Information about permits and inspections needed to build a dormer or a new upper story to a single-family dwelling or duplex. Get all required forms for remodeling a dormer. Find information on permits and inspections to add a bedroom or to add a room to a home.
Building a dormer or a new second story to a single-family dwelling or duplex changes the building envelope and requires a permit. Any project such as building a dormer or a new second story is an addition. Depending on the scope of work, your project will most likely need electrical, plumbing and/or mechanical permits.
Residential dormer and upper story permit application and important information
The following information must be submitted when applying for a conversion permit. Since every project is unique, there may be some situations where you will be asked to provide more information. Submittal guidelines for dormers and second floor additions has more information.
- Architectural Plans
- Major Residential Alterations & Addition permits have additional requirements:
- Major Residential Alteration and Addition Permit - Overview and Criteria
- Residential Water Service Application (if project will result in more than 3 bathrooms on site)
- Structural Plans & Calculations (if applicable)
For Combination Permits (if applicable):
Step 1: Research your property and what you need for your project
Residential dormer and upper story code and rules
Permits are reviewed under multiple city and state codes including:
- 2017 Oregon Residential Specialty Code (ORSC)
- Portland City Code Title 33 Zoning Code (related webpage)
When converting unfinished areas to living space, the code requires that the remodeled area conform to current code. Development Services has established alternative standards for conversion projects. The above PDF, Converting Attics, Basements and Garages to Living Space, has information on the standards.
How to check the permit history for a house
Depending on the age of your house, we may have inspection cards or microfilmed plans that show the permit history for your house. It is important to verify the permit records, not rely on the tax information from the county assessor’s office. If "existing” finished attic or basement was not permitted, it will need to be legalized through a new permit. To be considered living space, you would need to submit for the same conversion permits as if the work was not already done.
Some records are available online, visit our How to Request Public Property Records page.
Major Residential Alteration and Additions (MRAA)
A major alteration means removing 50% or more of the exterior walls above the foundation. Major Residential Alterations and Additions have a notification rule. There is also required delay period. (Portland City Code Section 24.55.210). For more information, visit apply for a Major Residential Alteration and Addition permit (MRAA).
You must determine if the existing attic floor structure is strong enough to carry the weight of people and furniture.
If converting attic space to living space would mean raising the roof, the Zoning Code height regulations may affect your project. Contact Planning & Zoning in the early design stages.
The Bureau of Development Services sells a "Residential Combination" permit package. This allows you to call for all inspections using one Building Permit (RS) IVR number. You can also pay for all the permits at one time. If you choose a combination permit, you will need to submit the trade (mechanical, electrical, and/or plumbing) applications with your plans. If you are hiring subcontractors to do the trade work, they must sign their trade permit application.
Contractors must have a license to work in Oregon. The Oregon Construction Contractors Board (CCB) issues licenses to contractors. The permit application and their company materials must list the license number.
Need help finding a contractor? The CCB website has good tips on how to search for one. Plumbing and Electrical contractors have additional license requirements.
If you are doing the work yourself, then you can sign the trade permit applications. You can only do the electrical work if you own and occupy the home and are not planning on selling or renting within 6 months.
Enlarging the building footprint
This page is for work that expands the envelope of the structure building up. If you are doing additional work building out that will enlarge the footprint of the house, then there are more requirements. Visit the Apply for an enlarging the building footprint permit.
Evaluating Existing Space
Unfinished areas may not meet current building code requirements for living space. This includes:
- Ceiling height
- Emergency Egress Windows
- Insulation and Ventilation
These conditions could make it expensive, difficult or even impossible for you to convert into living space. The Bureau of Development Services allows special standards for existing situations. These standards are covered in the above PDF, Converting Attics, Basements and Garages to Living Space.
If your house is located in a floodplain, there are restrictions that may limit your ability to add or to significantly improve your house. The work may require retrofitting your house to be flood resistant. Flood plain information is available on Portland Maps Flood Hazard gallery. If the property is located in a flood plain, talk to Site Development & Septic Review in the early stages for what is needed.
Permit fees are based on the type of permit, the work proposed, the valuation of the work, and the staff that need to review the work.
Your project must be designed to meet all structural requirements in the Building Code. The construction drawings must show how both gravity and lateral (wind and earthquake) loads will be resisted. The Residential Engineering page has more information on these requirements.
