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Residential FAQ
 
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Building Inspection Director
Richard C. Witt

Mailing Address
Chesterfield County Department of Building Inspection
P.O. Box 40
Chesterfield, VA 23832-0040

Street Address
9800 Government Center Parkway
Chesterfield, VA 23832
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Phone/Fax
(804) 748-1057
(804) 751-4713 Fax

Get complete contact info 

Email us with questions about
Permits and Fees
Residential code requirements
Commercial code requirements
Residential inspection requirements
Commercial inspection requirements 

Hours
Office - M-F, 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Inspectors M-F, 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

 
Residential
Residential FAQ

General information 

  1. What is the current residential building code edition enforced in Chesterfield County and how long will it be in effect? 
  2. What should I do before I hire a contractor? Can Chesterfield County recommend a contractor or engineer to me? 
  3. What are the steps involved to getting my project completed? 

Administrative (permitting) process 

  1. Do I need a permit? 
  2. What happens if I build the structure without a building permit? 
  3. The neighbor started building something on his house without a permit; shouldn't he/she have one? 
  4. What are the county setback requirements for my house or garage? 
  5. What is the turn-around time for getting plans approved for a permit? 
  6. How much does a building permit cost? 
  7. Will the Building Inspection Department accept a faxed permit application? 
  8. How long is a permit good for? 
  9. If I decide, after I have applied for a permit application, that I am not going to do the work, can I get a refund? 
  10. How do I check the status of my job? 

Plan review (submittal) process 

  1. What building code does Chesterfield County use for residential projects? 
  2. Do the plans have to be prepared by an architect or engineer? 
  3. What is an engineered soil report? Is a soils report required for the construction of a new house even if the house will not be located in the shrink-swell soil area? 
  4. If I fix one thing on my house, do I have to bring the whole house up to code? 
  5. What if I change my plans after I get my building permit? 
  6. What is required to finish off my basement, attic or room over garage?  
  7. What is required to put in a pool? 
  8. What is required to build or install a storage shed? 
  9. What is required to build a carport? 
  10. What is required to build a deck? 
  11. What is required if I am going to rebuild after a fire? 

Inspection (construction) process 

  1. Can I start the work without a building permit, or at least, can I start clearing the land? 
  2. How do I schedule an inspection? 
  3. What inspections will I need? 
  4. Why can't the inspector tell me what time my inspection will be made? 
  5. Why do I have to wait until the next working day to get my inspection? 
  6. My inspection was rejected. Why can't the inspector come back today and reinspect? 
  7. I heard that I need to get an engineer to inspect my footings. I thought the County did that. What is required? 
  8. Why can't you make my contractor come back and fix things? 
  9. I'm going to upgrade my electrical service. Do I need to install a disconnect? 
  10. My inspection did not pass; why can't you waive the code requirement, just this one time? 
  11. We haven't quite finished things. Can we move in? 

 

What is the current residential building code edition enforced in Chesterfield County and how long will it be in effect? 

The 2009 edition of the Virginia Residential Code is currently being enforced. It is based on the 2009 ICC International Residential Code. The Virginia Residential Code is the detached one and two family dwelling portion of the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code. All jurisdictions in the commonwealth of Virginia enforce the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code (USBC) 2009 edition. The 2009 USBC became effective March 1, 2011 and will remain in effect until (tentatively) March 1, 2014.

For a more detailed answer and links to online and other code resources, see Residential Construction Code Information.

What should I do before I hire a contractor? Can Chesterfield County recommend a contractor or engineer to me? 

The State of Virginia allows the homeowner to perform all of the construction work without having to hire an architect, registered engineer, or licensed contractor. However many homeowners do not have the time or expertise to tackle such an undertaking, and therefore hire a contractor to do all or part of the work. We offer a list of things you should consider before you hire a contractor.

We cannot make recommendations or offer professional judgment on individuals, their businesses, their quality, or any other information that might be construed to imply favoritism of one person or business over another.

We suggest that you seek the advice of friends, family, the Better Business Bureau, and other reliable sources to gain confidence in your decisions.

If you need more information on hiring a contractor, including information about contractor's licenses, link to Hiring a Contractor.

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What are the steps involved in getting my project completed? 

  1. The homeowner or contractor prepares the construction documents.
  2. The construction documents are submitted to the county for review.
  3. The county Plan Reviewer reviews the plans for structural integrity and code compliance.
  4. A Building Permit is issued after the plans are approved.
  5. Construction begins.
  6. Inspections, are made periodically throughout the construction process.
  7. A Certificate of Occupancy is issued after the house is complete.

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Do I need a permit? 

To view a complete list of work that requires a permit, see When a Permit is Required 

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What happens if I build the structure without a building permit? 

