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Building permits are often required for construction projects in the state, such as for new construction of a home, renovations, plumbing, and utility or electrical work. However, certain building projects are exempt from these permits.

If you are considering a building project on your property, it is important that you learn about what is permitted without the requirement of a permit. Home Care Contractors is a leading provider of remodeling, repair, maintenance, and construction services in Washington. In this blog post, we explore the rules and regulations surrounding building structures without a permit in the state. We will also provide insights into the largest structures that can be constructed without going through the process of obtaining permits.

What Structures Are Exempt from the Building Permit Requirement?

Any structure that is 200 square feet or less with or without a residence may be constructed without a permit as long as certain metrics are met. Structures that are built on the same land as a residence can be up to 800 square feet. 

It must also be a detached single-story building with either no attic space or limited attic space. This generally applies to structures used for garages, carports, tool and storage sheds, playhouses, and similar uses. The ordinance and zoning also define this as a place that is not intended for occupancy.

Additional Ordinance Requirements for the Structure

This structure must also follow the rules for setbacks, ensuring it is no closer than 10 feet from any other structures on your property. Anything that is larger than 200 feet may require other permits to meet the current code. 

Plumbing, water tanks, and electrical work added to this structure will require permits according to the regulations. If you are considering adding a structure of any kind to your property, it is recommended that you contact a reputable contractor who will be familiar with what is permitted and what is exempt.

Examples of Exempt Structure Types

The following structures do not require a permit:

Accessory Buildings

An accessory is considered a one-story and detached item that is 800 square feet or less and set back according to the current code.


Any fence can be built as long as it is not taller than 7 feet.

Retaining Walls

An exterior wall must not go above 4 feet.

Playground Equipment

Swings, playhouses, and playground equipment do not require a permit. 

Storage Sheds

Any accessory created for the purpose of storage is exempt, though it must have a maximum square footage of 200 feet. 

Window Awnings

Awnings for windows are permitted on supporting exterior walls.

Swimming Pools

This applies to prefabricated swimming pools on your land. They must have a depth of less than 24 inches. 

Recommendations for Your Next Project

Whether you want to build an accessory such as a garage or a play place for your kids, you should think about the potential permit requirements. Even when a project doesn’t require permits, your accessory may need electrical work for critical areas. Plumbing may also be required in other critical areas, meaning that you will need to get permits. If your accessory will be designed for occupancy, then it must have the right permits to be lawfully constructed.

While it is less hassle to build something without a permit, you must make sure you follow all the rules. Violations can be costly and derail your plans. The best thing you can do is talk to a professional about the design and intent of this development. Hiring a company that can take care of permits and construct what you need will ensure that everything is done according to the rules and regulations.

It will also ensure that codes are met, meaning a safer design for you and your family. Additionally, if you sell your home at a later date, the expansion might add value. If it needs permitting and you have everything in order, it will ber a smoother process.

Unpermitted work may mean that you need to tear down what you’ve just built, especially if an inspection reveals any problems. You may also void your homeowners’ insurance policy as most have stipulations about covering damages when you’ve done work without the required permitting.

Ultimately, it’s safer to go with the pros who will ensure that they will follow all the requirements set by the laws in the state whether permits are required or not. If you are considering adding a shed or another type of setup, contact Home Care Contractors today.

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