From Planning to Move-in: Building Process Overview

We’ve streamlined the process for anyone who wants to build in Arlington County — from planning to project completion and maintenance.

While every project will have its own details and timeline, we’ve outlined the basic workflow that guides planning, permitting, inspecting, occupation and maintenance. Some things you can do yourself, while others may require our assistance or approval.

Plan your project

Many building projects revolve around adding, finishing, or renovating. Learn about the most popular projects.

Regardless of your project, get started with these STEPS:

STEP 1 – What’s Your Zone?
zoning map graphic

All property in the Arlington is assigned to a particular zone and each zone has specific regulations that apply to it. Check the Zoning Map to determine what zone your project falls in. You can also access the County’s Interactive Mapping Center for more maps and details about your project’s location. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, give us a call or come to our office. If you decide to come to the office, bring a scaled plat with you. This will help us determine what you can do on your property.

STEP 2 – What Projects Does Your Zone Allow?
  zoning ordinance update

Once you have determined your zone, check the Zoning Ordinance to determine if your project is allowed by-right or if your project requires additional approval or “special exception” from the County Board or Board of Zoning Appeals. Most projects will require one or a series of permits and inspections, outlined below. If your project qualifies as a special exception, you will need to apply for approval and a public hearing as an initial step.

STEP 3 – What Documents Are Required?
Laptop blueprint with house project

Most construction projects require permits. Determine if your project requires a permit. All permits require an application and some applications require construction drawings and a plat. We refer to these as construction documents. To ensure that staff has sufficient information, and to reduce delays in reviewing your project, minimum submittal requirements have been established to facilitate this process. Use the Residential Permit Submission Requirements and the Commercial Permit Submission Requirements to get started, and please note that some projects may involve additional requirements.

All new projects must follow the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code (USBC). We understand that these building codes and regulations are complex and we’re here to help. We offer a free Code Consultation to help you understand what your construction drawings need to include.

Customers can choose to submit building permits and land disturbance applications in paper or electronic. These include commercial new construction, additions and renovations, residential new construction, additions and renovations, and land disturbance.

If you need assistance with your application, contact our Help Desk at 703-228-3800 or

STEP 4 – How Much Will the Permits Cost?

All permits have fees associated with them. Visit the fee schedule to help you budget. Note that Zoning permits have a 5% automation enhancement fee, and Inspection Services permits have a 22% surcharge.

Next: Permitting