The responsible party will be required to submit construction documents showing the extent of the work, a building permit will be issued "after the fact", and an inspector will determine if any of the elements of the construction must be exposed to see if the work complies with the code. The responsible party may be required to undo any portion of the completed work to prove that the work meets code. After the work has been inspected and approved, the structure can be legally occupied.

Get information on obtaining a permit  

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The neighbor started building something on his house without a permit; shouldn't they have one? 

If the neighbor appears to be building without a permit, you can call Building Inspection to Report a Property Complaint at 804-748-1779. An inspector will follow-up to determine if a building permit is required and if one has been issued.”

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What are the county setback requirements for my house or garage 

The county setback requirements are administered by the County Planning Department. They can be reached by calling 804-748-1050

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What is the turn-around time for getting plans approved for a permit? 

Plans are reviewed by several different County departments:

It is the goal of the Department of Building Inspection to review residential plans within five to ten working days. Like the other departments, this may fluctuate by season, and other prevailing circumstances.

To access the status of your project go to Permit Status, Inspection Scheduling and Results.

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How much does a building permit cost? 

Fees are reviewed annually by the Board of Supervisors and adjusted to cover operational expenses of the Building Inspections Department. Residential permit fees are based on the cost per inspection. All permit fees are required to be paid at the time of application. Checks should be made payable to: "Treasurer, Chesterfield County."  

Building permit fee will not be required where the cost of construction is less than $500 and would not require securing any permit for electrical, gas, mechanical, or plumbing permits per the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code (VUSBC).

For a breakdown of all permit and related fees, see the Residential Fee Schedule.

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Will the Building Inspection Department accept a faxed permit application? 

The department will accept a faxed permit application for auxiliary permits only: electrical, plumbing, gas, and mechanical.

To accept a faxed permit application, the applicant must submit a Credit Card Authorization form - Discover, Master Card and Visa with each permit application. This authorization form includes information such as the card number, card expiration date and the cardholder's authorized signature. Credit card numbers are not retained in the Department of Building Inspection and the form is shredded upon reconciliation of the daily credit card batch.

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How long is a permit good for? 

Permits are valid for six (6) months from the date of “last activity”, which includes completed inspections, amendments, and the issuance of associated permits.

One month prior to the permit expiration date, an inspector will call the permit applicant. The inspector gives the applicant the opportunity to extend the permit without paying an administrative fee.

If the permit does expire, there will be an administrative fee assessed to reinstate the permit. To obtain the fee please see Commercial Fee Schedule, Multi-Family Fee Scheduleor the Residential Fee schedule. If the permit application or issued permit has seen no activity or request for extension for twelve months, the permit will be voided and the fees may not be refundable.

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If I decide, after I have applied for a permit application, that I am not going to do the work, can I get a refund? 

Refunds are granted if requested in writing, provided no inspections have been performed. The refund amount will be the permit fee paid, minus the greater of 25% of the permit fee or $57.00 (residential)/$119 (commercial). If the permit fee paid was less than the minimum fee of $57/$119 a refund will not be granted.  

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How do I check the status of my job? 

Chesterfield County Department of Building Inspections offers an online connection so you can check the status of your job, including:

  • Status of the plan review process
  • Status of the other departments' approvals
  • Status of the Building Permit
  • Status of the different inspections
  • Status of the Certificate of Occupancy

If you want to see the status of your job as it progresses through the County, you will need your permit number, and customer pin number. For more information on how to access the status of your project, go to Permit Status, Inspection Scheduling and Results

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What building code does Chesterfield County use for residential projects? 

All counties and cities in the Commonwealth of Virginia use the 2009 Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code (VUSBC), which went into effect on March 11, 2011.

The Virginia USBC references the 2009 International Residential Code (IRC) as the official residential building code for Virginia. In turn, the 2009 IRC references the 2008 National Electrical Code (NEC) for all electrical issues.

If you want more information on this topic, go to Residential Construction Code Information  

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Do the plans have to be prepared by an architect or engineer? 

For most single-family dwelling, a registered architect or professional engineer is not required, however for special situations they may be the best answer for your particular need. Depending on the complexity of the design, the County however may require portions of the construction documents be "sealed" by an engineer or architect, collectively referred to as "registered design professional".

If you want more information on this topic, including information about the requirements for construction documents, see Residential permit submittal and review requirements 

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What is an engineered soil report? Is a soils report required for the construction of a new house even if the house will not be located in the shrink-swell soil area? 

For all new single-family residences and additions with habitable space located in the Triassic Area, Chesterfield County requires the homeowner or contractor to acquire the services of a soils scientist, geotechnical or civil engineer to do testing near the perimeter of the new house location and prepare a soil report and provide the findings of the soil borings.

