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How to Get a Permit

DCRA offers permitting services for residents and businesses in the District of Columbia. Find information about the permitting and plan review process, apply and pay for permits online, and use our carefully-crafted resources found on the Homeowner's Center.


Permit process - application, plan review, permit issuance

Getting a construction permit in the District involves different elements based on the scope of your project. You may be required to get approvals or services from agencies in addition to DCRA.

 

What Projects Require a Permit?

  • New buildings, additions and structures
  • Interior alterations (including finished basements) 
  • Porches and decks (including alterations to existing)
  • Changes of occupancy or use 
  • Layout of interior space new or existing commercial buildings (e.g. changing the floor plan of a building from six one-bedroom apartments to three two-bedroom apartments)
  • Construction of retaining walls, fences, sheds, garages, or vault construction
  • Erection of signs or awnings
  • New and replacement gas appliances
  • New and replacement HVAC equipment
  • New plumbing fixtures
  • New electric appliances
  • Sheds and playhouses over 50 square feet
  • Swimming pools except those meeting all of the following:
  • 1,000 gallons capacity or less
  • 24 inches deep or less
  • Above ground
  • R-3 building
  • Retaining walls over 4 feet from bottom of footing to top of wall, with less than 50 sq ft of land disturbance
  • Demolition and razing of buildings and structures
  • Sump pumps
  • Tents over 900 square feet
  • Electric car charging equipment

Unless you are in a historic district, the following work does not require a building permit:

  • Brick pointing
  • Caulking, patching and plaster repair of non-rated assemblies
  • Installation of window screens and storm windows
  • Repair of existing fences with in-kind materials
  • Painting other than fire-retardant paint
  • Papering, tiling, carpeting, floor covering, cabinets, countertops and similar finish work
  • Replacement in-kind of one of the items listed hereafter. For the purpose of this section, “replacement in-kind,” means replacement with a feature of like material that replicates the existing feature in proportion, appearance, texture, design, detail and dimensions
    • Roofing and coping
    • Siding
    • Gutters and downspouts and fascia
    • Private sidewalks and driveways
    • Patios
    • Nonrated suspended ceiling tile
    • Not more than 160 square feet (14.9 m2) of gypsum board excluding installation of fire-rated gypsum wall board or shaft liner
  • A single garden storage shed that does not exceed 50 square feet (4.65 m2) in area, is less than 10 feet (3048 mm) in overall height, is an accessory structure to a building of Use Group R-3 or to a building under the jurisdiction of the Residential Code and is erected on a lot with no other exempted storage shed
  • Prefabricated pools, accessory to a Use Group R-3 occupancy, or accessory to buildings under the jurisdiction of the Residential Code, which are less than 24 inches (610 mm) deep, do not exceed 1,000 gallons (3785.41 L), are installed entirely above ground and are not designed or manufactured to be connected to a circulation system
  • Retaining walls that are not over 4 feet (1219 mm) in height, measured from the bottom of the footing to the top of the wall, for one- and two-family dwellings only where the area of land disturbance is less than 50 square feet (4.65 m2)
  • Shade cloth structures constructed for nursery or agricultural purposes, not including service systems
  • Swings and other playground equipment accessory to one- and two-family dwellings
  • Movable fixtures, cases, racks, counters and partitions not over 5 feet 9 inches (1753 mm) in height

Your project may require additional permits such as Supplemental Systems Installation (A/C, electric, plumbing, etc.) and Water or Sewer Excavation (pipe installation, water main connections, etc.) *Note: Only licensed DC contractors for the specific trade may apply for these permits.

A public space permit is required to use or install structures on public space—the area between the building or property line and the curb. Many front yards in the District are considered public space. Examples of work that requires public space permits include the following:

  • Dumpsters in public space
  • Sidewalk construction and repair
  • Sidewalk cafes
  • Front patios
  • Flag poles, planter boxes, retaining walls and fences in public space

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) manages and oversees the use and occupancy of public space. Learn more about public space permits at DDOT's website.

