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Building Services FAQ

Our Building Services staff gets a lot of questions from the public. We've compiled a list of the most common questions and responses below.

Got a question? There's a good chance someone else has had the same question. The questions below are among those most frequently asked of our staff. The answers apply to locations within unincorporated Washington County. For questions concerning properties located within cities, visit the relevant city websites. 

Don't see your question below? Email your question and we'll do our best to respond within five to seven business days. [email protected]


Not if there are three units or less.

Yes. We regularly meet with other Building Officials to make sure all jurisdictions interpret codes and regulations consistently.

You may draw them yourself. See use the residential building permit checklist to see what needs to be included in the plans.

No but remember to check with our Current Planning staff to see what the setback requirements are.

[email protected]​​  |  503-846-8761

Yes, if the sign height is greater than 6 feet from the bottom of the supporting footing to the top of the sign.

Yes. Moving walls can change of a path of egress or reduce the integrity of a fire-rated wall or corridor. Permits are required.

No. Under state statute, we are not allowed to provide design assistance. We identify things that do not meet codes. If you believe staff is redesigning projects, please email our Building Official.

[email protected]​​

Jurisdictions are required by the state to enforce the building codes. We are trained and certified by the state in an array of state codes. We closely with the design community to make sure buildings meet the state's minimum code standards.

When we find items on plans that do not comply with code, we provide the relevant governing code citation. Since our engineering review guidelines allow for interpretations by design engineer, if there is a conflict in opinion that is not clear in the code, we defer to the design engineer's determinations.

Foundation plan, floor plans, at least two complete cross sections in opposing directions, roof plan, four elevation views and energy compliance forms.

Unlike design professionals who submit the plans, plan reviewers are only concerned with compliance requirements of the codes. Their job is to ensure that submitted plans meet the state's adopted minimum code standards.

Work Exempt from Permit:
Non-habitable one-story detached accessory structures, provided that the floor area does not exceed 200 square feet (18.58 m2) and does not exceed a height of 15 feet (4572 mm) measured from grade plane to the average height of the highest roof surface. 

Exception: Where the structure is located on a parcel of 2.0 acres or greater in area, and the structure is located a minimum of 20 feet (6096 mm) from all property lines and regulated structures, the floor area may be increased to 400 square feet (37.16 m2)

NOTE: The 15 foot height limit is to the average height of the highest roof surface, which is typically the distance half-way between the top of the wall and the peak of the roof.

Permits for smaller units are frequently issued over the counter, with appropriate documentation. If the unit weighs over 400 pounds, we must ensure the supporting structure can accommodate the loading.

No. Oregon code does not have a code allowing this. Gray water must be treated either through a public system or a health department-approved septic system.

Yes. As the owner of a one-or-two family dwelling, you can either hire a licensed plumbing contractor or do the plumbing work yourself. A friend, neighbor, tenant, general contractor or other person cannot legally do the plumbing work unless he or she is a licensed plumber working on behalf of a licensed plumbing contractor.

All materials (pipe, pipe fittings, fixtures and other devices used in plumbing systems) must be listed and approved for their specific uses. This is especially important when installing materials that come into contact with drinking water.

If you hire a plumbing contractor, ask for his or her business registration and license number of any journeyman plumber performing work. Plumbing contractors must also be registered with the Construction Contractors Board.

Yes. Appendix M of the Plumbing Code allows for potable and non-potable use of rainwater on commercial and residential properties.

Permits are required for:

Replacement of water heaters and underground piping; altering piping inside a wall or ceiling, or beneath a floor; and for plumbing in all new installations.

Emergency repair, alteration or replacement of freeze-damaged or leaking concealed piping, if new piping exceeds 5 feet.

Remodel or additions to one-or-two family dwelling when existing plumbing is to be relocated, including building sewers, water service and exterior drains.

It's not required when you do "ordinary minor repairs" to plumbing systems on your own property, which means repair, replacement or maintenance of existing accessible fixtures, parts, and appliances and their related water and drain attachments. Do not alter the complete existing plumbing system without a permit.


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