Learn more about building permits for carports, garages, sheds and accessory structures like cargo containers.
When a building permit is needed
A building permit is required 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 average height of the roof). Depending on the scope of work, your project may also require electrical, plumbing or mechanical permits.
A building permit is not required to construct a non-habitable accessory structure that is 200 square feet or less in area. However, a zoning permit could be required.
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. Building Codes, Rules & Guides has links to the codes and administrative rules, code and program guides.
Important things to know
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 the Portland Bureau of 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, cargo containers can be used as accessory structures. These are challenging in that they too must meet all the requirements of the codes.
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 see 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.
What you need for a garage, shed or accessory structure building permit
The following information must be submitted when applying for this type of permit. Since every project is unique, there may be some situations where you will be asked to provide additional information.
- Four sets of complete Construction Drawings, including Site, Architectural and Structural plans as listed in our Garages & Sheds Submittal Requirements handout
- 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
The Bureau of 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.
How to submit a garage shed or accessory structure building permit
To schedule an appointment to submit your plans electronically (one permit submission per appointment), please email or call Schedule a Permit Intake Appointment and leave a message that includes the following information:
- Your name
- Your phone number
- Your email address
- Description of the work
- Project address
We will respond as soon as possible via phone or email with confirmation of your appointment. We ask that you please do not call and send an email message as it can cause staff to book duplicate appointments. Thank you!
We are currently experiencing a high volume of calls and emails. Please wait at least one week after submitting your application before sending a follow up call or email message.
During your appointment time, our staff will guide you through uploading your plans using a secure link we will provide. To file a permit application, you must upload a completed application and all submittal materials. Smaller projects will be submitted through the Single pdf process.
If you are unable to create electronic plans yourself, please call us and we will work with you.
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, see the permitting process overview flowchart.
The bureaus/review groups that will check your project vary depending on the scope of work and may include:
- Planning and Zoning Review
- Life Safety Review
- Structural Review
- Residential Subsurface Evaluation—Site Development Review
- Bureau of Environmental Services
- Portland Bureau of Transportation
- Urban Forestry Review
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.
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.
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.
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.