Residential projects that require building permits

The City of Portland welcomes the opportunity to work with you on your residential building permit project. Learn more about what’s required for your project and find out if you need permits. You can also schedule an appointment to discuss your project. 

This webpage is for new construction and improvements to houses, duplexes and two-unit townhouses. Depending on the scope of work, your project will most likely need electrical, plumbing and/or mechanical permits.   

When you need a permit for home improvement projects and construction projects

Find out when you need a residential permit. And, read more about when you don’t need a permit for projects for a 1- or 2- family home. Learn more about residential building permits and apply online.

When you need a zoning permit for home repair or new building projects 

Learn more about when you need a zoning permit, when you don’t need a zoning permit and how to get started with a zoning permit application. Find all of the required forms for a zoning permit. Then, apply for a zoning permit from the City of Portland. 

Who can do the work 

Contractors must have a license to work in Oregon. The Oregon Construction Contractors Board (CCB) issues licenses to contractors. The permit application and their company materials must list the license number. Need help finding a contractor? The CCB website has good tips on how to search for one.  Plumbing and Electrical contractors have additional license requirements.  

If you are a homeowner doing the work yourself, then you can sign the trade permit applications. You can only do the electrical work if you own and occupy the home and are not planning on selling or renting within 6 months. The State of Oregon has some helpful information for homeowners:

Building and zoning permit application

Get detailed information about what you need to apply in the list of all residential building permit types. Many of the webpages have very specific application requirements with items you must include to have a completed application.

Check out How to Fill Out a Building Permit Application- A Step-by-Step Guide for help completing the application and then apply online.

Code and Rules

We review permits using multiple city and state codes including: 

Other codes may apply based on the scope of work. The City and State Codes, Administrative Rules, Code Guides and Program Guides web page has the codes, administrative rules, code guides and program guides. 

Report a code violation 

You can Report a Violation and Check the Status of a Reported Violation.

How to research your property

Planning and Zoning

Before getting started, contact Planning and Zoning to find out what is allowed on your property. There are zoning rules that can impact your project. Important things to ask planning and zoning:

  • What can you build on your lot?
  • What are the design rules for the structure? 
  • Does your property have an overlay or plan district?  
  • What are the required setbacks? 

More information about setbacks

A setback is the distance measured from your property line to a point inside the property. Also:

  • A setback creates a border inside your property lines.
  • Setback requirements are different in each residential zone.
  • A front setback is usually larger than the side and rear setbacks.
  • For purposes of determining setback, the front is the side that borders a street.
  • On a corner lot, the front is the shortest side of the lot that borders a street.
  • If the street frontages are of equal length, you may choose which to call the front.

Building permit history 

Depending on the age of your house, we may have its permit history. It is important to verify the permit records, not rely on the tax information from the county assessor’s office.  If “existing” living space was not permitted, it will need to be legalized through a new permit. To become permitted living space, you must apply for conversion permits as if the work was not already done. 

Some records are available online. Visit our How to Request Public Property Records page.

Decommission a septic tank or cesspool

If you plan to build an addition, and the house was not connected to the sewer when it was built, you will likely need to decommission the cesspool or septic tank. If you are not sure, you can search the historic plumbing records.

If your home is in a floodplain

If your house is located in a floodplain, there are restrictions to what you can do to improve your house. The work may require retrofitting your house to be flood resistant. Flood plain information is available on Portland Maps Flood Hazard gallery.  If the property is located in a flood plain, talk to Site Development and Septic Review in the early stages for what is needed. 

Permit fees

Permit fees are based on the:

  • type of permit
  • work proposed
  • valuation of the work
  • staff that need to review the work

Read more about Building Permit Fee Schedules. You can also apply for permit fee waivers based on financial hardship and low income.

Schedule all inspections and pay for all permits at the same time- combination permits 

You can purchase a “Residential Combination” permit package. This allows you to schedule all inspections using one Building Permit (RS) IVR number. You can also pay for all of the permits at one time. If you choose a combination permit, you will need to submit the trade (mechanical, electrical, and/or plumbing) applications with your plans.