 

The Permit Process

Step 1 – Learn about your property restrictions and status

Find out if development restrictions apply to your project. Learn your zoning district and if you are in a zoning overlay. Overlay districts set forth additional zoning regulations that are combined with the underlying zoning district. Other development restrictions are administered by other agencies, such as Historic Preservation, the National Capital Planning Commission, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, and other preliminary review organizations. For more information and a complete list of overlays, visit DC Office of Zoning.

Are you in within a historically designated area? Are you in within a Flood Hazard Area or Special Flood Hazard designated area? Find this and other useful information about your property on Scout.

Step 2 – Determine your full scope of work

This will determine the type of permits and additional documents. For any exterior construction, a surveyor’s plat may be needed to detail all existing and proposed structures, and must be drawn to scale. A building plat is a scaled drawing of a lot, showing lot lines and record dimensions. Plats that only consist of interior work, such as bathroom remodeling, are not required for jobs.

Step 3 – Permit Application

For one- and two-family residential projects, use the DCRA Permit Wizard online permit application.

For commercial projects, solar, demolition, raze and after-hours permits, use the Citizen Access Portal. The portal will allow applicants the ability to apply, pay and receive construction permits online. For commercial projects:

  • Select Building and Request a Building Permit Shop Drawing Approval, or Surveyor Plat  
  • Select your permit type. When you submit your permit application, ensure your scope matches the permit type (e.g. a one-story addition – addition, alteration and repair). You can view all permit types and definitions to determine which permit matches your description.
  • Complete all required * fields and confirm that information is accurate.
  • When you have fully submitted your application, you will be notified whether your application has been accepted before the next steps.

Step 4 - Pre-Screening

When your application is received by DCRA, it will be reviewed to ensure it is complete and that it meets the basic requirements for plan review. Pre-screen review occurs in different phases based on the type of plan review selected for your project.

Step 5 - Plan Review

Digital Walk-Through
For small scale projects that would have previously been reviewed over the counter with paper plans, you must now complete the process completely online. With our Digital Walk-Through, all plans and supporting documents are now accepted through our ePlan review system ProjectDox for a completed review in 1 business day. This is includes simultaneous DCRA plan reviews and digital routing to select sister agencies (Historic Preservation, District Department of Energy and the Environment, and District Department of Transportation) saving you time and a trip to our office. DCRA Plan Reviews Disciplines: Structural, Zoning, Fire, Elevator Mechanical/Plumbing, Electrical, Green and Energy.

ProjectDox Plan Review
ProjectDox is an online platform for electronic plan submission and plan review. This system allows the electronic submission of building plans and supporting documentation. ProjectDox eliminates the need for an applicant to submit multiple paper copies of project plans in conjunction with the DCRA permit application. ProjectDox (ProjectDox Accepted) applications are more complex scopes of work that require more than 1 or 2 business days for review. When your application is ProjectDox Accepted, you will receive a separate email that includes a link for you to create a username and password to upload your plans and supporting documents to begin the review.

After plans are uploaded, they are pre-screened for the basic requirements and assigned to necessary plan review disciplines within DCRA and applicable sister agencies. Please refer to the Plan Review section to learn about different plan review assignments and when they are required.

Other agency reviews may be required depending on your scope of work:

  • DC Water- New water connections
  • District Department of Transportation- For impact of the public alleys, sidewalks or streets
  • Historic Preservation Review Board and Commission of Fine Arts- Properties located within a historically designated area or deemed an area commissioned by the fine arts. You can view PIVS to confirm your properties status
  • Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA)- WMATA must review and approve all construction projects adjacent to WMATA-owned properties in order to ensure that Metro facilities, operations and riders are not negatively impacted in the short or long term
  • DC Health- All new construction and/or major renovations to a food establishment or hygiene facility
  • Department of Energy and the Environment- Projects involving soil disturbance, flood plains and lead abatement
  • Office of Planning

Step 6- Payment and Permit Issuance

Once your plans are approved by all assigned plan review disciplines and applicable review agencies, you can complete payment and your permit(s) will be issued.

  • For Walk-Through applications, you will receive an invoice of the permitting fees by our Issuance Counter to pay at our Cashier’s Office or to make the payment online to have your permit issued.
  • For ProjectDox application, you will receive an email notification that final fees are ready for payment. You can make payment online, or take your invoice and pay at the Office of Tax and Revenue at 1101 4th Street SW.

