Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What types of projects require a permit?

A: Any owner or authorized agent who intends to construct, enlarge, alter, repair, move, demolish or change the occupancy of a building or structure, or to erect, install, enlarge, alter, repair, remove, convert or replace any electrical, gas, mechanical or plumbing system, the installation of which is regulated by this code, or to cause any such work to be done, shall first make application to the building official and obtain the required permit. ~ International Residential Code 2009

Note: Substantial work must take place within 6 months of permit being issued, permit expires 1 year from issue date. 

Q: Do I need a permit for a shed?

A: Yes! Sheds are structures and require a permit. You’ll need to identify the proposed location with dimensions on a plan of the property to ensure that it meets required structure setbacks from property lines and onsite subsurface wastewater disposal systems.

Q: Do I need a permit for a fence on my property and what are the requirements for fence placement?

A: Fences seven feet high or less do not require a permit. Fences are excluded from Scarborough's definition of structure, and therefore are not required to meet structure setbacks, but should be located so that they can be maintained without trespassing on abutting properties. Care should be taken not extend fences into the public right of way so as to obstruct sight distances of motoring or pedestrian traffic. Fences greater than seven feet in height are subject to permitting, and may need to be designed by a professional to withstand lateral loads and wind forces depending on the proposed style, materials, and location.

Q: What will my permit cost?

A: It depends. Please refer to the Fee Schedule found next to “FAQ’s” above.

Q: What must I do to correct an un-permitted space in my home so that I can refinance (or sell) my property?

A: You need to get what is referred to as a “permit after-the-fact”. This will require the current home owner to submit (at a minimum):
  • a building permit application for the space in question 
  • plans, specifications, or details for the work that was done 
  • an electrical permit application (if wiring was done) 
  • a notarized affidavit signed by a licensed electrician, stating the work is done to code 
  • a plumbing permit application (if plumbing was installed) 
  • a notarized affidavit signed by a licensed plumber, stating the plumbing is done to code 
There may be additional permits needed depending on what the unpermitted space is, for example, if it is an accessory unit or bedroom served by onsite sewage disposal, you may need to upgrade your septic system. All after-the-fact permits will be charged at double the normal fee because it is far more time consuming for the codes department to shepherd applicants through the process and do the inspections after work has been finished. The affidavits are required because inspections were not done to verify compliance before it was closed in. Any work that does not meet the current codes must be corrected or removed before a certificate of occupancy can be issued. The Certificate of Occupancy (CO) concludes the process, and is issued to the homeowner once all applications and affidavits have been submitted, fees have been paid, permits have been issued, and a final passing inspection has been conducted.

The take away on this point is that homeowners should always be sure to obtain required permits for all projects before they begin work. In some cases, it may not even be possible to permit the work after the fact, and it may have to be removed. It will always be cheaper and easier than obtaining after-the-fact permits. You will find an “After-the-Fact” permit application packet by clicking the “Permits & Applications” tab on the Planning and Codes webpage. 

Q: Can I split my property and create additional lots?

A: Maybe. It depends on many things that will need to be determined by others and in some cases, you’ll need to hire professionals to identify and map features of the property. The first step is to know what you have and what is required for the zone in which your lot is located.
  • Do you have enough road frontage for more than one lot?
  • Do you have enough area for more than one lot? 
  • Can you meet property line setbacks to existing structures when you create a new property line? 
  • Are there any easements across your property to be deducted from your total area? 
  • Are there any wetlands, slopes greater than 20%, or floodways on your property? 
  • Will any additional lots trigger the subdivision review process? 
Help with many of the answers to these questions can be found on the Town Ordinances page.

Additionally, you can find much of the information about your lot by using the GIS online mapping application.

For help learning how to use the GIS application, click here. Or if you like to play with things and learn that way, just click on “New Scarborough WebGIS Browse Map” and experiment. For example, by selecting the ‘map layers’ tab, you can click on the “zoning” layer and see what district your parcel is in. Then you can go to the ordinance to see what the requirements are for that district. 

Q: Can I operate a business from my home?

A: Possibly. Depending on the nature of your business, it may qualify as a Home Occupation. You need to determine if a home occupation is allowed in the zoning district where your property is located. In most all residential districts Home Occupations are only permitted as a special exception, which means that approval has to come through the Zoning Board of Appeals. See Section IV.I – Special Exception Permits in the Scarborough Zoning Ordinance for more details. You should also review the performance standards for home occupations in Section IX.V of the ordinance to learn if the type of business you want to operate will qualify.

