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Do You Need a Permit for Your Residential Project?

Learn more about residential building permits, electrical permits, mechanical permits, plumbing permits and zoning permits and work that requires a permit for a 1 or 2 family home. When is a residential permit needed? When don't you need a permit for a 1 or 2 family home? (Also known as Brochure 2)

On this page

Get information about the types of work that require a permit, and those that do not for residential (1 or 2 family homes).  Residential is defined as 1 or 2 family dwellings.  Apartments and buildings with more than 2 dwelling units are considered commercial and have different requirements.

Where can you get a permit?

Check out the Permits area for information about permits. You can also visit the residential permitting area of the site. 

One and two-family residential dwellings

Permits are required for many types of work that you may need or desire to have done on your property. Listed in this handout is work requiring and not requiring permits. This information is not all inclusive, so when in doubt about a permitting need please contact the Permitting General Information phone number. 

Work that requires a residential building permit

  • Build a one or two family dwelling
  • Build, demolish or add a room, garage, shed, or other enclosed structure attached to a house
  • Build, demolish or move any structure that is more than 200 square feet in area or having a wall height of more than 10 feet high measured from the finished floor level to the top of the top plate
  • Add or enlarge a porch cover, patio cover, carport or other open-sided roofed structure with a cumulative area greater than 200 square feet that is attached to a house
  • Enclose a patio cover, porch or carport
  • Finish an attic, garage or basement to create habitable space
  • Add a bathroom in new or existing space
  • Cut new window or door opening, widen or reduce the size of existing openings
  • Move, remove or add walls
  • Build or replace an exterior stairway more than 30 inches above grade
  • Build a retaining wall that exceeds four feet high measured from the bottom of the footing to the top of the wall or any retaining wall affected by the weight of an adjacent slope, or nearby driveway or structure
  • Build a deck more than 30 inches high
  • Put up a fence more than seven feet high
  • Move more than 10 cubic yards of earth
  • Pour concrete sidewalks, slabs and driveways more than 30 inches above adjacent grade or over any story or basement
  • Install a barrier around a swimming pool
  • Replace roofing in a wildfire hazard zone
  • Reroof a house or duplex when more than 15% of the existing roof sheathing is being removed and replaced
  • Tree planting, preservation, or related requirements may apply to your project under Title 11, Trees (the Tree Code). To find out more about these regulations and how they affect your project please visit the Trees area or call 503-823-TREE (8733).

Work that requires a zoning permit

  • Build or install a garage or carport less than or equal to 200 square feet in area and less than 10 feet in height measured from the finished floor level to the top of the top plate to confirm the location on the site complies with zoning code requirements
  • Create a new or enlarged parking area or driveway, or pave a previously graveled parking area
  • Make any improvement required as a condition of your land use review approval which does not require a building permit
  • Make any alteration to exterior development, including site work such as, constructing a patio or deck, clearing trees, or installing landscaping in any zone with restrictions on development

Work that requires a residential mechanical permit

  • Install or change any part of a heating or cooling system which has duct work or must be vented into any kind of chimney or vent
  • Install a wood stove or fireplace insert
  • Install, alter or repair gas piping between the meter and an appliance (indoors and outdoors)
  • Install a fuel oil tank

Work that requires a residential electrical permit

You must be both the owner and occupant of the dwelling in order to do electrical work yourself. If the dwelling is intended for sale, lease, rent or exchange in the near future, work must be done by a licensed electrical contractor. A permit is required to:

  • Install, change or repair any hard-wired electrical system
  • Run any additional wiring, put in an additional electrical outlet or light fixture, or change your fuse box to circuit breakers
  • Install or alter low voltage systems such as security alarms, central vacuum systems, or low voltage lighting
  • Add or replace electrical wall/baseboard heaters

Work that requires a residential plumbing permit

  • Repair, replace, relocate or add to the piping system within your home
  • Install new plumbing fixtures such as toilets, sinks, showers, tubs, dishwashers, etc.
  • Replace a water heater
  • Replace existing plumbing fixtures if the replacement involves concealed plumbing connections
  • Install rain drains, cesspools, septic systems, drywells, sewer lines, water lines, backflow prevention assemblies for lawn sprinkler systems or cap a sewer
  • Cap of fixtures that have been removed

Note: Adding a bathroom not only requires a plumbing and building permit, but may also require an electrical and/or mechanical permit.

Work that doesn't require a residential building permit

Some minor repairs and maintenance on one or two family dwellings do not require a building permit. The project must meet the Building and Zoning Code requirements even when a building permit is not required.

Additional Zoning regulations may apply to sites subject to land use reviews, sites within Overlay Zones—such as Environmental, Design and Historic Resource Protection—and sites within Plan Districts. For example, historic review may be required to paint the exterior of a Historic Landmark, design review may be required to replace exterior siding, or environmental review may be required to build a patio or deck. Minimum setbacks of 5 feet or greater may apply to sheds and other accessory structures. Call Planning and Zoning Information to confirm the zoning rules for your site and project.

Outside work

  • Paint buildings
  • Install insulation in existing homes
  • Install storm windows
  • Install window awnings, not more than 54 inches deep and not in a design zone, that are supported by an exterior wall and do not project beyond the property line
  • Install gutters and downspouts (a plumbing permit may still be required for stormwater disposal)
  • Replace or repair siding
  • Replace or repair roofing, including replacement of no more than 15% of the existing roof sheathing (a maximum of three layers of roofing is allowed, except in a wildfire hazard zone)
  • Replace doors or windows if the existing openings are not widened or reduced in size
  • Install swings and other play structures
  • Build a fence up to seven feet high (except in front setback areas – refer to the Fence Guide)
  • Pave a walkway
  • Build stairs, patio, or deck that is not more than 30 inches above grade
  • Build a shed or other non-habitable one-story detached accessory structure, provided that the floor area does not exceed 200 square feet and a wall height of 10 feet measured from the finished floor to the top of the top plate
  • Repave driveways where expansion is not proposed
  • Build a patio or porch cover not over 200 square feet and supported by an exterior building wall

Please note: If your property is in a flood hazard area additional requirements apply, contact Site Development to discuss your project.

Inside work

  • Replace interior wall, floor or ceiling covering (such as wallboard or sheet vinyl)
  • Install shelving and cabinets
  • Remove and reinstall a toilet when installing new floor covering
  • Replace accessible plumbing fixtures to make emergency plumbing repairs or to replace freeze-damaged or leaking concealed plumbing pipes that are no more than five feet in length

Schedule an inspection

  1. Call the 24-hour Requests for Inspection and Inspection Results phone number 
  2. Enter your IVR or permit number
  3. Enter the three-digit inspection code for the type of inspection you are requesting
  4. Enter a phone number where you can be reached during weekdays and if you want the inspection in the morning or afternoon, or leave voicemail with plan location or lockbox code.
  5. There must be an adult over age 18 to let the inspector inside

Contact

Permitting General Information

Development Services

Planning and Zoning

Development Services

phone number503-823-7526

Monday through Friday from 8 am - 5 pm. Leave a message with address and your questions.

Requests for Inspection and Inspection Results

Development Services

phone number503-823-7000

Automated Line - Requires an IVR or permit number

Site Development & Septic Review

phone number503-823-6892

Monday through Friday from 8 am - 5 pm. Leave a message with detailed information.