Metal Buildings & Zoning Permits: What You Need to Know about the Process

Published March 31, 2017 by Whirlwind Team

 metal building zoning permits

One of the most desirable elements of metal building construction is the versatility of the buildings themselves. Metal buildings can be used for agricultural, residential, commercial, and industrial purposes.

However, just because the buildings can be used for a variety of functions doesn't mean your particular lot of land is zoned accordingly. To avoid common zoning and building mistakes, you should obtain a building permit from your local governing agency.

In most cases, for any building larger than a basic steel storage shed, you will need to have a building permit which will only be granted upon approval of certified construction blueprints.

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First, check zoning regulations

Zoning ordinances are usually set by your local governing agency. They are designed to protect everyone's best interest. You don't want to have a noisy manufacturing plant in the middle of a quiet residential street. They are also put in place to keep a general "uniformity of appearance" for different areas of town.

For example, a section of town which is zoned for commercial businesses may have slightly different building requirements regarding aesthetics and facades, colors, building height, and square footage than residential or agricultural areas.

Before you select the type of metal building for your application, we recommend setting an appointment with a local building official to learn whether or not your building is appropriate for the lot's zoning restrictions, and to get a heads up on certain building codes and regulations you might not have considered before. The sooner, the better because failure to do so can carry a heavy cost in terms of time and money.

Never construct a metal building illegally.

Do not panic if you find the zoning isn't adequate for your needs. In many cases, you will be able to modify your plans to meet the zoning requirements OR you can begin the process to see if the zoning board will change, or make exceptions to, the zoning restrictions for that particular lot.

If this is the case, it is a good idea to communicate with the neighbors first to gain their approval. Their voices will carry significant weight with the zoning board.

Check your local zoning ordinances through:

  • An Internet search
  • Contacting a community government representative
  • Calling your town representative
  • Visiting the local municipal building to speak with the town representative
  • Request a special exception hearing

Your town or city website may have a section explaining local ordinances. Having the information online saves them the time it takes to answer the same questions repeatedly. They may have placed the code book online in its entirety, maybe even as a searchable document. If there is no website and your town is tiny, you shouldn’t have any trouble locating the person in charge of zoning anyway.

The local town hall is the next place to look (or call) if the website is absent or unclear. Ask if your property is zoned for the metal building you intend to erect. If you feel that the zoning is blocking your construction unreasonably, you can request an exception hearing, although applying for the hearing may take time and cost more than you expect.

Then obtain metal building permits

If you have established that your general plans comply with the local zoning ordinances, you can apply for a building permit. Be aware that there will likely be a fee attached for processing your application.

During this process, your local governing agency will want to review your certified building blueprints. They will be evaluating multiple factors such as:

  • Height
  • Width
  • Square footage
  • Building materials
  • Wind loads
  • Snow loads (if appropriate)
  • Electrical wiring
  • Resistance to natural disasters, etc.

Depending on the manufacturer, you can get this information from the as-built drawings, which you can get mailed or otherwise sent to you. Most reputable vendors are happy to help you with the requirements of the permitting process.

The bigger the building you are constructing, and the more people working inside it, the stricter the building regulations will be to ensure everyone's safety. On the other hand, if the structure is small enough, you may not need a permit. Just be sure to confirm that. Do not begin construction or schedule installation until you have your permit.

Have utility lines and pipes clearly marked before construction begins. Cutting a gas or electrical line will not endear you to your neighbors and could cause a serious accident.

Keep in mind; the building officials are going to want to review third-party certified plans for both the building and its foundation. If you are working with a reputable and qualified steel and metal building manufacturer, this should be no problem. There may be an extra fee to get copies so be sure to ask before you have them sent.

If you experience any resistance at all from your manufacturer, you will probably want to go back to the drawing board and research other companies. If they are unable to provide the plans, that is a serious red flag for you and/or your company.

In fact, most experienced steel building manufacturers are more familiar than their clients with which buildings are and are not allowed in certain areas. You may have already been told you couldn't buy a particular building for this exact reason.

If you do not get the required permit

If you build without a permit, as we mentioned earlier you may be required to pull the building down again, at your expense and with an additional fine on top of it. Municipalities have reasons for requiring a permit for erecting buildings within their jurisdiction, even if it is on your own property.

Other problems that can crop up if you do not get the proper permits. Let’s say you put the building up yourself and you are not a professional contractor or metal building installer. Several safety issues can quickly loom from you or your helpers getting injured because you lacked proper equipment for handling and fastening the steel members to the structure failing in the first stiff wind.

Your neighbors may complain. In fact, that may be how the city building inspectors find out about your structure in the first place. If the city doesn’t find out that way, it could come up as an impediment to selling your property later.


By dotting the "i"s and crossing the proverbial "t"s ahead of time, your metal building construction process will go that much more smoothly - and in accordance with local building ordinances.

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