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Frequently Asked Questions


Frequently Asked

(Note: The terms 'Building Code" and Building Permit" include electrical, mechanical and plumbing & other codes and permits where appropriate)
(Zoning permits may be required in lieu of building permit. Check with the Permit Center.)

When is a building permit required?
Application for a permit shall be made to the building official and a permit shall be obtained prior to commencing any of the following activities:

• Construction, reconstruction, alteration, repair, conversion or demolition of a building or structure, including the installation or altering of any equipment regulated by the USBC.
• Change of Occupancy of an existing structure when a new certificate is required by the USBC

• Movement of a lot line that increases the hazard to or decreases the level of safety of an existing building or structure.
• Removing or disturbing any asbestos containing materials during demolition, alteration, renovation of or additions to buildings or structures.

Examples. A building permit is required for the following:
• Finish an unfinished area or basement
• Add or replace an existing deck
• Install attic pull-down stairs
• Install new sump pump (not replacement)
• Replace water or sewer service lines
• Replace any fuel fired (gas, oil, etc.) appliances
• Install swimming pool above or below ground when 24 inches or greater
• Install new attic fan (not replacement)
• Installing new electrical circuits
• Installing gas fired heaters or fireplace logs
• Building a detached garage or utility building greater than 256 sq. ft. in size
• Changes to duct systems, plumbing supply, drain, waste and vent piping, appliance vent systems and gas piping, other than reconnection to replacement equipment

Installation of replacement siding, roofing, porch flooring and windows in buildings within the historic district - NEW

When is a building permit not required?
A building permit is not required for the following:
• Ordinary repairs which do not involve any violations of the building code. These include painting, roofing, most glass, most doors, floor covering and porch flooring (porch flooring required in Historic District), repairs to plaster or interior tile and other wall covering, residential cabinets, and wiring and equipment operating under 50 volts.
• Detached accessory structures less than 256 sq. ft. (including moving/storage containers) NOTE: must be structurally sound and anchored. (Zoning permit required)
• Tents or air supported structure less than 900 sq. ft. and less than 50 persons. (Zoning permit required)
• Fences and privacy walls that do not exceed six feet above finished grade. (Zoning permit required)
• Swimming pools meeting all three of the following conditions: less than 150 sq. ft., less than 5,000 gallons capacity and less than 24" deep. Pools that fail to meet any one of these conditions require a permit. (Zoning permit required)
• Re-roofing with same materials for 1 and 2 family dwellings (required in Historic District).
• Most wiring and equipment that operates at less than 50 volts. (exceptions)
• Replacement of plumbing and electrical fixtures, fittings, appliances, including electric water heaters, fans, humidifiers, dehumidifiers, air cleaners, and similar mechanical equipment, doors and windows with that of similar capacity in the same location in most residential uses.

Repairs do not include work on walls or partitions, anything that effects structural integrity, anything that effects egress or exits, removal or disturbance of asbestos, or work changing or replacing plumbing, mechanical or electrical equipment or systems.

Examples. A building permit is not required for:
• Replacing existing plumbing fixtures when not altering supply or drain lines
• Replacing existing electrical fixtures when not adding or extending circuits
• Repair water heater
• Repair furnace or central air unit (permit required for motor or compressor replacement)
• Building a storage shed less than 256 sq. ft. (requires zoning permit approval for location)
• Replace flooring boards for a deck or porch.
• Painting or decorating
• Replacing residential cabinets
• Screen in existing covered porch
• Pour concrete patio on grade level (requires zoning permit approval for location)


If you are unable to determine if your work requires a permit, you may contact the Permit Center during regular business hours at 853-1090.

What are the Permit fees?
Permit fees are levied to offset the cost of enforcement and appeals of the building codes and permit fees are based on the total valuation of a project. The total valuation is the greater of the actual contract price submitted on the permit application or an applicable amount based on the total square footage of the structure to be built multiplied times the square foot cost data shown on the Building Valuation Data Table with is part of the fee schedule. For trade work, renovations, remodel work, or special construction the contract price is used for the total cost of construction. Click here to view the Fee Schedule

What model codes are adopted by Virginia?
The City of Roanoke, along with all other jurisdictions in the State of Virginia, oversees permitting and inspections by use of the Uniform Statewide Building Code (USBC). The provisions of the USBC are based on nationally recognized building and fire codes published by the International Code Council, Inc. The model codes are made part of the USBC through a regulatory process known as incorporation by reference. The USBC also contains administrative provisions governing the use of the model codes and establishing requirements for the enforcement of the code by the local building departments and other code enforcement agencies. The current version of the USBC is known as the 2012 Edition of the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code and was effective throughout Virginia on July 14, 2014.