Q: Why do I need a Flood Hazard Development Permit when my home has never flooded and I have never had flood insurance?

A: If your property is shown to be in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) on Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) for Scarborough, the National Flood Insurance Program requires that you obtain a permit for any development, defined as any manmade change to the improved or unimproved real estate, including things like filling or storage of equipment or materials. This is a condition of the Town’s participation and membership in the National Flood Insurance Program, which allows property owners in Scarborough to benefit from FEMA subsidized insurance when they are required to have it. Homeowners may be able to apply for a Letter of Map Amendment, which removes their property from the SFHA if they provide acceptable proof. More information is available at: 

Q: Where can I find Scarborough’s building code?

A: Scarborough is a town of over 4000 population, and by statute must adopt the Maine Uniform Building and Energy Codes (MUBEC). This set of codes consists of two building codes, an energy code, and an existing buildings code that applies to renovation work detailed below:
  • The 2015 International Residential Code, applicable to one and two family dwellings, and townhouses, and associated accessory structures.
  • The 2015 International Building Code, applicable to all other buildings.
  • The 2009 International Energy Conservation Code
  • The 2015 International Existing Buildings Code
There are Maine amendments to these codes. Those amendments can be found at the Codes Bureau website, listed below.

You can buy copies of the codes from The International Codes Council, at www.iccsafe.org.

You may also find the code books in the Town Library.
The links below will take you directly to the subject codes:
Also adopted as part of MUBEC are the standards listed below. These standards do not require that these features be installed, but govern how they’re installed if they’re installed.

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, Standards (ASHRAE)

  • 62.1 - 2013 Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality
  • 62.2 - 2013 Ventilation and Acceptable Indoor Air Quality in Low-Rise Residential Buildings
  • 90.1 - 2013 Energy Standard for Buildings except Low-Rise Residential Buildings
ASHRAE standards can be purchased at www.ashrae.org.
  • ASTM E-1465-2008, Standard Practice for Radon Control Options for the Design and Construction of New Low-Rise Residential Buildings
ASTM standards can be purchased at www.astm.org.

The state has set up a Bureau of Building Codes and Standards to administer the new codes. Their website is: http://www.maine.gov/dps/bbcs. Kathy Chamberlain is the contact person (624-7007).

Q: Do I need a permit for a swimming pool?

A: Yes. Under 2015 IRC Appendix G - Pool and Spa Requirements, a swimming pool is defined as Any structure intended for swimming or recreational bathing that contains water over 24 inches deep. This includes in-ground, above-ground and on-ground swimming pools, hot tubs and spas.

You will also need an electrical permit for the installation of filter and circulation pumps, outlets and lighting that may be installed for the pool. We strongly recommend that you hire a licensed electrician to do this work as there are specific bonding and grounding requirements necessary for protection from electrical shock. Remember…water and electricity don’t mix well, so spend the money and BE SAFE!

Q: Do I need any fencing around my swimming pool?

A: Yes. Per code AG105.2, an outdoor swimming pool, including an in-ground, aboveground or on-ground pool, hot tub or spa shall be provided with a barrier which shall comply with the following:

1. The top of the barrier shall be at least 48 inches above grade measured on the side of the barrier, which faces away from the swimming pool. The maximum vertical clearance between grade and the bottom of the barrier shall be 2 inches measured on the side of the barrier, which faces away from the swimming pool. Where the top of the pool structure is above grade, such as an aboveground pool, the barrier may be at ground level, such as the pool structure, or mounted on top of the pool structure. Where the barrier is mounted on top of the pool structure, the maximum vertical clearance between the top of the pool structure and the bottom of the barrier shall be 4 inches.

2. Openings in the barrier shall not allow passage of a 4-inch-diameter sphere.

3. Solid barriers that do not have openings, such as a masonry or stonewall, shall not contain indentations or protrusions except for normal construction tolerances and tooled masonry joints.

4. Where the barrier is composed of horizontal and vertical members and the distance between the tops of the horizontal members is less than 45 inches, the horizontal members shall be located on the swimming pool side of the fence. Spacing between vertical members shall not exceed 1.75 inches in width. Where there are decorative cut outs within vertical members, spacing within the cutouts shall not exceed 1.75 inches in width.