A "minor" addition does not require plans and calculations to show that a structure will resist wind and earthquake loads. Lateral Bracing for Minor Additions and Dormers has a definition of minor addition. Even if a dormer is considered minor for engineering purposes, it may still be considered a “major addition” per City Code.
When the scope of work will change the structural load in the house, it is important that you submit engineering calculations that show the continuity of the load path from floors or other affected members all the way to the foundation of the house. It is very common that when tracing floor loads from the converted attic, it is the beam in the basement that will be overstressed. Situations like this are required to be resolved as part of the permit application.
Step 2: What you need for a residential dormer and upper story permit
You will need a completed building permit application, a site plan, and architectural plans. Review the plan drawings requirements:
- Drawings, drawn to scale where necessary to verify compliance with code.
- Drawings may be handwritten/drawn if clear and legible. Text or note shall be in print.
- Minimum drawing size: 11x17. All required information is to be clear and legible. Minimum printed text is to be 3/32” or the equivalent 12-point font.
- Cannot use professional's drawings without the permission of the professional who signed the original drawings. For example, an architect’s stamped plan set cannot be used without their permission.
Depending on the scope of work, you may also need structural calculations.
If your project qualifies as a Major Residential Alteration and Addition, there are additional requirements including a delay period and notification to neighbors and neighborhood associations. See the MRAA page for more detail on these requirements.
If you are applying for a combination permit you will also need to submit the trade permit applications (Electrical, Mechanical, and Plumbing).
Each project is unique and you may be asked for additional information.
Step 3: How to submit your residential dormer and upper story permit application and plans
Schedule an a Building Permit Intake Appointment.
If you are unable to create electronic plans yourself, please call us and we will work with you.
You'll receive an email confirming your appointment time. You'll need to upload your completed permit application and all submittal materials before the appointment. A secure link will be provided in the email confirmation.
Step 4: Plan review process and checksheets
Different departments will review your plans to verify that the proposed work meets requirements.
The bureaus/review groups that will check a typical conversion project are:
- Planning and Zoning
- Life Safety Review
- Structural Review
- Site Development Review
- Water Bureau, depending on the number of fixtures in the structure
- Urban Forestry Review
If a reviewer needs more information, they will send a checksheet to the applicant requesting corrections or more information. The plans will need to be updated and re-submitted with the checksheet response.
The permit review process webpage has more information. You can check the status of the permit review on Portland Maps permit/case search.
Step 5: Residential dormer and upper story permit issuance
When the last technical review is approved, your permit will be pre-issued. Pre-issuance is the last permit check. This step ensures all required reviews took place, all required approval stamps are on the plans, and the fees are charged correctly. You will be contacted when your permit is ready, and notified of your final fee total. Instructions will be given on how to get your approved permit and pay your fees. Your permit is not issued until all fees are paid.
Step 6: Start building and get ready for inspections
The inspection card lists all the inspections you will likely need during your construction project, and what work needs to be done first. Anything having to do with walls, floors, ceilings, stairs, roofs is structural. These need to be inspected before they are covered in any way, or before pouring any concrete.
For combination permits including electrical, mechanical and plumbing, visit the trade permit pages for information on the order of inspections.
All permits need a final approval inspection to be complete.
Step 7: Residential inspections, results and corrections
To schedule an inspection, call the automated inspection request line. You will need your IVR or permit number and the three digit code for the inspection.
Get the results of the inspection on Portland Maps permit/case search the next day.
Not approved - there are some reasons why the work did not get approved:
- no access - the inspector may not have been able to inspect the work
- incomplete work
- code violations
The inspector will list the corrections needed on the inspection report.
Call for a reinspection after making the corrections. Use the same three digit inspection code.
If you make the corrections the same day wait until 5 pm to request a reinspection. The inspector needs to enter their results before you can schedule the reinspection.
There is a reinspection fee charged for more than one reinspection for a single issue.
Contact residential inspectors
If you have questions before your inspection, you can talk to an inspector. The 1 & 2 family inspector area map list the inspector's name, area, and phone number.
Because of vacation or illness, your inspector may be different than the one listed on the map. If you have questions after your inspection, find out which inspector to call. Their contact information will be on the inspection results and on Portland maps.