Do I Need a Permit?

PLEASE NOTE: The below applies to Residential projects only. Residential projects are one-family and two-family dwellings and townhouses. Apartment buildings, condos, and similar buildings are considered to be Commercial projects. For questions about Commercial projects, consult a Licensed Design Professional, or contact Building Development at 703-792-6930 or BDD@pwcgov.org.
 
Restrictive Covenants – Check with your homeowners' association (HOA) to determine whether your community has restrictive covenants which would require HOA approval on any improvements or maintenance to the exterior of your house, including roofing, siding, painting, additions of decks or garages, and landscaping or privacy fences.
 
Zoning Approval – Exterior projects may require approval from the Prince William County Zoning Division, whether or not a Building Permit is required. Zoning approval is always required for decks, additions, garages or carports, fences and swimming pools. Zoning approval may be required for retaining walls, depending on the height and the amount of area being disturbed. You are urged to contact the Zoning Division at 703-792-6830 or visit the Planning and Zoning website if you have any questions on Zoning requirements.
 
Building Code – All jurisdictions in Virginia are required to use the Uniform Statewide Building Code (USBC). The state adopts the national model codes, with amendments, for use statewide so that everyone is subject to the same regulations. The applicable codes that are used for home improvement projects can be found on the VUSBC Web page. You may also obtain code and other helpful information from the Building Development Customer Handouts Web page.
 
Permits Always Required – A permit is always required for any of the following work:
  • Porches or decks where the floor is 16.5 inches or more above the finished grade
  • Additions
  • Garages or carports
  • Finishing your basement
  • Residential accessory buildings (sheds) greater than 200 square feet in area
  • Fences greater than six feet in height, or any barrier/fence for swimming pools
  • All retaining walls supporting more than two feet of unbalanced fill
  • Retaining wall of any height that supports a surge from a structure above (walls, roads, driveways, sidewalks, etc.)
  • In-ground or above-ground swimming pools or spas impounding more than two feet of water, greater than 150 square feet, and greater than 5,000 gallons
  • Removing or altering any structural (support) members and any work involving alterations to the house plumbing, electrical, or heating and air conditioning (mechanical) systems
  • Installing a lawn irrigation system (permit required for backflow device) - see the Lawn Irrigation System Requirements Web page for more information
  • Installing a prefabricated fireplace, insert, or wood stove
  • Installation or replacement of doors and/or windows when structural alterations are made or required
  • Replacing gas or oil furnaces, gas logs, or appliances
  • Installing a new electrical circuit, fixture, or receptacle (see low voltage exception below)
  • New appliances in a new location and upgraded appliances requiring electrical, plumbing, or mechanical systems upgrades
Permits Not Required – Remember that although the work is not subject to permit requirements, the work must be performed in a manner meeting code requirements. The following work does not require permits, or is classified by the code as "ordinary repair" and not subject to permit requirements:
  • Re-roofing or new siding repairs
  • Replacement of 100 square feet or less of roof decking.  Note: Permits are required where the decking to be replaced was required at the time of original construction to be fire retardant-treated or protected in some other way to form a fire-rated wall termination. This case is mostly applicable to townhouses.)
  • Residential accessory buildings (sheds) 200 square feet or less in area*
  • Painting (interior or exterior) and wallpapering
  • Replacing gutters or downspouts
  • Re-glazing (glass replacement in existing windows)
  • Replacing kitchen cabinets
  • Replacing existing plumbing fixtures (water closets, tubs, sinks, garbage disposals, etc.) where no alteration to the supply or drain/waste/vent systems are involved
  • Replacing existing light fixtures
  • Replacing existing electrical appliances when replaced in same location with units of a similar capacity where no alteration to the electrical circuit is involved
  • Fences six feet or less in height*
  • Concrete (patio) slabs on grade that are not designed to support a future building addition*
  • Replacing any electrical water heater with the same size heater in the same location
  • Replacing an electric furnace, heat pump, or air-conditioning condensing unit with the same type unit in the same location
  • Repairing air-conditioners or furnaces by installing replacement parts
  • Installation of low-voltage wiring (under 50 volts - door bell or security system)
  • Retaining walls used for landscaping purposes that are less than two feet in height and do not support a surge from any structures above* (Note: Retaining wall systems composed of several tiers of individual retaining walls will require a permit if the total height of the retaining wall system exceeds two feet.)
*Zoning and/or Watershed approval will be required