Steps for a renovation or addition in the city of norfolk

When do I need a Building Permit?
A building permit is required for any residential or commercial repair (alteration), addition, or new construction that requires new framing or exposes existing framing. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:
  • Residential projects: building permits are required to remove drywall, construct new partition walls or bearing walls, relocate walls, install new framing, change the roof pitch, construct decks, build room additions, screen porches, covered porches, build any accessory structure over 256 square feet, install pre-manufactured carports, install above ground swimming pools deeper than 2 feet, install hot tubs/spas, and construct masonry walls with a footing.
  • Commercial projects: building permits are required to remove drywall, construct new partition walls or bearing walls, relocate walls, install new framing, re-roof, side or cover exterior walls, complete tenant build-outs, a complete change in use, obtain a change in occupancy, build additions, construct commercial accessory structures, install fences taller than 6 feet in height, install fire suppression equipment, install 5-foot run-ins, elevators, install paint booths, construct service station islands and canopies, and install pre-manufactured steel buildings.
For further clarification, please call the Development Services Center at 757-664-6565.

Other common questions from the City of Norfolk Development Services Center: 


Building permits are not required for 1 and 2-family residential re-roofs, replacement windows of the same size, vinyl or shake siding, cabinets, floor coverings, minor repairs to decks including but not limited to deck board repair and tread repair, driveways, water tanks supported on grade at 5,000 gallons or less, retaining walls supporting less than 2 feet of unbalanced fill, and above ground swimming pools less than 2 feet deep.

Specific documentation is required to apply for a building permit. Please refer to our Applications and Forms page for the Building Permit Form, which provides plan submittal instructions and a list of required documentation.

As a property owner, tenant, or contractor, you may apply for a building permit.

If a contractor is performing work on your property, it is highly recommended that they obtain the permit and be listed as the responsible party. A property owner may choose to perform the work and obtain a permit themselves, but will also need to submit an affidavit accepting responsibility for all work performed under the permit.

Class A, B, or C contractors licensed in Virginia may only obtain permits within their respective trade. Persons holding a master’s license in Virginia may only obtain permits for projects within their trade not to exceed $1,000 in scope.

Residential plan review takes approximately 10 business days to complete for any new construction. Plan review for additions and renovations can be reviewed at the counter immediately (except when further approvals are needed from other offices such as Environmental Services and/or Zoning).

A complete package including application and construction documents may be emailed to the Development Services Center.

Insufficient plans or incomplete applications will not be assigned check-in tracking numbers. Please refer to the Plan Submittal Checklist.  Resubmittals shall include the entire resubmittal bundle including all of the requested items, addresses, and permit tracking numbers, or the plans will not be resubmitted for review.

Commercial plan review takes approximately 10 business days to complete for new construction, additions, and any other work. All commercial plans must be checked in at the counter.

The following are required to obtain approval: two copies of a site plan or land survey showing the proposed location of the tent (drawn-in), two copies of the certificate of flame resistance, two copies of tent specifications as applicable, and two copies of the tent layout (if seating, stage, or display areas proposed). If the tent or combined area covered is greater than 900 square feet, a building permit application is also required.

The following are required to obtain approval: two copies of the land survey, two copies of the Permit and/or Approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), two copies of the Approval Letter from Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC), two copies of the City of Norfolk Wetlands Board Approval with signatures, and a completed Building Permit Application.

A zoning certificate is required for any storage shed 256 square feet or less and any fences located on a corner lot. Please bring two copies of the land survey with you in order to obtain the Zoning Certificate.

Please note that if the shed is greater than 256 square feet or if the fence is taller than 6 feet, a building permit is required.

In addition, all fences located within a historic district are required to receive a Certificate of Appropriateness by going through the Architectural Review process.

A zoning certificate is a document that allows the construction of structures that do not require a permit as per the building code. This includes fences on corner lots, accessory structures (sheds, garages, etc.) less than 256 square feet, and any other zoning approvals as determined by the Zoning Administrator.

Setbacks depend on the zoning of the parcel in question. Typically, there is a 25-foot front yard setback for principal structures, a 5-foot or 10-foot side yard setback, and a 25-foot rear yard setback. For corner lots, there is a 10 or 25-foot corner side yard setback. Accessory structures have different setbacks than principal structures. Many times these setbacks will be altered by overlay districts.

Please contact Zoning at 757-664-6588 to verify setbacks for a specific property and structure.

The location of the fence depends on several factors, including the zoning district in which you reside and the exact delineation of your property line. In general: •A fence located in the front yard that is considered 50% open (i.e., chain link, wrought iron, picket, etc.) may be up to 4 feet tall. •In the side yards, you may place up to a 6-foot solid fence, unless your property is on a corner lot. If you are on a corner, the fence adjacent to the road may be up to 6 feet, but it must be 50% open (i.e., chain link, wrought iron, picket, etc.) Graphics to illustrate these requirements can be found here. For further clarification, please get in touch with Zoning at 757-664-6588.

A completed application for the specific trade is required. An application can be completed electronically via an online portal at

A Mechanical Permit is required for a gas line.

A Certificate of Occupancy will automatically be produced for new construction and/or a “Change-in-Use” 48 hours after an approved final inspection, as long as other required City approvals (such as Driveways) are obtained. A Certificate of Occupancy is not necessary for a residential addition or alteration. A Certificate of Occupancy (Existing) is required for a “Group Home”, Occupant Load change, or a daycare in a church.

In order to get copies of our historical records, the applicant must submit a completed “Freedom of Information Act” (FOIA) Request for Public Records form with as much detail as possible for review by the Planning Department’s Records Manager and the City Attorney’s Office.

Inspections can be requested using the online portal with a computer or smart device at Inspections. You will need to enter your permit number and PIN to find inspections that are available to request.
Permit Number (ex. B12-3456) PIN Number (ex. IR-12345)  You can also login into your portal account and schedule the inspection.

Inspection results are emailed to up to three registered email addresses designated by the permit applicant.

The price of a permit varies greatly and is dependent on the nature of your project. Please reference our permit fee schedule for further information or call the Development Services Center at 757-664-6565.

For more information, download the Building Permit Process from the Development Services Center from the City of Norfolk.

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