5. Where the barrier is composed of horizontal and vertical members and the distance between the tops of the horizontal members is 45 inches or more, spacing between vertical members shall not exceed 4 inches. Where there are decorative cutouts within vertical members, spacing within the cutouts shall not exceed 1.75 inches in width.

6. Maximum mesh size for chain link fences shall be a 2.25-inch square unless the fence is provided with slats fastened at the top or the bottom which reduce the openings to not more than 1.75 inches.

7. Where the barrier is composed of diagonal members, such as a lattice fence, the maximum opening formed by the diagonal members shall not be more than 1.75 inches.

8. Access gates shall comply with the requirements of Section AG105.2, Items a through g, and shall be equipped to accommodate a locking device. Pedestrian access gates shall open outward away from the pool and shall be self-closing and have a self-latching device. Gates other than pedestrian access gates shall have a self-latching device. Where the release mechanism of the self-latching device is located less than 54 inches from the bottom of the gate, the release mechanism and openings shall comply with the following:

8.1. The release mechanism shall be located on the pool side of the gate at least 3 inches below the top of the gate, and

8.2 The gate and barrier shall have no opening greater than 0.5 inch within 18 inches of the release mechanism.

9. Where a wall of a dwelling serves as part of the barrier, one of the following conditions shall be met:

9.1. The pool shall be equipped with a powered safety cover in compliance with ASTM F 1346; or

9.2. Doors with direct access to the pool through that wall shall be equipped with an alarm which produces an audible warning when the door and/or its screen, if present, are opened. The alarm shall be listed and labeled in accordance with UL2017. The deactivation switch(es) shall be located at least 54 inches (1372 mm) above the threshold of the door; or

9.3. Other means of protection, such as self-closing doors with self-latching devices, which are approved by the governing body, shall be acceptable as long as the degree of protection afforded is not less than the protection afforded by Item 9.1 or 9.2 described above.

10. Where an aboveground pool structure is used as a barrier or where the barrier is mounted on top of the pool structure, and the means of access is a ladder or steps, then:

10.1 The ladder or steps shall be capable of being secured, locked or removed to prevent access, or

10.2 The ladder or steps shall be surrounded by a barrier, which meets the requirements of Section AG105.2, Items 1 through 9. When the ladder or steps are secured, locked or removed, any opening created shall not allow the passage of a 4-inch-diameter sphere.

11. AG105.3 Indoor swimming pool. Walls surrounding an indoor swimming pool shall comply with Section AG105.2, Item 9.

12. AG105.4 Prohibited locations. Barriers shall be located to prohibit permanent structures, equipment or similar objects from being used to climb them.

13. AG105.5 Barrier exceptions. Spas or hot tubs with a safety cover which complies with ASTM F 1346, as listed in Section AG107, shall be exempt from the provisions of this appendix.

14. AG106.1 General – Entrapment Protection for Swimming Pool and Spa Suction Outlets. Suction outlets shall be designed and installed in accordance with ANSI/APSP-7

Q: What are the code requirements for...

Egress Windows?

A: Egress windows must be 5.7 square feet on all levels of home (includes finished basements).

Smoke Detectors?

A: Hard wired 110 AC with battery backup.

Railings / Guard Rails?

A: As per code IRC 2015, IBC 2015

Fire Separation?

A: As per code

Stair Treads and Risers?

A: 7 3/4 inch max rise, 10 inch net tread, residential IRC 2015, IBC 7 inch rise, 11 inch tread

Q: What inspections will my project need and how do I get them?

A: See the Inspection Checklist attached to the construction permit or ask the Code Office.

Q: How can I find out what the required building setbacks are on my property?

A: Setbacks are referred to in the zoning ordinance as required yard. You can locate the zoning ordinance at https://sites.google.com/a/scarboroughmaine.org/town/departments/planning-codes/code-enforcement. You can find the required yard – front, side, or rear – listed in each zoning district section of the ordinance under “Space and Bulk Regulations.” The minimum front yard for ALL buildings (garages, sheds, and pool houses included) is the distance between the front property line and the closest point of the structure (usually the eave overhang); the minimum side and rear yards are the distance between those property lines and the closest point of the structure. The front yard setback varies from district to district while the side and rear yard setbacks are generally 15 feet, but may be different for specific districts or uses.