Even though the proposed dwelling may not be located in a known shrink-swell soil area, the report is still required because of the possibility of there being small amounts of shrink-swell soil potentials anywhere within Chesterfield County.

The shrink-swell soil report is used by the Building Inspection Department to determine if the soil supporting the structure has potential for "shrink-swell" and to determine the capacity of the ground to support a structure. For all new houses and additions with habitable space in the Triassic Area, this soil test is required.

If you want more information on this topic, including information about what information is required in the soil report, see the Soil Report 

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If I fix one thing on my house, do I have to bring the whole house up to code? 

If you are adding to the building or fixing a portion of the existing building, you are not required to bring the remainder of the structure into code compliance.

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What if I change my plans after I get my building permit? 

After the building permit has been reviewed the first time, it is still possible to make changes to the construction documents. There are two avenues to follow, either an amendment or a revision.

An amendment involves other departments besides Building Inspections. There is a fee for requesting an amendment, and the process takes about a week. Revisions are modifications that are done entirely within the Building Inspection Office; they typically do not require a fee and most of the time the customer can leave with the plans.

If you want more information on this topic link to Amendments and Revisions.

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What is required to finish off my basement, attic or room over garage? 

See the permit submittal and review requirements for finishing an attic or basement.

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What is required to put in a pool? 

The code requires a permit for all swimming pools, hot tubs or spas that meet ANY of these conditions:

  1. Greater than 150 square feet (approximately 7' in diameter)
  2. With more than 5,000 gallons of water
  3. Deeper than 24"

The International Residential Code (IRC) does not distinguish between in-ground or aboveground, indoor or outdoor swimming pools. The code requires spas and hot tubs to conform to the same requirements as swimming pools. Pools for (fish or flora) landscaping are exempt from this section regardless of the size.

For additional information see the permit submittal and review requirements for a swimming pool.

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What is required to build or install a storage shed? 

See the permit submittal and review requirements for a garage (detached) and tool shed.

Note: Construction of a structure under 150 square feet does not require a permit.
 

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What is required to build a carport? 

The code defines a carport as a structure open on at least two sides - regardless if it is attached to the house or not. The floor surface must be a non-combustible material: concrete, asphalt or gravel, and should slope towards the vehicle entrance. These types of structures are usually constructed of wood posts, beams and roof rafters or light gage metal structures assembled by the manufacturer or the homeowner from a kit.

For additional information see the permit submittal and review requirements for a carport.

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What is required to build a deck? 

The Department of Building Inspection has created a How to Build a Deck Guide for simple deck designs, including structural guidelines, and deck details for handrails, stairs and ramps.

For additional information see the permit submittal and review requirements for a deck and download the Deck, Stair and Ramp Details How to Guide.

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What is required if I am going to rebuild after a fire? 

See the permit submittal and review requirements for fire damage repair 

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Can I start the work without a building permit, or at least, can I start clearing the land? 

Before the land can be cleared, the Department of Environmental Engineering must physically visit the site to ensure all the environmental issues have been addressed. Once they have given their approval, the contractor can begin clearing land. However the actual construction on the structure cannot be started without the building permit.

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How do I schedule an inspection? 

Periodically throughout the construction process, the homeowner/contractor has to request an inspection before the work can proceed. The homeowner/contractor must request an inspection. There are three ways to request these inspections:

  1. Go to www.chesterfield.gov/bi, select Permit Status, Inspection Scheduling and Results: login using the Permit Number and Customer PIN.
  2. Call 804-751-4444, the IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system: an automated phone system whereby you can request an inspection.
  3. Call 804-751-4990, to speak to a customer service representative, and request your inspection.

Please be sure all the work is completed to the point of the requested inspection. See When to Schedule an Inspection for help with that.

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What inspections will I need? 

The inspections you will need are dependent on the type of work being done. In some cases inspections can be combined. To see a list of the typical residential inspections by project go to Required Inspections.

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Why can't the inspector tell me what time my inspection will be made? 

Since the amount of time that it takes to perform an inspection can vary from job to job depending on the complexity of the work being done, it is difficult for an inspector to pinpoint a specific time of arrival at a particular location. Usually, an inspector can determine if the inspection will be made in the morning or the afternoon. If you contact one of the Inspections Supervisors on the day of the inspection in the morning between 8:00 am and 8:30 am, the Supervisor will be able to advise you as to which half of the day the inspection is to be made.
For homeowners doing their own work, we also offer another service whereby we will phone you in advance of the inspector arriving. When requesting an inspection, you may ask for advance notice of either 30 or 45 minutes. This information is printed on the inspection ticket, along with a phone number provided by you. The inspector will contact you, via the number your provided, at the appropriate time.  

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Why do I have to wait until the next working day to get my inspection? 