• 2012 Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code
o Part I The Virginia Construction Code
- 2012 International Building Code
- 2012 International Residential Code
- 2012 International Plumbing Code
- 2012 International Mechanical Code
- 2011 NFPA 70 National Electric Code
- 2012 International Fuel Gas Code
- 2012 International Fire Code
- 2012 International Energy Conservation Code
o Part II The Virginia Rehabilitation Code
- 2012 International Existing Buildings Code
o Part III The Virginia Maintenance Code
- 2012 International Property Maintenance Code

Who may apply for a permit?
Any person applying to the Building Inspections Division for a permit shall furnish prior to the issuance of the permit, either satisfactory proof to the building official that he is duly licensed as a contractor in the Commonwealth of Virginia or file an Owner/Builder Affidavit with the permit application indicating that he is exempt from the licensing requirement.

May I obtain permits by mail or phone?
Yes, you may apply for permits by mail, e-mail or fax. Otherwise, permits must be obtained in person. You may call or write the Permits and Inspections Office and request an application or you may download applications directly from this website.

May someone else obtain a permit for me?
Certain professionals employed in connection with the project may also obtain permits. The owner may also have a designated agent to obtain permits. An agent is anyone the owner has given authority to act on his or her behalf. Evidence of this authority may be provided as a signed statement on the permit application or a check for permit fees bearing the owner's name and signature.

Should I purchase the permit or let my contractor purchase it?
It is our opinion, in almost all instances, the contractor should be required to obtain the permit as part of the project agreement. This is simply because the permit holder is the party responsible for the work and complying with the codes and regulations. A reputable contractor should have no problem obtaining a permit. It is usually those with no license or outstanding violations that will ask you to purchase the permit. If an owner wishes to secure the permit, he will be required to complete an Owner Builder Affidavit which affirms that he will perform all of the construction work myself, with immediate members of his family or with W-2 employees of his company.

NOTE! If the owner is not performing this work himself, with members of his immediate family or with W-2 employees of his company, the contractor actually doing the work is required to be licensed and must obtain the required permit, not the owner.

An owner wishing to do some of the work himself may qualify to be listed as a subcontractor on the permit for this portion of the work. If you decide to purchase permits yourself, you are responsible for all code requirements and if portions of the project are subcontracted, you must use licensed subcontractors and have those subcontractors properly listed on your permit.

What Type Permit Do I Need?
The City of Roanoke issues a combination permit when work on a project involves the building trade and at least one other specialty trade. In these cases, a general contractor or the owner, if he/she qualifies, must obtain the permit and list all subcontractors working on the project. If only one trade is involved in the project, the appropriately licensed contractor or exempt person obtains the permit. See the attached Permit Type listing and Contractor/Subcontractor Listing form.

How long is a permit valid?
A permit remains valid for as long as the work is proceeding, and an inspection is performed within the last six months. If the work is halted or abandoned for a period of at least six months, the permit may be suspended. Extensions may be granted by the Building Commissioner. Letters are sent to permit holders advising them that a permit has expired. The permit holder must apply for an extension in writing and receive approval prior to proceeding with the project. The Building Inspections Division, as the permit issuer, must have approved inspections recorded in our files for a permit to remain active. If you haven’t started your project or called for any inspections in 180 days or more, your permit will expire. It is the permit holder’s responsibility to prove to the Building Commissioner that work has not been suspended or abandoned. Extensions are not guaranteed.

May a permit be voided?
Permits may only be voided by the Building Commissioner when false or fraudulent information has been provided on the application. Otherwise, the permit may be cancelled by the applicant.

May a permit be returned for a refund?
Anytime before completion of the project, a permit may be canceled by the permit holder. If the project is incomplete, you are eligible for a refund based on the unfinished portion of the work minus an administrative cost of up to $90.

City of Roanoke
Building Safety Division
215 Church Ave, SW
Room 170
Roanoke VA 24011
Permit Center
(540) 853-1090 Fax 853-1594