Building Permit Overview
Building permits are required to protect all people from repairs, additions, or new construction which are in violation of codes and could cause harm to life and property. Permits are also required to ensure that federally mandated building related requirements, such as energy conservation and accessibility are complied with.
Permits are issued to property owners, contractors, leasers, architects or engineers. A permit will be issued only to contractors licensed as required by state or local law, who possess an Arlington County business license or reciprocity with another jurisdiction. A permit may be issued to a home owner provided that the dwelling unit is a single family, townhouse, or a condominium unit. A permit becomes invalid if the authorized work is not started within six months of the date of issuance, or if work is discontinued for more than six months.
Failure to obtain the required permit is a violation of the law.
Customers can choose to submit Building permit applications in paper or online using the ePlan Review portal.
- Must be licensed as required by state of local law
- Must posses Arlington County business license or reciprocity with another jurisdiction
A permit becomes invalid if the authorized work is not started within six months of the date of issuance, or if work is discontinued for more than six months.
There are many permits that may be required during your construction process. Each permit has a variation of different requirements. It’s important to review the necessary requirements for all permits that may apply to your project.
Unless exempted from application for permit by section 108.2 of the Virginia Construction Code, a permit from the Inspection Services Division (ISD) 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
- 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 Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code (VUSBC)
- A change in use as defined by the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code (VUSBC)
- Depending on the project, additional permits and approvals may be required
- Additional circumstances that require a building permit include:
- Movement of a lot line that either raises the level of hazard or lowers the level of safety of an existing building or structure compared to the building code under which it was constructed
- Removal or disturbing of any asbestos-containing materials during the construction or demolition of a building or structure, including additions. (From the Virginia Construction Code, Part I of the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code)
A temporary building permit may be issued at the discretion of the building official. Regardless of the exemption from application for a building permit, compliance with Zoning regulations is required.
Any activities that disturb more than 2,500 square feet of land require a Land Disturbing Activity/Stormwater (LDA) permit, for erosion and sediment control and stormwater management. Land disturbing activities include all actions that expose bare soil during a construction or landscaping project. The following activities are included in the total land disturbance area for your site:
- Clearing and grading the site
- Demolition of existing structures
- New houses, buildings, additions, expansions, garages or any other new building footprint added to the site
- Access pathway for construction equipment (backhoe, bobcat, wheelbarrows, etc.)
- Area for dumpster
- Storage or set-down areas for construction materials (roof trusses, prefabricated materials, etc.)
- Grading for drainage – the ground must have 6 inches of fall within the first 10 feet from the foundation or must include drains or swales to ensure proper drainage away from structure (per the 2000 International Residential Code (IRC) R401.3)
- Grading/excavation for construction of building footing
- Excavated soil storage areas
- New concrete/paved areas including driveways (include area for frame-up if required)
- New sidewalks, paths or stairs
- Landscaping areas
All electrical work requires a permit from the Inspection Services Division (ISD) EXCEPT minor repair work, which includes only the following:
- Replacing of switches, sockets, and receptacles
- Repairing of non-commercial lighting fixtures and neon signs, if the sign is not to be altered or removed from the building
- Repairing of portable electrical equipment and appliances
- Repairing of heating equipment, air-conditioning units and refrigeration equipment, unless motors are to be replaced.
- Low voltage wiring, except where it penetrates a fire rated assembly or runs in a non-combustible plenum
All new plumbing and gas work requires a permit from the Inspection Services Division (ISD) EXCEPT minor repairs, which include only the following:
- Repairs involving only the working parts of a valve or faucet
- The clearance of stoppages
- Repair of leaks or replacement of defective valves or faucets, provided that no changes are made in the piping to the fixture or appliance.
A permit from the Inspection Services Division (ISD) is required for the installation, repair, or alteration of:
- Air-conditioning systems
- Refrigeration systems
- And their related components
A survey plat showing the location of all outdoor new and replacement heat pumps or A/C units will be required.
The model energy code requires energy calculations for new buildings and additions.
A permit from the Inspection Services Division (ISD) is required for the new installations and alterations of:
- Material or personnel hoists
Shop drawings are required for all new installations and some modernizations, showing equipment layout, shafts, pits and elevator machine rooms.
A permit from the Inspection Services Division (ISD) is required for all installation of and changes to fire protection systems such as:
- Fire alarm
- Fire mains
- Kitchen hoods and other suppression systems and components
Shop drawings are required for all fire protection system permits. Permits should be timed to schedule reviews, approval to order and install equipment, arrange testing and final approval by the Inspection Services Division.
At any time, specific questions are encouraged and can be addressed by the Fire Protection Engineer, Plan Review Section Supervisor or the Chief Building Official at 703-228-3800.
Not finding the permit you’re looking for? See Other Permits for additional information or read the Use Permit Overview to learn more about special exemptions to the Zoning Ordinance.