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.
What you need for a residential dormer and upper story permit- plan drawings
You will need a completed building permit application, a site plan (often called a plot 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.
- Only use a professional's drawings with the permission of the professional who signed the original drawings. For example, an architect’s stamped plan set can't 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 (MRAA)
There are more requirements, including a delay period and notification to neighbors and neighborhood associations. Check out the MRAA page for more information.
If you are applying for a combination permit you will also need to submit the trade permit applications (Electrical, Mechanical, and Plumbing). Read more about what to include with the application.
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 can only do the electrical work if you own and occupy the home and are not planning on selling or renting within 6 months. The State of Oregon has some helpful information for homeowners:
Building permit application and important forms and information
The following information is part of the application. This is everything you might need when applying for a 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. Permit forms and information include:
Building permit application
Completeness checklist: residential additions and alterations for Life Safety and Structural Review (fillable)
Download the Word document and save a copy to use this Life Safety completeness checklist:
Lateral bracing requirements for minor additions and dormers
Major Residential Alterations & Additions permits have additional requirements
Sample site plan
Structural Plans & Calculations (if applicable)
Submittal guidelines for dormers and second floor additions
Submittal guidelines for dormers and second floor additions has more information:
2017 Energy efficiency additional measures requirements
W-3 form: small meter sizing worksheet
If project will result in more than 3 bathrooms on site:
Additional applications for combination permits (if applicable)
Step 1: Research your property and what you need for your new addition
Residential dormer and upper story code and rules
Permits are reviewed under multiple city and state codes including:
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.
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.
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 an existing finished attic or basement was not permitted, it will need to be legalized through a new permit. To be considered living space, you need to apply for 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.
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 or emergency exit 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 1b: Still need help? Schedule a 15-minute appointment
If you have questions after reviewing the information on this page, we recommend you book a free 15-minute appointment with us.
This is an optional step. We're here for you if you have questions about the information and materials you need to apply.
If you need help, here are some experts we recommend you meet with for this project*:
Meet with a Permit Technician
- Schedule this appointment if you have questions about the permit process. Permit technicians will provide you with the information found on this page.
- Get help with permit application requirements.
These are optional meetings. Only book if you have questions.
Meet with a City Planner
- We recommend you meet with city planner about planning and zoning or tree code requirements before submitting building permits.
- Get information on rules that apply to your property.
These are optional meetings. Only book if you have questions.
Meet with a Building Code and Engineering Reviewer
- Get help with building code and engineering requirements.
- To submit a question by phone, call Building Code Plan Review.
These are optional meetings. Only book if you have questions.
*Not all review groups may be listed. The groups listed above will help get you started.
Step 2: Apply for a residential dormer and upper story permit and submit plans
Get step-by-step instructions for submitting a permit application request online or in-person.
For most projects, electronic plans are submitted through the Single PDF process. Large scale projects such as commercial new construction are submitted though PDX E-plans and ProjectDox. If you are unable to create electronic plans, please call us and we will work with you.
Step 3: Plan review process and checksheets
You can check the status of a permit review on Portland Maps permit/case search. Many people might review a single permit. The Permit Review Process web page has more information about the groups who review permits.
A checksheet is sent to the applicant when a reviewer needs additional information or a correction has to be made to the plans. Read more about how to send us corrections and how to prepare corrected paper plans.
Step 4: Get your residential dormer and upper story permit
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 5: 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 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.
Read more about converting attics, basements and garages
Read more about converting attics, basements and garages: