Our DC building permit guide helps you learn how to obtain a DC building permit, know when you need a DC building permit and where to get one. Find out how long it takes and how much it costs. Homeowners in DC have many questions about the odious DC permitting process. Here’s some DC.gov info to get you started.

What Is A DC Building Permit?

A DC building permit is an authorization to build according to a specific scope of work, including approved plans. You are required by law to get a permit for construction in the District of Columbia.  Any modification of permit scope or approved plans must be specifically approved.

What Type Of Work Does A DC Building Permit Cover?
New construction and foundations, additions, alterations or repair of existing buildings, demolition, razes, construction of retaining walls, fences, sheds, garages or vault construction, erection of signs or awnings, changes to layout of interior space for tenants in new or existing commercial buildings (e.g. changing the floor plan of a building from six one-bedroom apartments to three two-bedroom apartments).

Here's the shortlist from DOB:

  • New construction and foundations
  • Additions, alterations, or repair of existing buildings (decks qualify as additions)
  • Demolition
  • Razes
  • Construction of retaining walls, fences, sheds, garages, or vault construction
  • Erection of signs or awnings
  • Layout of interior space new or existing commercial buildings (e.g. changing the floor plan of a building from six one-bedroom apartments to three two-bedroom apartments)
More detail on the Dept. of Buildings page here

A DC building permit does not give you the authority to build in or occupy public space, remove or prune trees greater than 55” in circumference (18” in diameter) on public or private property & occupy your building after construction (CofO).

"Can I Start Work Now And Get The Permit Later?"
No. You will be fined if you start construction before you get a DC building permit or work after it expires. The DOB can also require that all permitted work be removed. Work must be inspected on completion for the final approval to be issued.
When Is A Permit NOT Needed?

Unless you are in a historic district, the following work does not require a DC building permit: Brick pointing caulking, patching, and plaster repair, installation of cabinets and architectural millwork, installation of window screens and storm windows, repair of existing fences with ‘like’ materials, retaining walls 18″ (0.46m) or less in height, construction of garden storage sheds complying with DC Code Section 105.2.6, painting (but not painting with fire-retardant paint), replacement of non-rated windows & doors, siding, gutters & downspouts, private sidewalks & driveways, patios, non-rated suspended ceiling tile, floor coverings up to 160 SF (9.3m) of gypsum board,  duct work of up to 10 linear feet (3.05m) in non-hazardous and commercial kitchen exhaust systems. Information on permits in historic districts.

Permit requirements can change. Please check with DCRA for definitive answers on permit requirements.

What Is The Permit Application Process?
Apply for your permit at 1100 4th Street SW, Second Floor, or register to obtain a permit online. Most permits require the following forms:
DCRA’s submission requirements and application process are detailed here

Getting a construction permit in the District involves different elements based on the scope of your project. Depending on the project, you may be required to get approvals or services from agencies other than (in addition to) DCRA.

Basic Steps
Tracking Progress
Now you can check the status of your permit online with DCRA’s SCOUT  You’ll see which disciplines (electrical, structural) have reviewed your plans to date. Please note: You may be able to view comments about your project online, but you won’t be able to pick up your plans until all required disciplines have reviewed them. View the building permit application requirements to see all the supporting documentation required for your particular permit.
Depending on the type of permit a plat from the Office of the Surveyor may be required. A plat is a scaled drawing of a lot, showing the lot lines and record dimensions. It must show all existing and proposed structures, drawn to scale. Plats are required for all exterior work. You can get a plat of your property at the Office of the Surveyor. Once you get the plat, you must draw the structures on the document before you submit it with your building permit application. To order a plat online, please read Get a Building Plat.
In a hurry? Read about the DOB’s Accelerated Plan Review
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