When do you need a permit?

Virtually all projects require some kind of permit.  Some basic things can be handled with an Over-The-Counter permit (plumbing, mechanical, roofing, siding), while anything with structural changes will require a plan review.  Typically these are additions, interior remodels with walls being moved/removed, enlarging exterior openings, elevated decks, etc.  Plan reviews take various amounts of time depending on which building department you’re dealing with.

How long does it typically take to get a permit?

We do almost all of our projects in 4 jurisdictions; Camas, Vancouver, Washougal and Clark County.

Based on recent experience, lead times for a permit on a job requiring a plan review looks like this:

Camas – less than a week.  Yes, you read that right.  A small building department in a rapidly expanding town takes only about 4 days to issue a remodeling permit.  If I could do all of my projects in Camas, I would, for this reason.  They are the definition of user-friendly when it comes to dealing with a building department.  Kudos.

Vancouver – about 2 weeks.  I think this is a very reasonable time line.  How many people live in Vancouver?  Over 200k- and they still turn around permits in a timely fashion.  Nice job Vancouver.

Washougal – 3-4 weeks.  Not awesome, but not bad.  This is about what most people expect it to take to get a building permit.

Clark County – 10 weeks.  Yes, that’s right 10 weeks.  Why does it take 3x to 10x longer than the others?  Who knows.  Yes, the county is booming but so are the other areas.  I wish I had an answer.  Applying for a permit at the above locations usually takes less than 10 minutes while at the Clark County they make you sit with the permit clerk while they take an hour or more inputting your project.  No one else makes you stick around during the intake process.

How much does a permit cost?

Ok, this is purely anecdotal as I haven’t crunched the numbers in an official type way.  Generally, I find Camas to be the most reasonably priced followed by Washougal, Vancouver and Clark County.  Vancouver and Clark County seem to be pretty even when it comes to what they charge.  Additions commonly run between $2-4k.  Camas seems to be under $2k for similar permits.

Working without a permit

I don’t recommend it.

Pre-project timeline

I wrote this post to help give you an idea of how much time to plan for the permit process.  Keep in mind that you can’t even apply for a permit until you have ‘permit ready’ plans including engineering (when needed, and if it’s structural it’s usually needed).  With the current market being so hot, engineering and planning can often take several months on top of the actual plan review/permitting process.  Plan accordingly.

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