Building Development FAQs


The Building Development Division offers introductory answers to frequently asked questions about Building Permits, Plan Review, Inspections, Special Inspections, Code Enforcement and other services. Click on a question below to view its answer. Links throughout the answers will guide you to further information. Should you have any further questions, contact us.

General

Permits

Plan Review

Inspections

Special Inspections

Code Enforcement

General

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  •  What are the telephone numbers for contacting the Building Development Branches and Sections?

Building Development Division – 703-792-6930
Building Permitting Service – 703-792-6924
Building Plan Intake – 703-792-4040
Building Plan Review – 703-792-6930
Building Construction Inspections – 703-792-7006
Building Code Enforcement – 703-792-6931
Special Inspections – 703-792-6112

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  •  What are the hours of operation for the Building Development Branches and Sections?

View the Building Development Division Web page for the hours of operation for each branch/section.

Permits

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  •  Do I need a permit for the work I am planning to do?

View Home Improvements – Do I need a permit? for more information regarding common improvements and construction. If you have additional questions, contact Building Permitting Services at 703-792-6924.

  •  Do I need a permit for a moon bounce?

A permit to operate an inflatable amusement device that is less than 150 square feet, and in which the height of the patron containment area is less than 10 feet need not be obtained if the device has an unexpired certificate of inspection issued by a local building department in this Commonwealth, regardless of whether the device has been disassembled or moved to a new site. View the Policy for Amusement Device Permits/Inspection for more information. If you have additional questions, contact Building Permitting Services at 703-792-6924.

  •  Is a contractor required to obtain the construction permit, or can I obtain it as the homeowner?

View the Who should apply for the permit? Web page for information regarding who to assign as the permit holder.

  •  How much will the permit cost?

All fees can be found in the Building Development Fee Schedule. If you have additional questions regarding fees, for residential projects, call 703-792-6924; or for commercial projects, call 703-792-4040.

  •  What forms of payment can I use to pay for my construction permit?

We currently accept cash, checks and money orders. Checks should be made payable to Prince William County. We are unable to accept credit or debit cards at this time.

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  •  What is the process to obtain a building release letter for a building permit?

A building release letter is required any time there is an approved site or subdivision plan related to the building permit. To obtain this letter, take a copy of the approved plan to the Development Services Land Division counters. If the item is shown on the plans, a building release letter will be issued. If the item is not shown, you will need to speak with the Planner of the Day to find out what steps need to be taken next. Some items that might require a building release letter are retaining walls, fuel tanks, antennas, pole lights, new structures and anything commercial outside of an existing building. If you have any questions, please call Development Services Land Development Division at 703-792-6830.

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Plan Review

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  •  What are the steps to getting a permit to build a deck?

View Building a Deck for more information.

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  •  Where do I get a survey plat?

You should have received a plat from your Settlement Attorney during the closing of your home. Check the legal documents you received at settlement. If you cannot locate the plat, you may contact the Zoning Division at 703-792-6830 for further assistance.

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  •  What are the steps to getting a permit to finish my basement?

View Finishing a Basement for more information.

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  •  How do I know if my construction plans are approved?

Visit ePlanStatus or call the Automated Phone System at 703-792-6970 to check plan status. If your plans have been put on hold, you may review comment letters on the website or receive a fax back from the automated phone system. If your plans are approved you can find a checklist on the website of the items needed to pick up your permit. If you provided a contact sheet at plan submission, you should be contacted, via the preferred method you indicated, with a list of everything needed to pick up your permit.

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  •  Am I required to have an expansion tank and drain pan for my new water heater?

 If you are replacing an old water heater with a new water heater of the same size and type (direct replacement), and you do not currently have an expansion tank or drain pan, those items are not required.

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  •  Am I required to have a backflow preventer for my lawn irrigation system?

Yes, and the backflow preventer requires a permit and an inspection. More information.

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Inspections

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  •  How can I schedule an inspection?

Visit eInspections or call the Automated Phone System at 703-792-6970. For help with the scheduling codes related to projects, review the Guidelines to Using the Automated System, or call the Building Construction Inspection Branch at 703-792-7006. Note that inspection staff members are not able to schedule inspections for you.

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  •  When will my inspector be arriving?

Visit eInspectionSchedule on the day of your inspection to see who your inspector is and what place you are on his or her schedule. Unfortunately, we cannot know how long each inspection will take, or the arrival time of your inspector; however, the eInspectionSchedule system will remove inspections from the posted schedule as they are completed. This should allow you to track your inspector and get a better idea of approximately when your inspector will arrive.

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  •  In what order should I schedule my inspections for my commercial project?

The inspection sequence of concealments is electrical and plumbing first, followed by the Fire Marshal’s Office sprinkler visual, then mechanical and building. The final trade inspections and building inspection can be performed in any order, but the Fire Marshal’s Office pre-occupancy inspection must be scheduled last. See Basic Inspection Guidelines for Commercial Projects handout for additional information.

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  •  I am doing a service heavy up and my power company tells me that I need an inspection from the County before they will reconnect my power. How do I schedule the power company and the County inspection for the same day?

