When you need a garage or shed permit
You need a building permit to build, demolish or alter any carport, garage or shed that is:
- greater than 200 square feet in area (measured from the interior side of the exterior walls)
- or greater than 10 feet in height (measured from the finish floor level to the top of the wall’s top plate)
Depending on the project, you may also need electrical, plumbing or mechanical permits. You don't need a building permit to build a non-habitable accessory structure that is 200 square feet or less in area. You may need a zoning permit.
Who can do the work
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 a homeowner doing the work yourself, then you can sign the trade permit applications. You cannot do the electrical work yourself. You must hire a licensed electrical contractor to do the electrical work. The State of Oregon has some helpful information for homeowners:
Building permit application, information and forms to include with your application
The following information is part of the application. This is everything you might need when applying for a garage, sheds and accessory structures permit. Since every project is unique, there may be some situations where you will be asked to provide additional information. Things you need to apply for this permit may include some or all of the following.
If you aren't sure what you need, contact Permitting Services. You might want to read our step-by-step guide for completing a building permit application. Permit forms and information include:
- Complete Construction Drawings, including Site, Architectural and Structural plans as listed in Garages & Sheds Submittal Requirements:
- Geotechnical engineering report if the lot slope exceeds 20%. Must be prepared by an engineer registered in the State of Oregon
- Erosion control plan (may be a part of the site plan) or completed simple site erosion control form, if the project will result in ground disturbing activity. Note: Erosion control measures shall be installed, even when a simple site erosion control form has been accepted.
- Mitigation form and/or a stormwater plan if your project will add more than 500 square feet of impervious area
Combination permits (if applicable)
Development Services sells a "Residential Combination" permit package. This allows you to call for all inspections using just the Building Permit (RS) IVR number and pay for all the permits at one time. You will need to submit any trade (mechanical, electrical, and/or plumbing) application(s) signed either by you, if you are doing these portions of the work yourself, or by your licensed subcontractors.
If you do not have your completed subcontractor forms when you are applying for your residential permit (RS) you will have to apply for trade permits separately from the building permit. Sub-contractors that you hire must be registered with the State of Oregon and carry the correct licenses in association with their trade.
Code and Rules
Permits are reviewed under multiple city and state codes including:
- Oregon Residential Specialty Code
- Portland City Codes
- Title 11 Tree Code
- Title 24 Building Regulations
- Title 33 Zoning Code
Other codes may apply based on the scope of work. The City and State Codes, Administrative Rules, Code Guides and Program Guides web page has the codes, administrative rules, code guides and program guides.
Step 1: Important things to know about garage permits
How to check the permit history for a house
Depending on the age of your house, we may have the permit history for your house. It is important to verify the permit records, and not rely on the tax information from the county assessor’s office.
Some records are available online, visit the How to Request Public Property Records webpage.
Location on the lot
The Zoning Code, (City Title 33) includes regulations and development standards, such as maximum building coverage and setbacks, which will affect the size and placement of the structure on your property.
Call Planning and Zoning to determine your setbacks.
Fire walls and fire protection
The building code does not restrict placement of a structure on the lot, but it does require that if a structure is close to a property line, it must be constructed to a greater level of fire protection. Construction within three feet of a property line that you share with a neighbor (not a street or public alley) is required to be fire rated. See our handout on Eaves and Exterior Wall Protection:
If your accessory structure is a garage and it will be attached to, or within three feet of the house, then the interior walls of the garage must be covered with a layer of ½" gypsum board for additional fire protection. Any openings (such as doors and windows) within this distance may be required to be protected, depending on the configuration.
Building a garage
The City requires that a garage be accessed via a driveway. If you don’t currently have a driveway you will be required to put one in. The driveway will need to be paved if it is within 150’ of an improved public right-of-way. For additional information on paving surfaces, see Portland City Code, Title 24.45.020. The Zoning Code also includes requirements that may limit the width of a new driveway.
If your project requires construction in the public right-of-way, then Transportation will review the project and issue a separate transportation permit for this work as well. For more information about right-of-way requirements, contact the Portland Bureau of Transportation at (503) 823-7002.
Sometimes, you can use cargo containers as accessory structures. Cargo containers used in this way must meet all the requirements of the codes. Read more in the cargo container code guide:
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. Please review our page on Residential Engineering for more information on these requirements.
Decommissioning a septic tank or cesspool
If the house was not connected to the sewer when it was built, you will likely need to decommission the cesspool or septic tank. If you are not sure, you can look at the historic plumbing records on Portland Maps.
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.
Step 1b: Still need help? Schedule a 15-minute appointment
This is an optional step. If you still need help, we are here for you if you have questions about the information and materials you need to apply. You can schedule a free 15-minute appointment with any of these reviewers:
- Meet with a City Planner to receive information about planning and Zoning and Tree Code requirements that apply to your property.
- Meet with a Building Code and Engineering Reviewer toget help with building code and engineering requirements.
- Meet with a Permit Technician if you have questions about the permit process or if you need help with application requirements.
- Meet with a Water expert tofind out if your project requires you to increase the size of your existing water meter.
- Meet with a Transportation expert to find out if your project will trigger right-of-way improvements.
Contact Environmental Services if you have questions about sanitary or stormwater sewer lines: 503-823-7761.
If you need help, these are experts we recommend you meet with for this project. Not all review groups are listed. The groups listed above will help get you started.
Step 2: Apply for a garage, shed or accessory structure building permit
If you are unable to create electronic plans, please call us and we will work with you.
Step 3: Plan review process
Some simple permits can be reviewed and issued quickly. Your plans will be sent to city review staff in different departments. Each staff person will review your plans with you to verify that the proposed construction meets requirements. If information is missing or if corrections are needed, you will be asked to update your plans.
If the project is more complex and a review cannot be completed as a simple permit, your project will be considered complex. You will be sent a checksheet requesting any clarifications or corrections. For additional information on the review process, review the permit review process webpage.
The Permit Review Process web page has more information about the groups who review permits.
Step 4: Get your approved garage permit
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. Read more about the pre-issuance process.
Step 5: Get ready for garage, shed or accessory structure inspections
The inspection card lists all the inspections you will likely need during your construction project, and what work needs to be done first.
Once your building permit is issued, erosion control measures and sometimes tree protection measures must be installed, inspected and approved prior to beginning any further ground-disturbing activities.
All permits need a final approval inspection to be complete.
Step 6: Schedule an inspection, get inspection results and make 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.
Read more about why work does not get approved and how to schedule a reinspection.
Contact residential inspectors about your permit inspections
If you have questions before or after your inspection, you can talk to an inspector.
More information and additional reading
More information you might find helpful: