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Building Permits for Historic Property

Most building and site construction in the District of Columbia requires a permit. You obtain permits from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA). For work in public space, a public space permit is also required from the District Department of Transportation (DDOT).

When do I need a permit?

You need a permit for new construction, demolition, building additions, alterations and repair. Permits are also required for retaining walls, fences, sheds, garages, decks, site work, window replacement, signs and awnings. Please consult DCRA and DDOT websites for more information about basic permit requirements.

Many historic buildings were constructed with projections into public space, and new projections may still be permitted under DDOT regulations.  Please consult the following link for more information on design rules and permit requirements for altering projections or adding new ones.

For a few types of work, a permit is required for historic properties only. Such items include brick pointing, door replacement, siding, painting of unpainted masonry on historic landmarks, fence repair, patios, sidewalks and driveways. Other types of work do not require a permit, whether the property is historic or not.

Can the permit process be expedited?

Homeowners can get expedited review of some permit applications at the DCRA Homeowner’s Center. You cannot use postcard permits for window replacement or other exterior work on a historic property.

When do I need historic preservation review?

You need historic preservation review when a building permit is required for work affecting the exterior appearance of a historic property. The same applies to officially designated historic interiors. You do not need preservation review for a change in use or if the work does not require a building permit.

Do I need a separate historic preservation permit or certificate?

No. You do not apply for a separate preservation permit or certificate. Historic Preservation Office (HPO) clearance of the building permit application is your preservation approval.