Top Ten Ways to Improve Your Permit Experience
These guidelines (PDF) are guaranteed to improve your permit process experience!
- Ask questions!
Visit the Building Department before you are ready to submit your application to ask questions about your project. The County Geographic Information System (GIS) is very useful and is available online. It provides information such as the general location of a building on a lot, property lines, easements and zoning. The Washougal Municipal Code is also available online. The more work you put in upfront, the better chance you have for a smooth permit process.
- More information is always better!
Ask questions! Describe what you ultimately really want to do with your space. Most building code requirements are based on size and use of space. This can trigger number of exits, number of bathrooms, and whether or not a fire sprinkler is required. By informing Building Department staff of your desired intentions early on, you can avoid surprises later.
- Do your plans require a professional architect or engineer's stamp?
A licensed design professional is required when alterations/additions take place within a building that exceeds 4,000 square feet.
- You may be exempt (per RCW 18.08.410) if the project size is not more than 4,000 square feet. and the work does not affect the life safety or structural systems of the building.
- Drawing your own plans?
Even if your project does not require a professional, it still may be beneficial and more efficient for you to have a professional (designer, architect, etc..) draw your plans. First time applicants often spend weeks going back and forth trying to submit what the State Building Code requires to approve their plans. To get a business up and running sooner, it can be worthwhile to employ a professional.
- Clearly represent your project space: Neatness counts!
Draw your plans to a standard scale. Include all dimensions and room uses. Include neighboring tenant uses if you are in a multi-tenant building.
- Do your research!
To avoid delays in tenant improvement projects, include important building data. This information is often available in the permit archives. If you have any questions or need assistance contact Building Department staff!
- The building square footage
- Number of stories
- Whether there is a basement
- Type of construction
- Proposed use(s)
- Occupant load
- If there a sprinkler system
- Other departments may be involved!
Often times it's extremely important to verify certain requirements prior to the design of your project for assessment as they relate to zoning, home occupation requirements, business licensing, additional parking, or work in the right-of-way to name a few. Always know city staff in the Building, Planning, and Public Works departments are here for you and interested in your projects success!
- Be aware of potentially "big ticket" items such as backflow assemblies and exhaust hoods.
As an example, backflow protection is required on water fixtures that have the potential for cross connection with the City's water supply or with other water fixtures in the building. Backflow assemblies are required on fixtures such as ice machines, water filters, espresso machines, sterilization equipment, salon equipment, boilers and the like.
Your plans should show all water using fixtures and the proposed location of the backflow assembly. Also, it is important for food preparation establishments that the types of cooking equipment be shown on the building plans. Having this information will assist in determining the type of exhaust hood that might be required.
- Lease a space that meets your needs.
Does the space you are leasing/buying already have a Certificate of Occupancy for the same occupancy type? (i.e. restaurant to restaurant). If yes, it is often a quicker permit process and potentially reduced or waived fees.
- Follow appropriate checklist(s) and inquire if details are available for your project.
If you believe there is a submittal requirement that doesn't apply to your project, ask building department staff first or explain why in writing with your submittal. Ignoring a requirement or not opting to use standardized details may lead to delays. We have recently updated many of our handouts and checklists to clarify the submittal process. Many can be found online and linked from our city website or simply request one and staff will gladly accommodate if available!