Do you Need a Permit?
Almost all building and construction-related activities need county permits except work that is listed in the Exempt Residential Accessory Structures handout. To look up a specific project, see lists below.
NO BUILDING PERMITS REQUIRED LIST*
- General Construction / Electrical / Exterior / Outside work
- Things on this list Exempt Residential Accessory Structures handout
- Buildings under 200 sf inside a county urban growth area (UGA) or 400 sf outside a county UGA that are one-story, detached from other buildings and have no plumbing or electricity. Including carports, garages, playhouses, sheds, shops, etc. OTHER PERMITS POSSIBLE: May require county land-use or environmental permits. Go to Find Out What You Can Do with a Property do steps 1-4 to check.
- Decks (if 30" or less from ground to top of deck)
- Electrical systems & circuitry - Don't need a permit from Thurston County government, but may need permits from Labor & Industries.
- Fences (8 feet tall or shorter)
- Fences of barbed wire and razor fencing (no permit required, but are not allowed in some residential zones).
- Fences at/near street corners or driveways need a sight distance triangle. Check XX (dead links online)
- Gutters and downspouts
- Hot houses - Temporary growing structures for commercial production constructed with the roof and side of polyethylene, polyvinyl or similar flexible synthetic material, used to provide plants with either frost protection or increased heat retention. For commercial growing, this is pursuant to WAC 51-50-007. https://apps.leg.wa.gov/WAC/default.aspx?cite=51-50-007
- Patios, and porches (if 30" or less from ground to top of deck)
- Recreational equipment (jungle gym, swings, skateboard ramps, etc. as long as they are accessory to detached, one- and two-story family homes).
- Roof repair & replacement (Permit needed if adding skylights. Permit needed if changing, repairing or replacing any structural elements, or pitch/slope).
- Shed, Shop (if under 400 sf, no plumbing or electrical and not connected to another structure.)
- Sidewalks (if less than 30 inches above ground, and also not over a basement or story below, and not part of an Americans with Disabilities Act route, like a ramp).
- Swimming pools,(If prefabricated, entirely above ground, and less than 24 inches deep, with a capacity less than 5,000 gallons. And not part of Groups R-3 and U occupancies, meaning one- and two-family dwelling units, or adult and child care facilities that provide accommodation for five or fewer person of any age for less than 24 hours).
- Walls and garden walls (If under 4 feet tall and not bearing/holding a load or retaining soils, slopes or flammable liquids. Details in Retaining & Landscape Wall handout.
- Water tanks sitting directly on the ground (If capacity of tank is 5,000 gallons or less & height to width ratio doesn't exceed 2 to 1).
- Window awnings (if supported by exterior wall, not projecting more than 54 inches from that wall and do not require additional support of Groups R-3 and U occupancies, meaning one- and two-family dwelling units, or adult and child care facilities that provide accommodation for five or fewer person of any age for less than 24 hours).
- Battery powered appliances
- Piping for steam, hot or chilled water piping within any heating or cooling equipment
- Portable air conditioners, cooling units & evaporative coolers
- Portable heaters and heating devices
- Portable ventilation equipment
- Refrigeration units (if self-contained, capacity of less than 10 pounds of refrigerants, and with motor of 1 horsepower or less)
- Parts replacement related to heating, cooling and ventilation
- Replacement of electric forced-air heating units and water heaters. Code amended 2018 with Ordinance 15648. See County Code Title 14.
Interior design / Remodeling
- Cabinet replacement
- Cases, counters, racks, partitions & all not-fixed, movable fixtures that are 5 feet, 9 inches tall or less that are build according to the International Building Code
- Countertop replacement
- Crown moldings and baseboards
- Flooring - tiling, carpeting, hardwood flooring
- Wall coverings and decoration like paint, paper
- Window pane replacement in doors and windows
- Door replacement as long as the new door is put in the existing frame. (Permit is needed if you change the door frame or widen it).
- Oil derricks
- Plumbing – only if
To clear a blockage, repair or stop a leak in a drain, water, soil, water or vent pipe. (Permit needed if pipe must be replaced with new material).
You May Need other Permits
Your project may need county environmental permits (critical areas, habitat conservation plan, shorelines, flood, etc.), or state or federal permits.
You Need Setbacks
Setbacks are required for anything you build or do. Setbacks are determined by which zone a property is located in, and which regulated environments are mapped on property.
Start all Projects by checking Zoning & Environmental Rules
Even if you think you don't need a building permit, start your project with Find Out What You Can Do with a Property and check zoning and environmental regs to see if other county permits are needed. Avoid rebuilding or fines.
Before you begin work without a permit, contact us.
Other Building Regulations
All buildings and structures must meet International Building Code Standards, even if they don't require a permit from Thurston County government.
BUILDING PERMITS ARE REQUIRED LIST
The Quick-Read List
- Small projects.
- Septic projects.
- Dividing land & consolidating it.
- Any building or structure that someone will live in.
- Any building or structure attached to an existing building or structure.
- Buildings with electrical and/or plumbing that are:
- 200 sf or more when located inside one of the county's Urban Growth Areas-UGA
- 400 sf or more when located outside a county UGA.
- To check if a property is inside or outside a UGA, go to Find Out What You Can do with a Property, and do Steps 1 & 2)
- In fact, ALL BUILDINGS need permits except EXEMPT Structures
- All construction & demolition except roofing, unless the roof structure, pitch or slope changes. Construction means: to add, additions, build, change, convert, demolish, expand, finish, remodel, remove, update, etc.
- Converting land from its current use.
The Long List in Alphabetical Order
- Air conditioner (Non-portable units that are electrical, mechanical, or systems.)
- Attic & Attic pull-down stairs
- Burn Yard Waste - Permit needed, but not issued by Thurston County government. Permits through Olympic Region Clean Air Agency Agency.
- Concrete slab (If more than 30 inches tall from ground)
- Deck (If more than 30 inches tall from the ground, including adding walls)
- Fence (If over 8 feet tall at highest point from ground. County fence height measuring directions.)
- Fire alarms & sprinkler systems
- Forest conversion / logging
- Foundation repair or replacement
- Furnace (elec & gas)
- Garage (If 200 sf of more inside a county UGA / 400 sf or more outside a UGA). Or if converting a garage to a living space)
- Heating mechanical fixtures (chimney, gas insert, gas log, fireplace, furnace, woodstove electric. or gas,) (No permits required for Replacement of electric forced-air heating units and water heaters. Code amended 2018 with Ordinance 15648. See County Code Title 14,)
- Logging if removing trees to convert land to another use
- Manufactured / Mobile Home placement
- Mechanical systems
- Playhouse (If 200 sf of more inside a county UGA / 400 sf or more outside a UGA) or if has plumbing or electricity. Or if attached to another structure.
- Patio (If more than 30 inches tall from the ground, including adding walls)
- Plumbing fixtures (hot water heater, bathtub, sink, washing machine, urinal, etc.)
- Porch (If more than 30 inches tall from the ground, including adding walls to an existing porch)
- Propane tank
- Retaining wall (If supporting more than 4 feet of earth/soil/slope, or flammable liquid. County wall measuring directions.
- Roof (Only if enlarging a roof, or changing its pitch/slope).
- RV on a lot
- Seawall or any type of hard armoring
- Septic system
- Slab, concrete (If more than 30 inches tall from ground)
- Shoreline construction, addition or changes of any kind
- Sidewalk (That are more than 30 inches tall from ground. That are over a basement or a bottom story. That are part of an Americans with Disabilities Act access like a ramp.)
- Swimming pools (If in ground, or 24 inches deep or more)
- Tiny home
- Walls (Including inside or out. Including garden & retaining walls. If 4 feet or taller. If bearing/holding a load like a roof or upper floor, or if holding back/retaining soils, slopes or flammable liquids County wall measuring directions.
- Water heaters (gas & elec)
- Windows of all types (Including bay windows & dormers.)
Land use, zoning and other things that need permits
- Clearing, grading & excavation
- Connecting a driveway to a county road
- Cutting down trees, logging, thinning forests
- Changing a property boundary
- Event centers
- Fireworks stands & displays
- Marijuana processing
- Shoreline construction, addition or changes of any kind
- Subdividing property.