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Home Improvement

Why is a permit required?

There are many important reasons to obtain the required building permit(s) and to obtain the required inspections for your construction project.

Helps protect your property value. Your home is an investment. If your construction project does not comply with the codes adopted by the City of Ridgefield, the value of your investment could be reduced. 

Saves money. Property insurers may not cover work or damages caused by work done without permits and inspections.

Makes selling property easier. When property is sold through a multiple listing association, the owner is required to disclose any improvements or repairs made and if permits and inspections were obtained. Many financial institutions will not finance a purchase without proof of a final inspection. If you decide to sell your home that has had modifications without a permit, you may be required to tear down the addition, leave it unoccupied or do costly repairs.

Improves safety. Your permit allows the code official to reduce potential hazards of unsafe construction to provide for public health, safety and welfare. By following code guidelines, your completed project will meet minimum standards of safety and will be less likely to cause injury to you, your family, and your friends or future owner. Mandatory inspections complement the contractor’s experience and act as a system of checks and balances resulting in a safer project.

It’s the Law. Work requiring permits are made such by City Ordinance. Work without a permit may be subject to removal or other costly remedies.

When is a permit required?

A building permit is generally required when changes or alterations are made to a residential building or when any new construction is undertaken. Mechanical and plumbing work also require permits and inspections. Electrical permits are obtained at Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.

Examples of when a permits is required:

  • New construction of a single-family dwelling
  • New construction of a duplex or accessory dwelling unit
  • Additions, alterations and remodels to existing structures
  • Adding a garage, carport, deck over 30” in height or a covered patio
  • Adding or removing wall(s)
  • Converting basement, attic or garage into living space
  • Changing the footprint of an existing structure in any way
  • Adding a second story
  • Reroofing/siding
  • Window replacement
  • Sheds over 200 square feet
  • Fence over 42”
  • Lawn sprinklers
  • Water heaters, toilets, and sinks
  • Retaining walls over 4” in height or subject to surcharge
  • A/C units, furnace, or ductwork
  • Woodstove or pellet stove
  • Grading (moving or disturbing) earth over 50 cubic yards

Examples of when a permit is not required:

  • Fences less than 42” in height
  • Decks less than 30” in height
  • Sheds 120 square feet or less
  • Painting, carpeting, cabinets, countertops and similar finish work
  • Patio and concrete slabs on the ground

What do you need to apply for a permit?

Completed and signed application (property owner signature is required)

If a contractor is doing work, your contractor needs to be licensed with the State of Washington and also have a City of Ridgefield business license

Fees associated with the application

Two (2) complete sets of clearly drawn plans accurately describing all of your proposed work

Two (2) copies of the plot plan, most proposed residential projects will require a plot plan (to verify setback requirements)

What are setbacks?

Property setbacks are ordinances established by the Ridgefield Municipal Code that outline where construction or modifications can occur. Mainly a distance from property line to a structure. Setbacks are established to preserve open space and building separation in development and are required to be met prior to building permit issuance. Setbacks are verified via plot plan submittal/review.

Residential Building Permit Process

  1. Submit for Permit
    Learn how to prepare and apply for your permit on our Building and Permitting Services page.
  1. Plan Review
    Depending on your proposed project, plans will be reviewed by various disciplines. Types of reviews include planning and zoning, structural/building and possible engineering. The assigned reviewers check to see that your proposal is in compliance with the specific code or regulations. If the reviewer needs additional information or has identified corrections, they will request information from you in written form of a comment letter via email or mail (see step 2a).

2a. Comment Letter
A comment letter is sent when a reviewer needs additional information or a correction needs to be made to the plans. Once a comment letter is sent, the reviewer takes no further action until you provide a response to the comment letter.

2b. Revise Plans
Once you have received a comment letter and have gathered all of the additional information and/or made the requested corrections, bring the information to the permit center. Complete and timely responses will speed up the re-review of the project.

If the revisions are complete, the reviewer will sign off and the project will move on in the process (see step 3). If the reviewer needs additional information or has identified additional corrections, they will request this information from you in writing in another comment letter (return to steps 2a and 2b).

  1. Plans Approved, Permit Issued
    When all required reviews are approved, your permit will be in approved status and you will be notified your final permit fee total and that your permit is ready to pick up. 
  2. Inspections
    When you pick up your permit, you will receive an inspection card listing all of the inspections you will need during construction. Inspections can be scheduled online through the Permit & Development Portal. When all of your inspections are approved, you will receive a final inspection and your project is complete.

Things to Consider

The permit process differs for each permit type and may vary depending on how complex your project is. These steps are a general guideline to follow when applying for a permit.


The City of Ridgefield administers permits for properties that reside within its limits. Always check the jurisdiction of the property online to determine whether it is located within the City of Ridgefield’s limits.

For properties located in Clark County’s jurisdiction contact them at (360) 397-2375.

Are there any site constraints on your property?

  • Determine your property zoning and other site criteria
  • Is there any critical areas on-site?
  • Do you have a well and/or septic on-site? (These programs are managed by Clark County Health
  • CCR’s and/or neighborhood rules and regulations, (these are regulated by private agreement and not enforced by the City).

Prepare Your Plans

  • Clearly drawn plans accurately describing all your proposed work will be required
  • A drawn to scale plot plan may be required

Electrical, Mechanical and/or Plumbing Work

Residential building permits can include trade work such as mechanical and/or plumbing work, (if applicable.) Electrical permits are obtained through Labor & Industry.

When is Structural Engineering Required?

Under the International Residential Code (IRC), when a project does not comply with the prescriptive structural provisions, engineering is required. Under certain conditions based on the site locations, soil conditions, scope of work and the proposed design engineered drawings, details and calculations may be required.

Structural engineering shall include engineered drawings, details, layouts, calculations, lateral analysis and gravity load design. Two (2) copies are required. Engineering calculations shall be based on design loads and shall be noted on structural plans and calculations.

Following are some examples of when engineering is required. However, there are other instances when engineering will be required.

  • Pole Buildings
  • Insulated Concrete Form (ICFs) wall construction
  • Structural Insulated Panel (SIPs) wall and roof construction
  • Dormers and second floor additions
  • Moving or removing walls, beams or headers
  • Decks over 9’ from grade to underside of beam
  • Decks supporting hot tubs and cantilevered decks
  • Second story decks – new or replacement
  • Retaining walls over 4’ in height or subject to a surcharge
  • Depending on site location, soil conditions, presence of fill or a soils report from a Geo-tech engineer may be required


The cost of your permit is based on several factors. For a project specific fee quote, please call us at (360) 887-3908.

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