If you are contemplating any work on your house, you need to know if you should obtain a building permit. While a full, detailed breakdown of when a permit is needed can be quite involved, here are a few guidelines. If you have any questions, please call 703-248-5080 (TTY 711), or email us.
What Can Be Done Without a Permit
On a single-family house, most routine work does not require a permit. You can:
Paint, add or replace carpet, tile or hardwood floors, replace cabinets, and even replace paneling and drywall without a permit.
Replace your windows and doors, as long as you don't change the size of the opening in the wall.
Replace your roof, as long as you are not replacing rafters or a major portion of the decking.
Replace plumbing fixtures, such as a sink, disposal, or toilet, as long as the new fixture remains in the same place so you do not need to run any pipe.
Replace electrical fixtures, such as an outlet, switch or ceiling light fixture.
When a Permit is Needed
Any time you change a wall, you need a permit. It does not matter if the wall is load-bearing or not.
If you add walls, remove walls or even change the height of a wall, you need a permit.
The same is true if you want to add an opening, or change the size of an existing opening, such as to put in a larger window.
Anything involving the framing or other structure of a wall requires a permit. This also goes for floors, ceilings, and rafters.
If you plan to move any plumbing fixture, or add one, you need a permit.
If you plan to add electrical fixtures, you need a permit.
Any work involving gas, even just replacing a stove or fireplace insert, requires a permit.
Please note that the permit requirements for multifamily and commercial construction differ from the above. Contact the Building Safety Division if you have any questions.