not run afoul of your own housing association's rules)
  • Putting in a hardwood floor
  • Installing carpeting
  • Replacing doors or windows on a one-for-one basis
  • Upgrading your countertops or any other cosmetic improvements
  • Freshening up the exterior with new siding
  • Installing gutters
  • Setting up backyard recreational play equipment
What do I need to bring to your office in order to get a permit for a garage?
  1. Site plan (birds-eye view) of your property, showing the location of the building with distances from property lines and existing structures.
  2. Construction plan showing how the building is constructed.
Where do I obtain permits?

You may come to the Building and Safety Department, 555 South 10th Street, Room 203 (second floor, northeast corner) between the hours of 8:00am - 4:00pm, weekdays. If a registered contractor will be doing the work, the contractor must obtain the necessary permits. It is the homeowner's responsibility to ensure permits are obtained.

Do I need a plan to get a building permit?

Yes, the detail would depend on what you are constructing.

What is a site plan?

A site plan is a detailed drawing of proposed improvements to a given lot.

How do I locate my property lines? Can someone in the city come find my lot lines?

Typically, but not always, the property stakes are located 2 to 4 feet inside (toward the house) of the sidewalk.

It is possible that you received a survey at the time you bought your house. If not, you can hire a private land surveyor to locate your property lines.

Do I need a permit for replacing windows?

Yes, a building permit is required for replacing windows. See the window replacement policy.

What is the depth and width of a footing?

The depth of the footing is 36 inches below grade and the width of the footing is determined by the size of the structure or deck. The Plan Review staff can assist you in determining the size of a footing.

Do I need a permit to finish my basement?

Yes, a permit is required. You will need two sets of plans to show the whole basement layout and you must include the following information on the plan:

  • Label the use of the rooms;
  • Show window sizes in the bedrooms (verify egress);
  • Label the 2 x 4 studs, 16" or 24" (on center) and treated bottom plates;
  • Show a minimum of R-13 insulation in exterior walls;
  • Label the ceiling lights;
  • Label the smoke detectors in the main area and the bedrooms;
  • Show the fan in the bathroom with the vent to the outside;
  • Label carbon monoxide alarms on all floors; and
  • Show the location of the furnace and water heater.

NOTE: Separate electrical, mechanical, and plumbing permits are also required.

Do I need a permit for a deck?

Yes, a building permit is required. A site plan is required as well as building plans. Here are links to information about building decks, as well as sample site plans:

Do I need a permit for a swimming pool?

A building permit is required if the depth of the swimming pool is more than 24 inches deep.

Do I need a permit for a fence?

A fence under 6-feet 4-inches does not need a building permit. However, we ask that the fence stay on your property, and if you plan to put it close to a street, contact Traffic Engineering to verify that you do not violate any site obstruction regulations. Read more by clicking the link below:

A quick guide to fences

Do I need a permit for a shed?

Yes, all sheds require a permit regardless of size. A cement slab does not require a building permit; however, because the shed does, get the shed's building permit prior to pouring the slab to verify that the shed's location complies with the zoning ordinance.

Do I need a permit for a new roof?

It depends on what you are doing to your roof. If you are just replacing shingles, then no permit is required. If you are replacing wood, then a building permit would be required.

How long is a building permit good for?

A residential building permit is good for two years. Work will need to start 120 days after the permit is issued and cannot be abandoned for 180 days.

A commercial building permit is good as long as the work begins within 180 days from the date the permit is issued. If work is suspended or abandoned for a period of 180 days after the work has started, the permit will expire.

What are the setbacks for a detached shed or garage?

Locating a detached shed or garage on your property can be confusing and complicated. The Plan Review staff can assist you with locating the building as close to where you want it within the zoning guidelines. Please bring a site plan down to our office and we will be happy to assist you.

Do I need a permit for a tree fort/house?

A tree fort of limited size and scope does not require a building permit. Contact the Building and Safety Department, (402-441-7521), to verify that your fort is not more elaborate than what is normally considered a playground type of structure that would be exempt by the current building code.

