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Building Permits: How To and What’s New Archived Discussion Room

Fairfax County, Virginia

Building Permits: How To and What’s New

Now is the time when many residents begin work on a variety of home improvement projects like adding a deck, sunroom or swimming pool. Did you know that many home improvements require a building permit? Join Shetal Kapoor and Steve Kendrick with the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services on May 14 at 2 p.m. as they answer common questions related to building permits and highlight new tools for applying for permits, scheduling inspections and tracking the progress of your project.

Steven Kendrick : Hello, welcome to today's chat about Building Permits: the How To and What's New.  Shetal and I are here to answer your questions about the building permit process and, in the process, highlight some of our new online features that will enable you to apply for permits, schedule inspections, track your project's progress and more.

Pierce Lenclair : Thank you for this opportunity. My neighborhood has had several fences that were built and later found to be not in accordance to County rules. I think they were not in agreement with Zoning regulations. I have heard that there is no requirement for a building permit for installing fences in Fairfax County - is that true? If true, why not have a building permit requirement for fences. A permit process would educate the residents and the fence contractors on all the County requirements. Thank you.

Steven Kendrick : Fairfax County enforces the Uniform Statewide Building Code which is adopted at the state level.  The current building code does require a building permit for fences that exceed 6 feet in height.  If the fence in question is less than 6 feet in height it must still comply with the Zoning Ordinance.  The Department of Planning and Zoning can be reached at (703) 222-1082, TTY 711.

Charity : My husband and I are planning on remodeling bathrooms in our townhome. Are permits required for that or only exterior additions or changes?

Shetal Kapoor : If there are any framing changes a building permit is required, electrical and plumbing permits are required if the fixtures are new or are being relocated. Please visit: or call 703-222-0801, TTY 711.

Steve R : Are there any general rules of thumb for knowing if a home improvement requires a permit?

Steven Kendrick : You can check out our webpage "When a Permit is Required" that outlines general instances in where a permit is required. 

Go to

If you have any specific questions about your project, you can speak with a permit technician by calling us at 703 222-0801, TTY 711.

Meg : I was told from 4 deck companies that to just replace the base of the deck (where you walk) and the rails that you don't need a permit. Since we're not changing the support beams or the structure no permits required. When I called to confirm with FFX I was told different. What is the correct thing?

Shetal Kapoor : Any modification to a deck including repairs to the floor boards and guard rails requires a building permit. This is a statewide building code that is designed to ensure safety. Please visit our deck page for additional details: 

Brian : Do I need a permit if I'm replacing the decking boards on my deck, but not altering the structural members?

Steven Kendrick : This is a common question we receive.  The simple answer is "yes". The current statewide building code does require a permit to replace deck boards.  Deck boards are a structural component of the deck and must be inspected to ensure compliance.  You can find more information on decks in our publication by going to

Anonymous User : im looking at buying a 10x10 storage shed from home depot. they will be building it. do I still need a permit?

Steven Kendrick : The current edition of the statewide building code requires a permit for storage sheds that exceed 200 square feet.

In your case a building permit would not be required do to the size of your proposed shed.  However, you will need to contact the Zoning Permit Review Branch at 703 222-1082, TTY 711 to ensure that the shed is in accordance with your lots setback.

RE: Decks : So if I'm reading your response to the origional poster: if I REPLACE a board on a deck I need a permit? A recent storm damaged 7 deck boards and I replaced them myself with no permit. What are the reprecautions if I would have replaced the entire base with no permit?

Shetal Kapoor : Even though the work is complete, you are still required to obtain a building permit to ensure the work was done in compliance with the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code. You may occupy the deck once the final inspection is complete.

Mark : What happens if I don't have a permit? How would the county know?

Shetal Kapoor : Doing work without a permit is a violation of the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code and may carry fines and legal proceedings depending on the violation. There are many ways the county can be made aware of unpermitted projects such as neighbor complaints, real estate agent/appraiser inquiries and others. These complaints are monitored and responded to daily through the Department of Code Compliance.

Kim : Our house was built in 1976 with an in-law suite. The suite includes a small kitchen with sink, refrigerator, and stove/oven. It has not been updated other than paint since the house was built. I was told by a contractor that I could not replace the stove/oven because Fairfax County does not allow 2 stoves in a house. When did that change occur, was there a grandfather clause, and what is the regulation?

Steven Kendrick : This is a Fairfax County Zoning requirement.  For more information regarding second kitchens and in-law suites by contacting the Zoning Permit Review Branch at (703) 222-1082 TTY 711.

Steven Kendrick : In closing, I wanted to make you aware that the county website now includes a land development information systems tool that can help you locate permit history, site plan status and other land development information associated with parcels throughout the county. Records are kept and are available in accordance with state requirements. To access these tools, go to

Shetal Kapoor :

Thank you for joining us this afternoon. Please remember that Fairfax County has many online resources to make it easy and save you time in navigating the building permit process. Simply go to to get started. You can also contact the Customer and Technical Support Center at 703-222-0801, TTY 711, and one of our technical professionals will be happy to assist you.