+1 844 PERMIT5 (737-6485)

What happens if you build without a permit?

What happens if you build without a permit

So you want to renovate your house, figure you wouldn’t cause too much trouble in the neighborhood so why bother getting a permit? No harm, no foul right? Wrong.


In Washington, D.C., building without a permit can cause costly fines and penalties of $2000 or more per infraction, which could quickly add up.

When are you allowed to build in the District of Columbia?


Monday – Saturday


7:00AM – 7:00PM


* You may apply for an after hours permit to work beyond these hours *


What types of work require a building permit in Washington, D.C.?


New construction






Construction of retaining walls, decks, fences, sheds, garages, and vaults


Erection of signs and awnings


What types of work DO NOT require a 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, 4 feet (1219 mm) or less in height, measured from the bottom of the footing to the top of the wall, for one and two family dwellings only


Construction of garden storage sheds complying with DC Code Section 107.3.3


Painting, but not painting with fire-retardant paint


Replacement of:


non-rated windows and doors


roofing and coping




gutters and downspouts


private sidewalks and driveways




non-rated suspended ceiling tile


floor coverings


up to 160 square feet (14.9 cubic meters) of gypsum board


up to 50 linear feet (15.24 meters) of sanitary venting piping


up to 10 linear feet (3.05 meters) of sanitary drainage system piping


up to 20 linear feet (6.1 meters) of sanitary venting piping


up to 50 linear feet (15.24 meters) of hydraulic system piping


up to 10 linear feet (3.05 meters) of duct work, in non-hazardous and commercial kitchen exhaust systems


* Does not apply to Historic Districts*


Per The Department of Regulatory Affairs (DCRA)


Report Illegal Construction Activity conducted in the District of Columbia


“Any construction in the District of Columbia done without required building permits is illegal construction. Illegal construction is a public danger: it can hurt people and property.


If you see illegal construction activity in the District of Columbia please report it by either calling 311, visiting the 311.dc.gov, using the mobile app (DC311), using the online live chat feature during standard business hours, texting DC311, or tweeting to @311dcgov.


Please give the address and describe the illegal construction. DCRA will schedule an inspection to investigate.”




(202) 769-1958


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