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.