A residential building permit is required for the construction or demolition of a building or structure, installations or alterations involving:
- The removal or addition of any wall, partition or portion thereof
- Any structural component (certain exemptions apply – see below)
- The repair or replacement of any required component of a fire- or smoke-rated assembly
- The alteration of any required means of egress system
- Water supply and distribution system, sanitary drainage system or vent system
- Electric wiring
- Fire protection system, mechanical systems or fuel supply systems or
- Any equipment regulated by the Uniform Statewide Building Code (USBC)
Depending on the project, additional permits and approvals may be required. There are additional circumstances that require a building permit, including:
- Movement of a lot line that either raises the level of hazard or lowers the level of safety of an existing building or structure in comparison to the building code under which such building or structure was constructed.
- Removal or disturbing of any asbestos-containing materials during the construction or demolition of a building or structure, including additions. (From the 2006 Virginia Construction Code, Part I of the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code)
Certain structural work will not require a permit, although these projects will require location approval from the Zoning Administration and Department of Environmental Services (DES), which will require a certified, scaled plat showing placement of the structure:
- Detached accessory structures used as tool and storage sheds, playhouses or similar uses, provided the floor area does not exceed 200 square feet (18 m²) and the structures are not accessory to a factory or high-hazard occupancy.
- Tents or air-supported structures, or both, that cover an area of 900 square feet (84 m²) or less, including within that area all connecting areas or spaces with a common means of egress or entrance. These tents or structures must have an occupant load of 50 or less persons.
- Fences and privacy walls not part of a building, structure or of the barrier for a swimming pool, provided such fences and privacy walls do not exceed six feet in height above the finished grade. Ornamental post caps shall not be considered to contribute to the height of the fence or privacy wall and shall be permitted to extend above the six feet height measurement. (You must obtain a fence permit.)
- Swimming pools that have a surface area not greater than 150 square feet (13.95 m2), do not exceed 5,000 gallons (19 000 L) and are less than 24 inches (610 mm) deep.
- Driveways will require a certified, scaled plat showing placement of the driveway and lot coverage calculations.
- Replacement of windows and doors with windows and doors of similar operation and opening dimensions that do not require changes to the existing framed opening and that are not required to be fire rated
- Construction of a patio flat on the ground
- Residential cabinets
- Backyard recreational play equipment
- Installation or replacement of floor finishes in all occupancies
- Installation of gutters
- Installation of replacement cabinetry or trim
- Installation or replacement of floor finishes
- Application of paint or wallpaper
- Replacement of plumbing fixtures in all groups without alteration of the water supply and distribution systems, sanitary drainage systems or vent systems
- Replacement of general use snap switches, dimmer and control switches, 125 volt-15 or 20 ampere receptacles, luminaries (lighting fixtures) and ceiling (paddle) in a single dwelling unit
- Replacement of mechanical appliances that isn’t fueled by gas or oil in a single-family dwelling
- Replacement of an unlimited amount of roof covering or siding in single family dwellings and townhomes, provided the building or structure is not in an area where the design (3 second gust) wind speed is greater than 100 miles per hour (160 km/hr) and replacement of 100 square feet (9.29 m2) or less of roof covering in all groups and all wind zones
- Exception: A permit may be required for the installation of replacement siding, roofing and windows in buildings within a historic district designated by a locality pursuant to Section 15.2-2306 of the Code of Virginia.
The Department of Environmental Services (DES) per section 57-4, chapter 48 & 61 of the Arlington County Code, requires that the property owner or contractor verify that any of the proposed work listed in this section will not be executed within a Resource Protection Area (RPA), 100 year flood plain, or a County required Flood Buffer Zone, and the limits of land disturbance is demonstrated on a certified plat, to scale, will be less than 2500 square feet.
DES may require additional permits related to residential building projects:
- Land Disturbance permit for any area of disturbance equal to 2500 square feet or greater. The Residential Building Submission Requirements includes guidelines on how to calculate total area of disturbance and other specifications.
- Flood Plain permit is required if purposed construction is within the 100 year flood plain or County required Flood Buffer Zone. Contact DES for the permit.
- Right-of-Way permits for installation, connection, repairs of utilities and/or any work performed within the county right-of-way (sidewalk, curb and gutter, driveway apron, gas, electric, etc.).
- Transportation Right-of-Way permits for any proposed work that may block or substantially limit the use of the roadway, sidewalks and/or parking meters, including the use of construction equipment, cranes, dumpster, PODs, trailers, trucks, lane closures, over weight and oversized vehicles, parking meter closures, and sidewalk closures in the public right of way.
DES fees vary depending on the type of permit, situation and time duration needed. Please contact DES for more information.
- Learn more about the permit review process here, and about permitting needs across different kinds of projects.
- Residential Building Permit Application