How do I call for an inspection?

You can call 402-441-8213 (contractors) or 402-441-8384 (homeowners) and leave your address, permit number, and the type of inspection you are requesting. Alternatively, you may request an inspection online.

How far in advance do I need to call for an inspection?

If you request an inspection before 12:00 noon, you can receive your inspection the next business day.

When is a State of Nebraska licensed architect or engineer required?

Many small-scale building projects in Nebraska may be designed by persons who are not licensed as architects or engineers. The size limit on buildings that can be designed by non-licensed persons is based on square footage. The square footage requirements vary based on the type of use. For more information, see the State of Nebraska Board of Engineers and Architects website and their Before you Build brochure.

Electrical Permits

When is an electrical permit required?

An electrical permit is required to install any new wiring. Electrical Permits are also required when changing out the following equipment: Air Conditioners, Heat Pumps, Furnaces (both electric and gas), and Hard-Wired Appliances such as Garbage Disposals, Dishwashers, and Water Heaters, to name a few.

How do I obtain a registration to do electrical work in Lincoln?

See the Electrical Registration Renewal form to renew a current registration, or to register a new license with the City of Lincoln. Please include your current State of Nebraska Electrical License number, the name the license is issued to, and the address where the registration should be sent. You will also need to include a check payable to the City of Lincoln for the total cost of licenses reflected on the application form.

What can I legally wire as a non-licensed individual?

"Homeowners" (non-licensed applicants) can wire branch circuits within a stand-alone dwelling that they currently own and occupy as their principal residence. This does NOT include the following types of electrical projects: Any wiring within a condominium or townhouse, swimming pools, or hot tubs; new, repair, or replacements of service equipment; and dwellings that are being newly constructed.

How many inspections will I need on a project as a non-licensed applicant?

There are typically two inspections for wiring projects:

  1. Rough In inspection: This is the inspection that is done when all the wiring, boxes, and connections within the boxes have been completed.
  2. Final inspection: This inspection is done once all of the final connections to devices and equipment have been completed.
How can I find out if my project is under state, county, or city jurisdiction and when do I add trip charges on a permit?

This map reflects the incorporated villages that are inspected by the State of Nebraska's Electrical Division. It also shows the boundaries for the 3-mile limit, 3-8 mile limit, and beyond-8-mile limit, so you can add the county fees to a permit application.

Where can I get a copy of the City Electrical Ordinance?

You may get a copy by clicking on this link to the City of Lincoln Electrical Ordinance.

Plumbing and Gas Permits

When are plumbing and gas permits required?

Permits and inspections are required any time a plumbing system or fixture is installed, replaced, or relocated. A fixture is a stool, lavatory, sink, garbage disposal, dishwasher, tub, shower, water heater, or similar equipment. A permit is also needed any time a water pipe, drain pipe, or vent is replaced, installed, or relocated.

Are permits necessary for lawn sprinkler systems and swimming pools?

Permits and inspections are required on underground lawn sprinkler systems, water softeners, swimming pools, water-cooled air conditioners, and heat pumps. All permits must be issued prior to starting the work, except in the case of emergency weekend or after office hours work. At that time, a permit must be obtained as soon as possible after the installation.

What does not require permits?

Minor repair work does not require a plumbing permit. Minor repairs include only the following:

  • Repairs involving only the working parts of a valve or faucet
  • The clearance of stoppages
  • Repair of leaks or replacement of defective valves or faucets, provided that no changes are made in the piping to the fixture or appliance.

Examples of such minor repair work would include repairing a damaged or leaking P-Trap; opening up and cleaning drain pipes; repairing and/or resetting existing fixtures; and replacing faucets, faucet washers, or sump pumps.

Who is responsible for obtaining permits?

Regardless if the property is commercial, industrial, apartments, or a single-family residence, it is the responsibility of the owner of the property to see that the proper plumbing permits are obtained for the work being done.

Who may take out permits?

A plumbing permit can only be issued to a properly registered Master Plumber of the City of Lincoln, or to the owner/occupant of a single family dwelling.

