FAQs

Building Department Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need a building permit?

Whenever you construct, reconstruct, enlarge, alter, or demolish a structure, a permit is required prior to starting the work. If you are unsure if your project requires a permit, please contact the Building Department at (804) 843-3426.

The following are examples of work that require a building permit (see USBC 108.1):

  • Alteration of any required means of egress
  • Building a new house
  • Building an addition onto an existing house or attached garage
  • Converting an existing deck or screened porch into a sunroom
  • Building an attached or detached garage or carport
  • Converting a garage to a habitable space or enclosing a carport
  • Building a porch, screened porch, deck, associated steps, ramp, pergola, portico, or gazebo
  • Building or installing a tool shed over 256 square feet in area- Please note that a zoning permit is required for all sheds.
  • Finishing off an unfinished attic, basement, or room over the garage
  • Installing a flag pole over 30’ in height, please note that a Zoning permit is required for all flag poles
  • Moving or removing a load bearing wall or partition
  • Retaining wall which support 3 or more feet of unbalanced fill
  • Bulkheads, piers, and docks
  • Repairing, altering, enlarging or modifying any structural element of the house, including any damaged structural element, such as load bearing stud walls, columns, piers, footings, foundations, floor joists, rafters, beams or girders
  • Replacing/adding fuel fired equipment
  • Enlarging or adding a door opening or window opening
  • Changing the use of the structure (example: change from residential use to business use)
  • Installing a pool, hot tub or spa greater than 150 square feet, 5000 gallons, OR 24" deep
  • Re-roofing commercial buildings
  • New electrical wiring or circuits
  • Removal or disturbance of any material containing asbestos for demolition or alteration of a building
  • Demolition of an existing structure, the building code allows some work to be done without obtaining a permit. While a permit is not required, the work must be in compliance with the code.

Some examples of work that does not require a permit include (see USBC 108.2):

  • Making ordinary repairs and improvements, including, but not limited to:
    • Painting the inside or outside of the house or detached structures
    • Repairing drywall, plaster, exterior siding, etc.
    • Installing new floor coverings, such as vinyl, carpet, or hardwood 
    • Installing or refurbishing cabinetry
    • Repairing or replacing porch or deck flooring boards Please note a permit is required to repair or replace the joists or girders.
    • Repairing or replacing handrails on a porch
    • Installing or replacing doors and windows, including storm windows, where no structural changes are performed
    • Installing or replacing exterior siding
    • Residential re-roofing: Old shingle roof can be left in place provided that there are not more than two previous layers of shingles and that the existing shingles are not water saturated.
    • Installing or replacing gutters and downspouts
    • Repairing or replacing siding
  • Installing driveways or sidewalks
  • Constructing or installing a storage shed, playhouse, etc., 256 square feet or less in area, a zoning permit required.
  • Adding a fence (which is not part of a swimming pool enclosure) and which is 6’ or less in height, refer to subdivision covenants (if applicable)
  • Building recreational equipment, such as swings, skateboard ramps, jungle gyms, etc.
  • Adding roof insulation
  • Installing any wiring or equipment which operates at less than 50 volts
  • Installing a security alarm system
  • Replacing existing electrical water heater with a new electric water heater
  • Replacing electrical fixtures, such as switches and receptacles
  • Installing or replacing a ceiling fan to a pre-wired switch
  • Replacing plumbing fixtures, such as sinks
  • Replacing or repairing existing mechanical appliances (of equal size and type). This exception is not applicable to gas and oil-fired appliances.
  • Temporary ADA ramps with less than 30” rise for residential properties
My neighbor started building something on his/her house without a permit; shouldn't they have one?

If your neighbor appears to be building without a permit, you can call the Building Department at (804) 843-3426 and file a report. Someone from the town will follow up and determine if a building permit is required or if one has been issued.

What happens if I build a 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 expose any concealed portion(s) of the completed work to prove that the work meets code. After the work has been inspected and approved, the structure can be lawfully occupied.

Why does my permit need a plan review?

Construction plans are a critical aspect of the construction process. The complete construction drawings serve many capacities, including but not limited to:

  • Outlining materials and methods of construction
  • Clarifying the scope of work for the understanding of all parties involved (contractor, owner/occupant, inspector, etc.)
  • Serve as an archived record of the proposed work (as required by the Commonwealth of Virginia)
  • Serve as a means of confirmation of structural adequacy by the plan reviewer correcting a deficiency after installation is often difficult and costly; a detailed set of plans greatly reduces the potential for this to occur. A good set of construction plans benefits everyone involved in the construction process.
When will my permit be ready?

This will vary depending on your project and our staff’s current workload. You may check the progress of your permit by calling (804) 843-3330 or by emailing Shari Carnell at scarnell@west-point.va.us  Economic and seasonal influences can effect review times significantly. It is our priority to review your plan quickly and efficiently. You will be notified when your permit has been approved and is ready to be issued.

Is there any way to expedite my plan review?
Applications are reviewed in the order in which they are received. There are several reviews your application must go through before it can be approved, each of which are completed by a different department or division: 

  • Environmental
  • Grading, Erosion, and Sediment Control and Drainage
  • Community Development
  • Utilities or Health Department
  • Application Review
Economic and seasonal influences can affect review times significantly. It is our priority to review your plan quickly and efficiently. 
Can I submit my application before I have all the necessary information/attachments?

No, because your application is simultaneously routed to several different departments for review, we need all the required information and documentation when you apply. Incomplete or inadequate information will result in failures and delays in the review process.

How long is my permit valid?

Permits are valid for six (6) months from the date that the permit is issued. Every time an inspection is scheduled, the permit extends for an additional six (6) months. There are some exceptions and limitations to this that are outlined in the Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code (USBC section 110.6, 110.7 and 110.8.).

I haven’t completed any inspections on the permit that was issued to me for work to be done at my home. It has been more than six months; do I need to re-apply for a new permit?

If no work has been completed within six (6) months of the issuance of a permit, you must request an extension of the permit. If there has not been a completed inspection within six (6) months and the permit holder can demonstrate “substantive progress,” the Building Official may allow work to continue without revocation. 

Do I have to hire a contractor?

If you meet the requirements for an exemption as outlined in The Code of Virginia 54:1-1101, you do not have to hire a licensed contractor. In most cases a homeowner would not have to hire a contractor. The permit holder is responsible for the work performed under that permit, and should have a clear understanding of code requirements and specifications and should come prepared to answer questions to clarify aspects of the project. You will be required to fill the rules and responsibility form.

What building code does the Town of West Point use for residential projects?

The Town of West Point is charged with enforcing the USBC (Virginia Uniform Statewide Building Code). This code incorporates the ICC (International Code Council) family of codes, as well as the NEC (National Electric code).

How do I schedule an inspection?

You can schedule your inspection by phone at (804) 843-3330 or by emailing Shari Carnell at scarnell@west-point.va.us. You will need your permit number and type of inspection.