The building code requires the County to make an inspection within 2 working days after receiving a request to inspect. Our policy provides that, under normal circumstances, we will make the inspection within 1 working day after receiving the request.

Each morning prior to 8 a.m., inspectors are assigned their workload, which consists of inspection tickets for requests received the previous day as well as other assignments. In addition to their daily inspection workload, inspectors often have other duties to attend to, including court appearances, training, and issuing enforcement notices. In order to balance the requirements on their time, inspectors must arrange their workday before leaving our offices each morning. This includes routing their inspection ticket workload for the greatest efficiency. Therefore, each inspector's workload is predetermined at the beginning of each workday. This allows the greatest optimization of our resources and facilitates a better inspection process.  

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My inspection was rejected. Why can't the inspector come back today and reinspect? 

The inspector may not have enough time to backtrack the pre-determined route. However, sometimes the inspector CAN come back, but this depends on several factors. If the inspector is nearby and feels that the reinspection can be worked into the workload, the inspector will often agree to re-visit a job on the same day to perform a reinspection. The decision to reinspect on the same day is the inspector's to make and is based on the remaining workload and the amount of time left in the workday.

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I heard that I need to get an engineer to inspect my footings. I thought the county did that. What is required? 

New single-family dwellings 

The Virginia Uniform Statewide Building code (VUSBC) requires that all footing excavations be inspected prior to the pouring of the concrete to ensure that they are to the depth and size required and the rebar placement is correct as stipulated in the soil report. Likewise, the concrete pour must also be inspected to ensure that the concrete is the correct strength and quality as determined by a "slump test"; a concrete placement report must be submitted after the concrete has been placed. Blank copies of the combined Footing Inspection and Concrete Placement Report are available from the Department of Building Inspections.

Typically the contractor hires a third party inspector (a Virginia Registered Design Professional or certified concrete technician) to perform both inspections at the same time. The County will inspect the footing excavation and steel placement if requested, but this is not the typical situation. Likewise, if the County is requested to do the pour inspection, the contractor/homeowner will pay an additional fee to the County, who in turn will sub-contract the work out to a Virginia Registered Design Professional or certified concrete technician.

Additions, detached structures and deck additions: 

The County will inspect the footing excavation and steel placement (if required). An inspection of the actual pour is NOT required.

For more information on footings requirements, see Footings.

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Why can't you make my contractor come back and fix things? 

The code provides for enforcement of its provisions for a limited time after completion of work under a permit. If a code violation is discovered during this time, we can take action that may require the responsible party to correct the violation. If you believe a building code violation exists in a structure you own or rent, you may request an investigation by an inspector by calling the Concern Handling Program. If the inspector determines that a violation exists, and the time limit for enforcing the code has not expired, we will take action to enforce the code. If the time limit for enforcement has expired, we will document the violation, but we cannot take action to enforce the code.

Experience has taught us that in most instances where new homeowners and their contractor disagree about an item needing correction, the item is cosmetic in nature, which means that it usually isn't a building code issue. We cannot address issues outside of code requirements. If, as a new homeowner, you have issues that you believe are building code violations or are unsure, we will gladly investigate the issues and make a determination through the Report a Complaint process.

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I'm going to upgrade my electrical service. Do I need to install a disconnect? 

Persons un-licensed and inexperienced in the electrical trade should not attempt to upgrade their electrical service. This type of work is better left to a licensed electrician. If the upgrade ("heavy-up") requires the service entrance cable to be moved or lengthened, it may be necessary to install a disconnect. Typically, if the service entrance cable is moved and is over six feet in length, or if the service entrance cable is replaced with a longer cable over six feet in length, a disconnect is required.

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My inspection did not pass; why can't you waive the code requirement, just this one time? 

The building inspectors try to treat all customers equitably and fairly, and to that end we do not permit any code requirements to be waived.

However the code does contain provisions for modification of its requirements, so long as the spirit and intent of the code are met. If you feel that a code requirement is unreasonable, you may request the Code Official to consider "modifying" the requirement, but you must provide a reasonable alternative to compliance that meets the spirit and intent of the code.

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We haven't quite finished things. Can I move in? 

Sometimes things just don't work out so that your job is completed on time. If your project has progressed to a point where your building can be occupied safely, but you haven't quite finished everything, we can issue a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy. (There is a small fee for this service.)

As long as a determination can be made that the building can be occupied safely, a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy can be issued. You must have requested and received a final inspection for all permits issued for your job. The inspectors performing these final inspections will note the items which have not been completed.

The Temporary Certificate of Occupancy will be issued for a limited time, allowing for completion of all items listed by the inspectors. If you are unsure as to whether a Temporary Certificate of Occupancy can be issued for your building, contact our department at 804-748-1057. 

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