How much do plumbing permits cost?

Fees are based on the number of fixtures installed. See the Contractors Plumbing Permit Application to get an idea of the fees involved.

Where do I obtain permits?

You may come to the Building and Safety Department, 555 South 10th Street, Room 203 (second floor, northeast corner) between the hours of 8:00am - 4:00pm, weekdays. If a registered contractor will be doing the work, the contractor must obtain the necessary permits. It is the homeowner's responsibility to ensure permits are obtained.

All new plumbing and gas work requires a permit from the Building and Safety Department EXCEPT minor repairs, which include only the following:

  • Repairs involving only the working parts of a valve or faucet
  • The clearance of stoppages
  • Repair of leaks or replacement of defective valves or faucets, provided that no changes are made in the piping to the fixture or appliance.

Mechanical Permits

When are mechanical permits required?

Permits and inspections are required any time a HVAC system is installed, replaced, or relocated.

More specifically, a permit from your Mechanical Inspector is required for the installation or alteration of:

  • Furnaces
  • Air Conditioning Systems
  • Heat Pumps
  • Restroom Exhaust Fans
  • Kitchen Exhaust Vents
  • Laundry Dryer Exhaust Vents
  • Refrigeration Systems and Related Components

Failure to obtain the required permit is a violation of the law.

A phone call to the Building & Safety Department, 402-441-7521, is the best way to determine if you need a permit.

What does not require permits?

Permits are not required for repairs of equipment. Common repairs may include replacement of circuit boards and their electrical components, blower motors, and compressors.

Who may take out permits?

A Mechanical permit can only be issued to a properly registered Master Mechanical Contractor of the City of Lincoln, or to the owner/occupant of a single family dwelling.

How much do mechanical permits cost?

Fees are based on the number of fixtures installed. See the Contractors Mechanical Permit Application to get an idea of the fees involved.

Housing Preservation / Apartment Licensing

What do inspectors look for when they do an inspection?

The Housing Inspector is enforcing the International Property Maintenance Code and the amendments that have been adopted by the City of Lincoln. These items include, but are not limited to, the exterior and interior building maintenance, zoning, electrical, plumbing, heating, ventilation, and debris on the premise. Life safety codes such as exiting, egress, emergency lighting, and fire protection are also enforced. See the Housing Inspections Checklist for more information.

How long do I have to make the repairs that are required in a notice?

This will depend on the extent of the violation. Some items can be repaired in a few weeks while others need more time for securing bids, selecting a contractor, and other activities. The inspector is familiar with the processes required to make various repairs and will work with the landlord or owner to complete those repairs.

Are there any costs to the property owner for re-inspections done by the inspector?

The initial inspection and the follow-up inspection are not charged. The City has adopted a $75 inspection fee that will be charged for additional inspections that are required due to the repairs that have not been completed.

What happens if the owner does not make the repairs?

If the repairs are not made, the violations will be referred to the City Attorney and a court appearance will be scheduled. The County Court will assess court costs and a fine may be imposed by the judge.

What am I required to do if I want to sell my apartment, hotel, motel, or bed & breakfast which has a permit?

Every owner of a property shall tender to a prospective buyer, at the time of the transfer of ownership of such property, a copy of a valid certificate of compliance (Certificate of Compliance Application) or a notice of deficiencies, which shall include a copy of any notice or order issued pursuant to the Lincoln Minimum Housing Code or any other applicable law or ordinance, issued by the Building Official. Please review the Certificate of Compliance Requirements.

What am I required to do if I buy an apartment, hotel, motel, or bed & breakfast?

If the building has 3 or more units and is in the city limits of Lincoln, the owner is required to have a permit to operate it. The permit must be obtained from the Building & Safety Department within 30 days of the sale closing of the property.

How many unrelated individuals can live in a residence or an apartment?

The Lincoln Zoning Law restricts the occupancy of any single family residence to a family and up to two unrelated individuals. If none of the occupants is related, this restricts the total number to three individuals.