**All check payments should be payable to DC Treasurer.

Review by Other Agencies

During the plan review process, reviews by other agencies may be required depending on your scope of work. While the process requires the usage of DCRA’s permitting and plan review platforms to manage the permitting process, each agency operates independently and has their own service level agreements and requirements. In some cases, these timelines differ from those of DCRA.

While not exhaustive, examples of reviews by other agencies include:

  • DC Water- New water connections
  • District Department of Transportation- For impact of the public alleys, sidewalks or streets
  • Historic Preservation Review Board and Commission of Fine Arts- Properties located within a historically designated area or deemed an area commissioned by the fine arts. You can view PIVS to confirm your properties status.
  • Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA)- WMATA must review and approve all construction projects adjacent to WMATA-owned properties in order to ensure that Metro facilities, operations and riders are not negatively impacted in the short or long term.
  • District Department of Health- All new construction and/or major renovations to a food establishment or hygiene facility
  • Department of Energy and the Environment- Projects involving soil disturbance, flood plains and lead abatement

Replacement with In-Kind Materials

Replacement in kind of one of the items listed hereafter, “replacement in kind,” means replacement with a feature of like material that replicates the existing feature in proportion, appearance, texture, design, detail and dimensions.

  • Roofing and coping
  • Siding
  • Gutters and downspouts and fascia
  • Private sidewalks and driveways
  • Patios
  • Nonrated suspended ceiling tile.
  • Not more than 160 square feet (14.9 m2) of gypsum board excluding installation of fire rated gypsum wall board or shaft liner.
  • A single garden storage shed that does not exceed 50 square feet (4.65 m2) in area, is less than 10 feet (3048 mm) in overall height, is an accessory structure to a building of Use Group R-3 or to a building under the jurisdiction of the Residential Code and is erected on a lot with no other exempted storage shed.
  • Prefabricated pools, accessory to a Use Group R-3 occupancy, or accessory to buildings under the jurisdiction of the Residential Code, which are less than 24 inches (610 mm) deep, do not exceed 1,000 gallons (3785.41 L), are installed entirely above ground and are not designed or manufactured to be connected to a circulation system.
  • Retaining walls that are not over 4 feet (1219 mm) in height, measured from the bottom of the footing to the top of the wall, for one- and two-family dwellings only where the area of land disturbance is less than 50 square feet (4.65 m2).
  • Shade cloth structures constructed for nursery or agricultural purposes, not including service systems.
  • Swings and other playground equipment accessory to one- and two-family dwellings.
  • Movable fixtures, cases, racks, counters and partitions not over 5 feet 9 inches (1753 mm) in height.

 

Permit Types

Public Space Permits

A public space permit is required to use or install structures on public space—the area between the building or property line and the curb. Many front yards in the District are considered public space. Examples of work that requires public space permits include the following:

  • Dumpsters in public space
  • Sidewalk construction and repair
  • Sidewalk cafes
  • Front patios
  • Flag poles, planter boxes, retaining walls and fences in public space

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) manages and oversees the use and occupancy of public space. Learn more about public space permits at DDOT's website.
 

 

 

How Long is a Permit Valid?

Any issued permit will become invalid if the authorized work is not begun within one year after the permit is issued, or if the authorized work is suspended or abandoned for a period of one year, after the date work is begun.

 

Apply and Pay for Permits Online

For one- and two-family residential projects, use the DCRA Permit Wizard online permit application. For commercial projects, solar, demolition, raze and after-hours permits, use the Citizen Access Portal.

Permit Resources

DCRA has many online tools to make your permitting and plan review process quick and easy. We also offer resources and information to guide you through the process. Still have questions? Check out our frequently asked questions. If you don't find what you're looking for, contact us.

Get a Permit

Find information about the permitting and plan review process, apply and pay for permits online, and use our carefully-crafted resources found on the Homeowner's Center.

Plan Review

Learn about our Accelerated Plan Review Program, schedule a digital walk-through if your project meets specific requirements, and easily submit plan drawings online using ProjectDox.