Building Safety

Responsibilities


The Building Safety Division enforces codes and regulations established by the Commonwealth of Virginia and the City of Falls Church governing the construction, alteration, and maintenance of buildings and structures within the City for the protection of residents and property. 

The Division's staff reviews applications and issues building permits for the construction of new buildings and structures and for the alteration of existing ones.  The staff performs inspections as construction progresses to verify compliance with the applicable construction codes and regulations. The Division also investigates complaints, enforces the correction of building code violations, and enforces local regulations related to unsafe structures.

The primary customers of the Building Safety Division are homeowners, small-business owners, developers, other City departments and the building construction industry at large.

Building in a home

Permit Turn-Around Times


Building Safety is committed to providing timely plan review turn-around. See the table below for recent turn-around times and projections.

 Typical Number of Workdays to Review Plan Submissions
 Month in
 Which
 Review
Completed
Residential
Expedited
Commercial
Tenant
Fit-Outs
New Homes,
Additions &
Remodels
 Decks Gas Risers
 Feb 2016
 2 - 9 days
6 days
2 - 3 days
4 - 17 days
 Mar 2016
1 - 11 days
1 day
2 - 6 days
4 - 19 days
 Apr 2016
3 - 9 days
3 - 6 days
1 - 12 days
4 - 19 days
 May 2016
1 - 7 days
3 - 4 days
1 - 2 days
3 - 11 days
 June 2016
2 - 6 days
3 - 5 days
1 - 5 days
2 - 13 days
July 2016
5 - 8 days
n/a 2 - 11 days
5 - 19 days
Aug 2016
2 - 9 days
n/a 3 - 7 days
1 - 17 days
 Sept 2016
2 - 8 days
8 days
1 - 6 days
2 - 21 days
Oct 2016 
1 - 9 days
5 days
2 - 4 days
2 - 9 days
Nov 2016
2 - 6 days
2 - 5 days
2 - 4 days
2 - 15 days
Dec 2016
(projections)

  9 workdays   6 workdays  6 workdays 17 workdays

Notes:
  • Reported plan-review times are for Development Services (Zoning and Building Safety). Grading-plan review times are not included.
  • Reported plan-review times and projections are based on 90th percentiles. Extreme outliers due to unusual circumstances are statistically removed from the results. Projections are based on past performance and current-month staffing expectations.
  • Simple commercial tenant fit-outs in existing established locations are eligible for expedited review. Projects involving building shell alterations, significant structural work, or site plan review are not eligible for expedited review.

Online Inspection Request


Inspections for issued building and trade permits may be requested online using the following link:
Please note when you do this you are only requesting an inspection. Your inspection is only confirmed when you receive a return e-mail giving you the date and time of the inspection. You should receive an e-mail within a few hours during normal business hours.

Building Codes and Policies


Credit Card Fees


Effective immediately, the Development Services Counter will charge a 2.95% fee for the use of a credit or debit card for any payment. This includes payments for all types of permits, bonds and fees. This is to offset the actual cost to the City of accepting credit / debit cards as a form of payment.

Requirements


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.
  • Replacing mechanical units, such as a furnace or air conditioner, 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.