Building Plan Submission Requirements

All but the simplest of jobs will require the submission of plans in order to obtain a permit. The quality of these plans can have a substantial effect on how long it takes to get a permit. Professional-drawn, to-scale, and complete plans have a better chance of being approved on their first review. 

Requirements For All Plans

All plans submitted must have the following, if it is part of the work being done: 

  • Name and address of project;
  • Name, address, phone number, and occupation of the author of the construction documents; 
  • Scaled and dimensioned floor plans with all room names labeled, doors and windows shows, and special features clearly noted;
  • Exterior elevations, showing all openings;
  • Note all door and windows sizes, either on elevations or plans, or door and windows schedules referenced to plans;
  • Indicate sleeping room egress; 
  • Complete sections and details for foundations, floors, walls, and roofs, with components of assemblies clearly noted, properly cross-referenced, with floor-to-floor heights dimensioned;
  • Indicated stair dimensions, tread riser dimensions, and handrail/guardrail information.
  •  For additions and renovations, make clear the distinction between existing construction, alterations to existing construction, and new work; 
  • Indicate rated walls, including the testing agency design number(s), and show compliance with other required unit separation provisions;
  • Show smoke detector and electric panel locations.
  • Provide a mechanical layout and equipment list. Show flue locations and provisions for combustion air.
  • Scaled and dimensions framing plans for all floors and roof. Indicate all beam sizes, headers, ledgers, and their attachment. Show continuous load path for all posts and columns from bearing point to foundation. Note species and grade of lumber, or manufactured structural members' performance grade.
  • Note any special loading.
  • Scaled and dimensioned foundation plans. Show ventilation and access openings as required.
  • Sections and details properly referenced to plans.
  • Reinforcing steel for slabs, retaining wall, grade beams, foundations, and foundation walls.
  • For additional and renovations, detail the existing structure and footings that provide bearing for new work. 
  • Structural calculations, signed and sealed by a structural design professional licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia, for those structural elements exceeding the tabular values set forth in the code may be required. 

Additional Requirements for Commercial Plans

Plans for commercial work should include the following additional information: 

  • The existing and proposed "construction type", as defined in the code. 
  • The existing and proposed "use group", as defined in the code.
  • Whether or not the building is sprinklered. 
  • Whether or not the building has a fire alarm.
  • The year the building was built, if it is an existing building. 
  • Architectural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and structural plans as required to fully understand the construction.
  • A code analysis may be required on difficult plans. 

Signing and Sealing

For some jobs, the plans must have a Virginia licensed architect or professional engineer, also known as a Registered Design Professional (RDP), sign and seal the plans. Residential plans are not required to be drawn by an RDP, but if they are, they must be signed and sealed. 

Commercial plans are more complicated. Generally, work in any building over three (3) floors or over 5,000 s.f. requires signed and sealed plans. For details, please see the "Virginia Related Laws Package". 

Paper Size and Binding

The City has no specific requirements for the size of plans. Plans must be sufficiently large to be easily legible. Nothing should be less than 8 1/2" by 11". Plans for all but the simplest of jobs should be drawn to scale, 1/4" to the foot being the preferred scale, which may dictate the size of paper used. In no case should plans labeled with a scale be submitted in any size other than that scale. 

Plan sets are to be neatly stapled on the left-hand side. For plan sets on large-format paper, a binding strip is to be used. 

Copies

All submissions require at least two plan copies, and some require more. Visit the Requirements for Applications for a Permit page for details on how many copies to submit. 

All copies must be identical. If plans are signed and sealed, at least two copies must bear original ("wet") seals. Additional copies may have photocopied seals. 

Plan Revisions

Often, plans will need to be revised after submission, or even after issuance. Typically only two sets ("Office" and "Builder") sets are revised. Revisions may be made at the counter or by signing out the plans to make revisions elsewhere. 

The following rules apply to plan revisions: 

  • If you annotate, please use bubble or comment annotations. Do not use red ink. Red ink is designated for City of Falls Church official comments only. 
  • If you swap sheets, remove the old sheet and replace with the new. Do not leave old sheets in the revised plan set. Return all removed sheets from both copies as a void set. 
  • If the plans require an A/E seal, all annotations and new sheets must be signed and dated by an appropriate Registered Design Professional (RDP).
  • Whatever changes you make must be identical on both "Office" and "Builder" plan sets.
  • When you bring in your revisions, you will be asked to date-stamp new pages and bubbled annotations. 

Specific Cases

Certain project types arise frequently enough to have detailed requirements. 

Fuel-Gas Permits

Any work with gas requires a Fuel-Gas Permit Application, even a direct replacement of a furnace or stove. Any project that involves changing or adding piping must submit two copies of a gas riser diagram for review. 

Decks

Deck plans must show: 

  1. A framing plan showing: 
    1. Spans and sizes of all joists and beams; 
    2. Post and footing sizes and spacing; 
    3. All ledgers with their attachment detailed; and,
    4. Guardrail post attachment detail. 
  2. A survey plat showing the deck location, drawn to scale. 
  3. For certain townhouses, a site plan amendment must be processed through the Planning Department prior to approval of a building permit for a deck. 

The American Wood Council has an excellent Residential Deck Construction Guide, which can be downloaded from their website. 

Fences

Unless a fence protects a swimming pool, no permit for a fence is required. Instead, use the Building Permit Wavier for Fences and Sheds form. Complete the form and submit it along with a plat highlighting the location and height(s) of the fence. 

Fences that protect a swimming pool require a Building Permit Application and would need three complete sets of plans showing complete construction details. 

Fences have limitations on height. Please contact the Zoning Division for more information. 

Sheds

All sheds require the applicant to file an application for a building permit and include three copies of a plat showing the location of the shed. Sheds determined to be less than 256 square feet will not be required to obtain the permit or pay any fees. Sheds over 256 square feet must submit full building plans, three full sets, with the plats attached. Show all framing, footers, etc. as required. 

Sheds must be 5' from the property line and 10' from the house. They can be no taller than 12' to the midpoint of the roof. 

If your house is in the resource protection area (RPA) or floodplain, or your proposed location encroaches on an easement, additional requirements may apply. 

Residential Generators

Backup electric generators for residences have very specific requirements. In order to process and review a generator, all of the following must be submitted: 

  1. Application for electrical permit
  2. Application for gas permit
  3. Gas riser diagram
  4. Plat showing generator location
  5. Building permit outside work addendum
  6. Information sheets on the generator and transfer switch

Until all these have been submitted, no reviews will begin. 

For More Information

This information can be downloaded as a PDF brochure