Below are some of the more frequently asked questions and are intended to provide general guidance. Please note, this information does not substitute for codes and regulations. The applicant is responsible for compliance with all codes and regulations, whether or not described on this page. Please feel free to contact us directly for more complete information.

What is the purpose of permits and codes?
Do I need a building permit for everything I do to my home?
Do my plans have to be drawn by a professional?
Why should I use a licensed contractor?
Do I have to have a license to do work on my own home?
If I hire a licensed contractor, who is responsible to get the permits?
What are the basic structural design criteria?
Do I need a permit to…
re-roof my house
put up a fence
build a storage shed
build a deck
What if I didn’t realize I needed a permit?
If I’m going to remodel, what do I need to know?
What is the difference between a planning permit and a building permit?
What’s a Comprehensive Plan?
What is my property’s zoning and what does that mean?

 

What is the purpose of permits and codes?

  • To give reasonable assurances that the construction meets minimum standards for health, life and safety protection.
  • To provide a permanent record of the work performed and inspections conducted on the project. This has become increasingly important as prospective buyers or lending institutions want proof that alterations were performed in compliance with local codes.
  • To verify that the contractor has a valid contractor’s license with the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. Besides being illegal, unlicensed contractor’s put owners at risk both financially and emotionally. 

 

Do I need a building permit for everything I do to my home?

No. These do not require a permit:

  • One-story detached accessory structure that don’t exceed 200 square feet including tool and storage shed, playhouse and similar uses
  • Fences not over six feet high (see fence section)
    Retaining walls that are not over four feet in height measured from the bottom of the footing (even if buried) to the top of the wall, unless supporting a surcharge (any added weight, like a fence, patio or structure)
  • Water tanks supported directly upon grade if the capacity does not exceed 5,000 gallons and the ratio of height to diameter or width does not exceed 2 to 1
  • Sidewalks and driveways. If you are constructing stairs, it will require a permit.
  • Painting, papering, tiling, carpeting, cabinets, counter tops and similar finish work
  • Prefabricated swimming pools that are less than 24 inches (may require to be fenced)
  • Swings and other playground equipment
  • Window awnings supported by an exterior wall which do not project more than 54 inches from the exterior wall and do not require additional support
  • Decks not exceeding 200 square feet in area if  they are not more than 30 inches above grade at any point, are not attached to a dwelling and do not serve the exit door required by Section R311.4.

Please note: even though a permit is not required, the project must still comply with all applicable construction and zoning codes.

 

Do my plans have to be drawn by a professional?

  • The owner or anyone they choose may draw the plans as long as they are clear and detailed enough to indicate what and how the project will be constructed. Remember, the more we can review upfront, the less correction later in the field.
  • In some cases, the complexity of the project may require the skills of a professional.
  • If you are dealing with roofs, trusses, complex support braces, assume you will need them engineered.

 

Why should I use a licensed contractor?

  • In Washington State, all contractors who perform work, bid or advertise in this state must be registered with the Department of Labor and Industries, post a bond, and carry general liability insurance.
  • Another reason is the registration provides some protection to the homeowner from being charged for work and materials not provided or paying twice for them (any supplier of materials, workers and subcontractors can place a lien on your home if they do not receive payment from your contractor).
  • Dissatisfied consumers may pursue restitution in court against a contractor’s bond.
    There are also trade licenses for those persons doing plumbing and electrical work to provide some assurances that they have adequate knowledge and training in those fields.
  • Visit the Department of Labor and Industries website to learn more or check if a contractor’s license is valid.

 

Do I have to have a license to do work on my own home?

  • A homeowner may do any or all of the work.
  • If you are not sure of your abilities to do any work, it is recommended that you hire a licensed professional.
  • If you are building or remodeling a house in order to sell it within the next year, you do need to have a contractor’s license. Visit the Department of Labor and Industries website to learn.

 

If I hire a licensed contractor, who is responsible to get the permits?

  • Property owners  or a registered contractor may purchase a permit for work to be done.
  • Be wary of contractors who asks you to get the building permit or refuse to sign for the permits. Permits are your protection and help ensure that work will meet local building codes.
  • When issuing a permit we verify that the contractor has a valid contractor’s license with the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries.
  • Double check that all inspections required under the permit are conducted. Without a final inspection, the work has not been reviewed and the permit will expire.

 

What are the basic structural design criteria?

