FAQ - Building


Are plans for residential sprinkler permits required to be stamped by a registered architect or engineer?

No, if the dwelling units are three or less.

Are state codes applied consistently by local agencies?

Yes. Washington County staff regularly meets with other Building Officials across the region and state to ensure all jurisdictions interpret codes and regulations consistently.

Are you improving the review process?

Yes. In 2009 we began an overhaul of our review process to improve our services. Improvements we have made include reducing our timeline for completing reviews, creating engineering fire, life, and safety review guidelines, and improved communication with customers.

Do I have to have an architect or may I draw plans myself?

No, You may draw them yourself, please see our Residential Plan Review Checklist under Applications/Forms/Residential for a listing of what needs to be included in the plans.

Do I need a permit for a deck if it is ground level?

No, but please remember to check with the Current Planning division to see what the setback requirements are from the property line. Their phone number is 503-846-8761.

Do I need engineering for a free-standing sign?

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

Do I need to get a permit to move a wall in a commercial building?

Yes. The movement of walls may result in the change of a path of egress or a reduction of the integrity of a fire rated wall or corridor, and therefore is required to be permitted.

Does staff redesign or re-engineer projects?

No. Staff is clearly directed by state statute to not provide design assistance. Staff identifies items that do not meet codes. If a customer believes staff is redesigning projects, please bring it to the attention of the Building Official.

Does Washington County issue permits for work done in Hillsboro?

No, work done within the city limits of Hillsboro is permitted through City of Hillsboro.

How long does plan review take?

We have a self-imposed commitment to complete initial plan review of residential structures within 10 working days of submittal and to complete the initial review of commericla structures within 20 working days of submittal. Plan review staff has succussfully met these commitments 90% or more of the time. Approval is granted once plans are deemed complete. Washington County's Plan Review process and turnaround commitments are very efficient compared to other departments of similar size.

Must jurisdictions review plans?  Why not just accept the design professional's submitted plan?

Jurisdictions are required by the state to enforce the state building codes. Plan review staff are trained and certified by the state in a wide array of state codes. Staff works closely with the design community to ensure that buildings are safe by seeing that they meet the state's minimum code standards.

What happens if there is a difference of opinion about code requirements?

When staff identifies items on plans that they believe do not comply with code, staff provides 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 absolutely clear in the code, staff will defer to the design engineer's determinations.

What information needs to be shown on my plans?

Foundation Plan, Floor Plans, At least 2 complete cross sections in opposing directions, Roof plan, 4 Elevation views, Energy Compliance

What is the role of the plan review staff?

Plan review staff is an integral part of the building plan review process. Unlike the 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.

What size shed can I put up in my backyard without a permit?

Anything under 200 sq feet and no taller than 10 feet in height from the finished floor level to the average height of the roof. Please check with Current Planning on the setbacks required for the building.

Where can I find information about your Development Forums?

Development Forums provide an opportunity for our customers in the development and building industries to learn more about Washington County's development--related services and initiatives, processing timelines, and also provides a chance to network and provide valuable input. Look online at www.co.washington.or.us/devforum

Why does Building Services review building plans?

State codes have been developed and adopted to ensure that our built environment is safe. These codes establish the minimum acceptable standards. All jurisdictions in Oregon are required to enforce provisions of the state building codes. These include structural, electrical, plumbing, and mechanical codes. We review all plans for new building, building additions and remodeling projects that require building permits.

Why have professional engineers review the work of other professional engineers?

A jurisdiction's engineering reviewers are the building code experts and their work is counted on by the design community. While the design community is knowledgeable about building codes, they aren't necessarily experts, and it isn't their focus. Within the last 20 years there have been significant structural engineering code changes related to soils, landslides, earthquakes, wind, material capacity, as well as others. As a result, engineering requirements have become much more complex.


Can I get a permit for a roof top unit replacement over the counter?

Permits for smaller units are frequently issued over the counter, with appropriate documentation. If the unit weighs over 400 pounds, engineering will be required to ensure that the supporting structure has the strength to accommodate the loading.


Can I disconnect my kitchen sink and bath/shower and use the water to water my garden?

No, Oregon does not have a code that would allow for this. Gray water must be treated either through a public system or a Health department approved septic system.

Can I do my own plumbing work on my one-or-two family dwelling?

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 without a license. 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 ask for the license number of any journeyman plumber performing work. Plumbing contractors must also be registered with the Construction Contractors Board.

Can I use rain water collected from my roof to water my garden or flush my toilets?

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

When do I need a permit for plumbing work?

When replacing water heaters and underground piping; alter 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 add on to your one-or-two family dwelling when existing plumbing is to be relocated. This includes installation of building sewers, water service and exterior drains.

When is a plumbing permit not required?

When a property owner does "ordinary minor repairs" to plumbing systems on his or her 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.

Where can I find the Plumbing Code?

At your local library or see the Plumbing Code link below.

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