Do I need a building permit?

Whenever you construct, reconstruct, enlarge, alter, or demolish a structure, a permit is required prior to starting the work. If you are unsure if your project requires a permit, please contact the Building Division at (540) 658-8650.

The following are examples of work that require a building permit (see USBC 108.1):

  • Alteration of any required means of egress

  • Building a new house

  • Building an addition onto an existing house or attached garage

  • Converting an existing deck or screened porch into a sunroom

  • Building an attached or detached garage or carport

  • Converting a garage to a habitable space or enclosing a carport

  • Building a porch, screened porch, deck, associated steps, ramp, pergola, portico, or gazebo

  • Building or installing a tool shed over 256 square feet in area- Please note that a zoning permit is required for all sheds.

  • Finishing off an unfinished attic, basement, or room over the garage

  • Installing a flag pole over 30’ in height, please note that a Zoning permit is required for all flag poles

  • Moving or removing a load bearing wall or partition

  • Retaining wall which support 3 or more feet of unbalanced fill

  • Bulkheads, piers, and docks

  • Repairing, altering, enlarging or modifying any structural element of the house, including any damaged structural element, such as load bearing stud walls, columns, piers, footings, foundations, floor joists, rafters, beams or girders

  • Replacing/adding fuel fired equipment

  • Enlarging or adding a door opening or window opening

  • Changing the use of the structure (example: change from residential use to business use)

  • Installing a pool, hot tub or spa greater than 150 square feet, 5000 gallons, OR 24" deep

  • Re-roofing commercial buildings

  • New electrical wiring or circuits

  • Movement of lot line that increases hazard or safety of existing structure

  • Removal or disturbance of any material containing asbestos for demolition or alteration of a building

  • Demolition of an existing structure The building code allows some work to be done without obtaining a permit. While a permit is not required, the work must be in compliance with the code.


Some examples of work that does not require a permit include (see USBC 108.2):

  • Making ordinary repairs and improvements, including, but not limited to:

    • Painting the inside or outside of the house or detached structures

    • Repairing drywall, plaster, exterior siding, etc.

    • Installing new floor coverings, such as vinyl, carpet, or hardwood 

    • Installing or refurbishing cabinetry

    • Repairing or replacing porch or deck flooring boards Please note a permit is required to repair or replace the joists or girders.

    • Repairing or replacing handrails on a porch

    • Installing or replacing doors and windows, including storm windows, where no structural changes are performed

    • Installing or replacing exterior siding

    • Residential re-roofing: Old shingle roof can be left in place provided that there are not more than two previous layers of shingles and that the existing shingles are not water saturated.

    • Installing or replacing gutters and downspouts

    • Repairing or replacing siding

  • Installing driveways or sidewalks

  • Constructing or installing a storage shed, playhouse, etc, 256 square feet or less in area Zoning permit required.

  • Adding a fence (which is not part of a swimming pool enclosure) and which is 6’ or less in height Refer to subdivision covenants (if applicable)

  • Building recreational equipment, such as swings, skateboard ramps, jungle gyms, etc.

  • Adding roof insulation

  • Installing any wiring or equipment which operates at less than 50 volts

  • Installing a security alarm system

  • Replacing existing electrical water heater with a new electric water heater

  • Replacing electrical fixtures, such as switches and receptacles •Installing or replacing a ceiling fan to a pre-wired switch

  • Replacing plumbing fixtures, such as sinks

  • Replacing or repairing existing mechanical appliances (of equal size and type) This exception is not applicable to gas and oil-fired appliances.

  • Temporary ADA ramps with less than 30” rise for residential properties

Show All Answers

1. Do I need a building permit?
2. The neighbor started building something on his house without a permit; shouldn't they have one?
3. What happens if I build the structure without a building permit?
4. Why does my permit need a plan review?
5. When will my permit be ready?
6. Is there any way to expedite my plan review?
7. Can I submit my application before I have all the necessary information/attachments?
8. How long is my permit valid?
9. I haven’t completed any inspections on the permit that was issued to me for work to be done at my home. It has been more than six months; do I need to re-apply for a new permit?
10. Do I have to hire a contractor?
11. What building code does Stafford County use for residential projects?
12. How do I schedule an Inspection?
13. Why can’t I schedule my inspection for today?
14. Why can’t I get an exact time my inspector will be at my house for an inspection?
15. What’s my next inspection?
16. Do I need to pay the re-inspection fee before I can schedule another inspection?
17. My inspection report says “not ready”. What does that mean and why didn’t I get a full inspection?
18. The inspector did not show up to do my deck inspection. What happens now?