Summary: Electrical permits for a new home in most areas can only be obtained by a licensed electrical contractor.
Carl, I've just bought your fifth edition of “Be Your Own House Contractor”. It has been very helpful so far.
We are moving to the US from the UK early 08 and, being an electrical/building contractor with 15 years experience I thought I’d build our own house! However, I feel completely out of my depth when I read about the whole process in the US.
Is it true when getting the permit you need to show everything from light switch position to your exact kitchen layout?
The process of obtaining a building permit isn't too hard. Of course, I don't know what it is in the UK.
However, when applying for the electrical permit here, you will need to have an electrical contractor license for the state in which you are building.
Anyone can pull a building permit, even a homeowner or an owner builder, but an electrical permit, plumbing permit, or an HVAC permit require a licensed contractor for each specific trade. You may have to employ a licensed electrical contractor as a helper until you get licensed here.
Most new house plans come with the basic electrical layout already drawn on the plans.
But, no home designer knows exactly what a future homeowner wants, so they indicate the electrical layout to meet just the basic code.
Therefore, when the house is ready for the rough in of electrical wiring, the electrical contractor and the owner go through the house and add receptacles, switches, lights, appliances, in addition to what's on the plans based on the electrical code and the owner’s personal wishes.
When the rough in wiring is completed, the electrical inspection department will want to want to know that the house will be wired to at least to basic code as to receptacles, switches, service panels, appliances, etc.
In building your own house, you will most likely want to exceed basic code. You may want to obtain an electrical code book and read up on the code as there are little "quirks" such as when switches, lights, GFI's, separate service panels, etc. are required even though you might think they are not.
Welcome and good luck,