After obtaining an electrical permit, the homeowner or contractor should arrange a scheduled date and time with the power company for disconnection of the power. Once that is scheduled, visit eInspections or call the Automated Phone System at 703-792-6970 and schedule an electrical inspection, code 202 and 250, for the same day as the power company’s scheduled date for the outage. It is crucial that the owner or contractor call the Building Construction Inspection Branch the morning of the scheduled date at 703-792-7006 between 7:30 and 8 a.m. to give the inspector an approximate time that the heavy up will be ready to inspect. After the inspection is approved, a notice will be sent to the power company to let it know the service was approved to reconnect. The power company is very responsive in reconnecting the power the same day.

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  •  Can my electrical or plumbing work be certified?

See the Policy for Electrical and Plumbing Inspection Certification Program for the requirements and a list of items that can be certified.

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Special Inspections

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  •  Which shop drawings should be submitted to Building Plan Review?

The following shop drawings, which will normally include design calculations, shall be submitted to the Building Plan Review Branch for review and approval: Wood Trusses, Light Gage (cold formed) Steel Trusses, Light Gage Framing, Pre-engineered Metal Buildings, or any other structural building elements, designed by the general contractor’s specialty Virginia registered design professional, and not previously reviewed with the approved construction plans.

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  •  
    Which projects are classified as Mandatory Third Party managed by the Special Inspection Section?

Projects or building elements determined to be minor critical in nature by the County structural plan reviewer shall be classified as requiring mandatory third party inspections per Building Development Division Policy 1.18. Some of these projects shall be subject to the requirements of the Special Inspections program and shall be managed by the Special Inspections Section.

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  •  When do I request for waiver of Special Inspection preconstruction meeting?

A waiver of preconstruction meeting may be requested by the owner when all the involved parties have attended a preconstruction meeting for a similar project within the last 6 months from the date of the request. All documents relating to the new permit must be submitted before the issuance of the building permit. Refer to Chapter 4 of the Special Inspections Manual for additional information.

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  •  What is the difference between ‘Special Inspection Projects’ and ‘Mandatory Third Party Inspections managed by SIS’ projects?

‘Special Inspection Projects’ and ‘Mandatory Third Party Inspections Managed by SIS’ projects are governed by the Building Development Division Policies 1.14 and 1.18, respectively. The major differences are summarized in the Table below.

Special Inspection Projects​ ​Third Party Building Certification Program
for Minor Critical Projects
Preconstruction meeting required ​No preconstruction meeting required
​Involved parties: 
SIER, Registered Design Professional in Responsible Charge, Owner, Contractor
​Involved parties: 
Third Party Inspections Engineer, Owner, Contractor
​Final Report of Special Inspections
 submitted upon completion of inspections
 by SIER and SER
​Building Inspection Certification with supporting field reports, submitted by the Third Party Inspections Engineer
upon completion of inspections
  
  •  Can Construction Field Revisions be submitted to the Special Inspections Section for review?

Yes, but Construction Field Revision approval by SIS for Special Inspection Projects is seldom. Please refer to Special Inspections – Field Revisions Policy 1.14.5.

Significant changes in the special inspections items specified in the statement of special inspections schedule must be submitted to the Plan Review Branch for approval.  

For very minor changes such as RFI that clarifies items already approved by the County or changes that result in over design of structural elements of the County approved construction documents may be approved by the SIS. Such changes must be approved with an engineer’s seal.

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  •  Where do I find Special Inspections sample letter forms?

Special Inspections sample letter forms are available in Appendix II of the Special Inspection Manual in copy and paste PDF format.

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Code Enforcement

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  •  I think I did work without a required permit – what should I do now?

If you find out that you have authorized or performed work without obtaining the required permits and inspections, call Building Permitting Services at 703-792-6924. Staff will work with you to help you obtain the necessary permits and inspections which will correct the deficiency.

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  •  I believe work without a required permit is occurring and I’m concerned about safety. What should I do?

Any person with a concern of possible construction or repairs being done without the required permits should contact the Building Code Enforcement Section at 703-792-6931. Be prepared to provide the correct address and a description of the observed concern to the Code Enforcement staff so that a case investigation of the possible building code violations can be initiated. If a building code violation is determined to be valid, the Building Code Enforcement staff will take the appropriate actions to enforce the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code.

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  •  What types of complaints are investigated by the Building Code Enforcement Section?

The Building Code Enforcement Section investigates complaints that deal with new construction that never received permits. It also investigates open permits that never had final inspections.

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  •  How long does the Building Code Enforcement Section have to prosecute building code violations?

Prosecution of Building Code violations under Code of Virginia 36-106 shall commence within one year of discovery of the offense by the Building Official; provided that such discovery occurs within two years of the date of initial occupancy or use after construction of the building or structure, or the issuance of a certificate of use and occupancy for the building or structure, whichever is later.

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  •  Will I have to go to court regarding my building violation?

The Building Code Enforcement Section only asks to prosecute those who are not working to abate their violations.

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  •  Who will pay to correct my building violations?

Usually monetary restitution is a civil matter and is either resolved by the parties involved (e.g. contractor and owner) or settled in circuit court by a judge. The County has no involvement in this action.

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