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When Do You Need a Construction Permit?

If your project in Seattle involves building construction, building alteration, new property uses or changed property uses, you will most likely need a permit. However, even if your project doesn’t require a permit, there are still development standards and code requirements that must be met.

Types of Permits

There are dozens of different permits available from the City of Seattle. Some of the most common construction-related permit types include:

  • Construction Permit – New Building, Single Family Residential or Duplex: This permit does not cover the specialty work inside the building, such as plumbing, electrical, HVAC or side sewer. The initial review of simple buildings, such as a brand-new home, will generally take about two weeks. If the building is very large or complex, then the initial review could take up to eight weeks.
  • Emergency Repair Permit: If your home sustains structural damage because of a situation declared an emergency, then you can apply for this permit. These permit applications are expedited by the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections. For an emergency repair permit to be considered, a letter from a geotechnical or structural engineer must be submitted with your permit application.
  • Land Use/Master Use — Conditional Use Permit: To be granted a conditional use permit, the conditional use would have to meet certain criteria and the potential impact will be identified. Some of the potential impacts that will be reviewed include:
    • Height, scale and bulk of building
    • The location of your building to other uses
    • The landscaping
    • The noise
    • Parking and traffic
    • The light and glare

You may need a Land Use/Master Use – State Environmental Policy Act permit if your project is located in environmentally critical areas or their buffers, or if it is bigger than acceptable size thresholds.

There are also permits for demolition, design review, grading, fire alarms, re-roofing, mechanical, electrical and much more. If you think a permit is needed, it probably is. Here is some information on when permits are needed for common projects:

  • Decks: If the deck is built over 18 inches off the ground and is located on the top of the building, a permit is needed.
  • Fences: If your fence is not higher than eight feet and has no concrete or masonry pieces that are more than six feet high, you will not need permit.
  • Property line changes: A lot boundary adjustment permit is needed to create a new lot or to move a property line.
  • Sheds: A permit is needed if the shed’s roof is over 120 square feet, more than a single story tall, doesn’t sit on a simple concrete slab, is attached to a house, or is near or in an environmentally critical area.  

Each permit requires a different process, which can vary depending on how complex the project is. Most permit applications can be filed online. While it can be a time-invested process in itself, obtaining a permit is necessary to help ensure projects are constructed as they should be, ultimately adhering to code requirements, development standards, and enforcing safe building practices citywide.

About the Author

John Pittman
John Pittman
administrator