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What happens if you build without a permit?

So you want to renovate your house, figure you wouldn't cause too much trouble in the neighborhood so why bother getting a permit? No harm, no foul right? Wrong.

In Washington, D.C., building without a permit can cause costly fines and penalties of $2000 or more per infraction, which could quickly add up.

When are you allowed to build in the District of Columbia?

Monday - Saturday

7:00AM - 7:00PM

* You may apply for an after hours permit to work beyond these hours *

What types of work require a building permit in Washington, D.C.?

New construction



Construction of retaining walls, decks, fences, sheds, garages, and vaults

Erection of signs and awnings

What types of work DO NOT require a building permit?

Brick pointing

Caulking, patching, and plaster repair

Installation of cabinets and architectural millwork

Installation of window screens and storm windows

Repair of existing fences with like materials

Retaining walls, 4 feet (1219 mm) or less in height, measured from the bottom of the footing to the top of the wall, for one and two family dwellings only

Construction of garden storage sheds complying with DC Code Section 107.3.3

Painting, but not painting with fire-retardant paint

Replacement of:

non-rated windows and doors

roofing and coping


gutters and downspouts

private sidewalks and driveways


non-rated suspended ceiling tile

floor coverings

up to 160 square feet (14.9 cubic meters) of gypsum board

up to 50 linear feet (15.24 meters) of sanitary venting piping

up to 10 linear feet (3.05 meters) of sanitary drainage system piping

up to 20 linear feet (6.1 meters) of sanitary venting piping

up to 50 linear feet (15.24 meters) of hydraulic system piping

up to 10 linear feet (3.05 meters) of duct work, in non-hazardous and commercial kitchen exhaust systems

* Does not apply to Historic Districts*

Per The Department of Regulatory Affairs (DCRA)

Report Illegal Construction Activity conducted in the District of Columbia

"Any construction in the District of Columbia done without required building permits is illegal construction. Illegal construction is a public danger: it can hurt people and property.

If you see illegal construction activity in the District of Columbia please report it by either calling 311, visiting the, using the mobile app (DC311), using the online live chat feature during standard business hours, texting DC311, or tweeting to @311dcgov.

Please give the address and describe the illegal construction. DCRA will schedule an inspection to investigate."


(202) 769-1958


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