If you hire subcontractors to do the trade work, they must sign their trade permit application. Read more about residential permit inspections

Residential engineering requirements 

Your project must be designed to meet all structural requirements in the building code. Please review Structural Design Requirements for One and Two-Family Residential Structures for more information on these requirements.  

List of all residential building permit types and how to apply 

Every project is unique; every project has different requirements. The pages below have the forms that go with each application including the building permit application. The webpages also include information about:

  • how to apply for permits- forms and checklists to help you complete your application and information about where and how to apply 
  • what happens after you apply 
  • how to check on your permit application 
  • how to get ready for residential permit inspections and contact inspectors 
  • how to make corrections 

Add an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU)

An accessory dwelling unit (ADU) is a second dwelling unit created on a lot with a house, attached house or manufactured home. The second unit is smaller than the main dwelling. Read more about Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) permits and apply online or in person.


Enlarge the building footprint 

Any project that enlarges the footprint of an existing building is an addition and requires a building permit

Add an attic dormer or upper story

Building a dormer or a new second story to a single-family dwelling or duplex changes the building envelope and is an addition. 

Get application requirements for all additions.

Alterations to convert unfinished space into living space 

Unfinished areas may not meet current building code requirements for living space. Read more about Attic, Basement or Garage Conversion Residential Building Permits and apply online or in person.

Build a deck or replace a deck

Some decks may be exempt from requiring a building permit, but may still require a Zoning Permit, depending on specific site conditions or placement on the lot. Read more about Deck Residential Building Permits and apply for a permit online or in person.

Build a fence taller than seven feet 

You need a building permit when building a fence taller than seven feet. Read more about Fence Residential Building Permits and apply for a permit online or in person.

Build garages, sheds and accessory structures 

A building permit is required to build, demolish or alter any carport, garage or shed that is greater than 200 square feet in area (measured from the interior side of the exterior walls) or greater than 10 feet in height (measured from the finish floor level to the average height of the roof).

Your project may also require electrical, plumbing or mechanical permits. Read more about Garages, Sheds and Accessory Structures Residential Building Permits and apply online or in person.

Build a New Single Family Residence (NSFR) 

Get a permit application and all required forms for building a new home. Read more about New Single Family Residence (NSFR) Permits- Residential and apply online or in person.

Build a retaining wall

Find out if you need a permit for a retaining wall. Read more about Retaining Wall Residential Permits and apply online or in person.

Demolish a building 

Apply online or in person for residential demolition permits and permits for demolishing a building in the City of Portland.

Do interior alterations with minor exterior work

Depending on the work, most interior alterations require a permit:

  • Cutting a new window or door opening, widening or reducing the size of existing openings
  • Moving, removing or adding walls 
  • Adding a bathroom in new or existing space 

Architectural plans should clearly show existing conditions and proposed. The Submittal Guidelines: Residential Interior Remodel have more detail:

Get a simple bathroom permit

Find out how to get a bathroom permit without drawing plans. Learn more about how to apply and start a simple bathroom permit application.

Major Residential Alteration and Additions (MRAA)

A major residential addition is adding more than 500 square feet of new interior space by expanding the building footprint or envelope. A major alteration means removing 50% or more of the exterior walls above the foundation. Read more about Major Residential Alteration and Addition Permits.

New and remodeled stairs projects

Read about new and remodeled stairs permit requirements including all required measurements. Learn about building permits and spiral stairs, new stairs projects, winder stairs, handrails, guardrails permits and more. 

Apply online for residential trade permits- electrical, mechanical and plumbing permits

Some building permit projects might also need electrical, mechanical and plumbing work done. You’ll find the applications on the linked pages. You can also read about the permits here: 

You might also want to read about the permit review process or commercial development permitting and inspections

Still need help? Schedule a 15-minute appointment 

If you have questions after reviewing the information on this page, we recommend you book a free 15-minute appointment with us. 

This is an optional step. We’re here for you if you have questions about the information and materials you need to apply. 

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