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When Do I Need A Building Permit in Washington, D.C.?

When Do I Need A Building Permit in Washington, D.C.

Are you planning to build a property in the near future? You have come to the right place! A crucial step for building a property in Washington D.C is applying for a building permit. Read below if you want to learn more:




The shortest answer is: Probably yes! All new builds in Washington D.C., whether they are residential or commercial, need to obtain a building permit. Besides new construction, the other situations that require a building permit are:

  • 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


An important thing to remember is that every building permit can become invalid. This applies in two situations: if the work doesn’t begin within a year from the approval or if a year has passed since the work has been suspended and stopped.




There’s no better way to spend a free afternoon than taking a stroll through Washington’s historic districts. However, in order to keep their beautiful appearance, historic districts fall under special building regulations. So if you plan to remodel/ build in Dupont Circle or Georgetown, you will also need to obtain a permit in these situations:

  • Caulking, patching, and plaster repair of non-rated assemblies

  • Window screen and storm window installation

  • Repair of existing fences

  • Brick pointing

  • Painting with anything other than fire-retardant paint

  • Tiling and carpeting

  • Floor covering, countertops and cabinets


You will also need a permit if you plan to replace certain parts of your property. This includes garden storage sheds with a width less than 50 sq. ft. and a height less than 10 ft, roofing, siding, gutters, downspouts, fascia, driveways, patios, etc. You can learn more about historic district building regulations on DCRA’s website.




The agency in charge of construction permits in Washington D.C. is DCRA (Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs). But, almost 57% of construction projects require authorization from other departments as well. This statistic mostly applies to new builds, additions, restaurants, and construction work in historic districts. The other permitting review agencies in D.C. are:

  • DDOT (District Department of Transportation) – Reviews project that are influence public space. This includes canopies, awnings, and sidewalk cafes which are permanent changes, but also temporary construction projects like public parking, trees, and sidewalks.

  • DOEE (Department of Energy and environment) – Reviews construction plans which concern the environment like: lead-based paint, asbestos, water quality, hazardous materials, air quality, and storm water management

  • DOH (Department of Health) – Reviews building safety and quality for food and healthcare facilities. This includes hospitals, nursing homes, restaurants, grocery stores, hotels, swimming pools, etc.

  • DC WATER – Reviews building projects that can impact DC’s sewage and water systems

  • Office of Planning – Reviews real estate development and projects in historic districts, public spaces, and landmarks. It works with the Commission on Fine Arts and manages the Historic Preservation Review Board


We hope the information above was of use to you and your project. If you are want to learn even more about permit expediting, schedule a consultation with our team. As professional permit expediters, we know everything there is about building a property in Washington D.C. Allow our team to handle permitting while you relax and focus on other aspects of your project.

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