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Things To Know Before Applying For A Building Permit in Washington, D.C.

things to know before applying for a building permit

If you want to create your dream home, you need to go follow certain procedures, like applying for a building permit.


There’s no way to avoid this and there’s no reason to cut corners. Local building codes ensure new structures are of the highest quality and don’t jeopardize the safety of citizens.


If you want to start your permitting application process in DC, read these 6 things you need to know before applying for a permit:




Local governmental agencies issue building permits. They are like stamps of approval. If you get a permit, it means that your new structure complies with all building codes. The process is not quick and easy. It involves a ton of paperwork and two inspections.


That’s why many builders decide to ask for help from permit expediters. Permit expediters are professionals who can navigate the permitting process with ease because they are well-acquainted with current regulations and the way city agencies operate.




Building permits are not eternal. After you get one, you need to start construction within 6–12 months and complete the job within 12-18 months, depending on the area and project. If you don’t want to pay fees or risk losing your permit, make a thorough plan and organize your time and budget before the city agency issues the permit.




A lot of homeowners fear building permits and think that they need one for everything. This is completely normal as nobody wants to build something illegally. It’s best to calm down, take a deep breath, and start researching.


Truth is, most home renovations don’t need to go through the complicated permitting process. In Washington DC, you need a building permit only for:

  • New construction

  • New foundations

  • Additions, alterations, or repair

  • Demolition and razes

  • Retaining walls, sheds, fences, and garages

  • Vault construction

  • Signs and awnings

  • A commercial building’s new interior space layout




Even though most minor projects don’t need a permit in DC, remember that different rules apply to different locations. Some neighborhoods, like the historic districts in Washington DC, have more regulations. These preserve the historic and cultural significance of the neighborhoods and the city. But, they make things a bit more complicated for builders and homeowners.


For example, in a regular neighborhood, you don’t need a permit for tiling and carpeting, but you will need a permit for the same job if you are in a historic district. You can find out more about your location on DCRA’s website, or you can consult a permit expediter.




In Washington DC, you will need to pay for your building permit. The price will vary depending on the cost and scope of your project. For example, a permit for residential new construction can cost more than $2,000 while a permit for a small-scope project can cost about $40.


The average cost of permits in 2021 in the USA is $1,340. Statistics show homeowners pay between $424 and $2,315. If you live in a more popular and crowded city, the cost will be higher. If you are in a small town, you might get the job done with $150 or less.




The City Office will send an inspector to evaluate your project, sometimes even two times. If you don’t want to get flunked and get an F, it’s best that you hire a project manager to oversee the project, and an engineer to inspect the building. This way, you’ll be able to manage the project and fix any issues before the City inspector comes along.


Don’t worry if you fail an inspection. In most cases, the city agency will give you another chance. You might get a little more time to improve the structure so that it satisfies the inspector’s criteria. Have in mind that if you decide to build yourself, even though you are not an experienced builder, the inspection will last longer and be more thorough.




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