Build it without a permit – What you can build

Since most of us dislike dealing with the local bureaucracy, I have compiled a list of things that can be built on a property without a building permit. This list is compiled from several jurisdictions and generalizes there restrictions. It is up to you to find out what is possible where you live.

For me, the most exciting find was that of the tree house (playhouse) provision. A tree house can be so much more than an accessory structure; it will be easier to get away with building an insulated structure with desks, day beds, and windows if you label it a tree house as opposed to an accessory structure. And seriously–who doesn’t love a good tree house (or playhouse for that matter)?

- Accessory Structures, One-story detached accessory structures used as tool or storage sheds, playhouses or similar uses, when located on a parcel which contains an existing single family dwelling or other permitted primary use or structure, must be under 120 square feet and the height above grade shall not exceed 12 feet (sometimes 8.5 feet). Some jurisdictions only allow one of these structures or a distance of 50 feet between them. You can run electricity to the accessory structure but that will need to be permitted.

- Tree house/Play house (less than 120 square feet of floor area), and children’s play structures when constructed on a parcel which contains a single family dwelling and not used for commercial purposes.

- Fences, less than 10 feet in height(except solid fences which should be no more than 6 feet in height). A permit may be required if a fence over 3 feet in height is proposed within the front yard set back.

- Platforms, walks, non-structural slabs, paving or seal coats.

- Decks, not more than 30 inches above grade.

- Trellises, arbors or gazebos – less than 12 feet in height.

- Climate control,  Portable heating, ventilation and cooling equipment.

- Electrical, some jurisdictions allow for electrical wiring operating at less than 25 volts and not capable of supplying more than 50 watts of energy.



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2 Responses to “Build it without a permit – What you can build”

  1. Here is the southwest suburban Portland area (Oregon), we can build a 200 sf shed without a permit. We can also attach a patio or deck cover to the house (under 200 sf and less than 10 ft avg height) without a permit – which is surprising. I did both of these on my blog link listed above.


  2. wow thank you i have no place to live so this could be just right for me.

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