  • Wind Speed:  80
  • Snow Load:  25 psf
  • Seismic Zone:  3

 

Do I need a permit to…

 

… re-roof my house?
  • Yes. The cost of a re-roof permit for a one-family dwelling is $54.50; a duplex is $56.50.
  • It also requires a final inspection.
  • You will need to ensure the venting is brought up to code.
  • You may only have two layers of roofing.

 

… put up a fence?
  • A fence review application is required for the construction of a fence located within the front yard and yards along streets.
  • Fence reviews are free.
    A fence review is not required for the normal upkeep, repair or maintenance of an existing fence or a fence that does not fall into the above categories.
  • Front yard limits: Four feet maximum height, with a surface area that is no more than 50 percent opaque. i.e. picket fence
  • Interior side and rear yard limits: Six feet solid plus one foot of lattice
  • Side street side yard limits: Six feet solid
  • Must meet clear vision triangle requirements See 22.58.004

 

… build a storage shed?
  • Accessory buildings include sheds, detached garages, greenhouses or similar structures.
  • A permit is required for an accessory building that is greater than 200 sf.
  • Structures 200 sf or smaller do not require a building or planning permit, but must meet the planning standards.
  • Accessory buildings are limited to 600 square feet, a wall height of 10 feet, and a building height is 18 feet
  • The front yard setback is the same as that which is specified for the principal residential structure. (For most houses this is 20 or 25 feet depending on the zoning.)
  • The interior side yard setback is three feet if the building is to be located more than 50 feet from the front property line. If not, the minimum interior side yard setback is five feet.
  • Additional rules apply for corner and through lots.
  • A wall less than 5’ from the property line must be the equivalent of a one hour fire wall.
  • The total area of all accessory buildings may not take up more than 1000 sf or 10% of the lot area (whichever is less).
  • An administrative use permit may allow an exception to increase the maximum area to 800 sf, with a wall height of 12 feet, and a ridge height of 21 feet. This process requires review by staff and notification to neighbors.
  • See 22.58.003 for the specific code.

 

… building a deck in the rear yard?
  • A permit is required if the deck exceeds 200 square feet in area, is 30 inches or more above grade at any point, and/or is attached to a dwelling and serves as the exit door required by Section R311.4.
  • Whether you need a permit or not, the setback standards must be met.
  • How far a deck can encroach into required yards is based on their height above finished grade. Due to the varying variables, please see 22.58.002 or contact the Planning staff.

 

What if I made an alteration to my home without realizing I needed a permit?

  • If you discover your project should have had a permit, come in and talk with us.
  • Penalties can be levied for those who refuse to comply with the law, but the City would rather see a building conform to the code than punish a homeowner.
  • You will not necessarily have to tear the project down and start over. If the alteration can meet the applicable codes they will be approved.
  • Our inspectors may require small sections of a wall or roof covering be removed to verify the construction meets the code.
  • Work performed that does not meet code will have to be corrected.
  • The inspector may require an engineer to certify a project that differs from the approved plans.

 

If I’m going to remodel, what do I need to know?

  • New work must be constructed under the current codes in effect today.
  • In most cases, only the new portion must meet the current codes unless the remodel creates a hazard for the existing building.
  • Substantial remodel may require upgrade or installation of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors to meet current safety regulations.

 

What is the difference between a planning permit and a building permit?

  • Planning (or development) regulations and permits deal with the use (house, church, coffee shop, pig farm, medical office), location, and design of real property and improvements.
  • Building codes and permits deal with how a structure is to be constructed to reasonably assure the project is safe and secure.
  • In short: Planning deals with what can be built. Building deals with how it can be built.

 

What’s a Comprehensive Plan?

  • The Comprehensive Plan is a document established to guide the overall growth and development of a community and is required by the State of Washington under the Growth Management Act.
  • Within the Comprehensive Plan are land use designations that provide an overall intent for areas of the City. The categories include various densities of residential, types of commercial, open space, and public facilities.

 

What is my property’s zoning and what does that mean?

  • Zoning districts are established to implement the City’s Comprehensive Plan. Think of them as subcategories and they give specific development regulations to direct the overall plan.
  • The zoning development regulations direct the uses allowed, the size of lots and structures, and the design of those improvements. This would include setbacks, height limits, and upkeep.
  • To determine your property’s zoning district locate your property on the zoning map. Then, look up the zoning regulations in our zone code, which is Title 22 in the Fircrest Municipal Code. Or, contact the Planning Department and we can email the information directly to you.