Which remodeling projects don't require permits in Portland?

If you're unsure about which types of works require permits and which don't, this guide will answer all your questions!


Extensive remodels often need permits, which adds another layer of complexity to your project. Projects that don’t require permits in Portland are small remodels that are non-extensive, things that won't impact other aspects of your home such as storage solutions, new cabinetry, painting or repaving your driveway. If you are trying to figure out whether your planned remodel will require a permit, or are simply looking for a relatively easy home improvement project, this article will lay it all out for you. 

What are the different types of permits and when are they required?

Different types of permits are necessary depending on the remodeling project, such as:
- Building Permits

Required when building, demolishing, or adding a new structure on your property. This can include adding a room, garage, shed, porch cover, patio cover, or carport. You may also need a building permit to convert your attic, garage, or basement into a habitable space. However, it often depends on the extent of your project—building a deck over 30 inches high or a fence more than seven feet high requires a permit, but smaller additions or changes often do not.  
- Zoning Permits

Required when creating a new or enlarged parking area or driveway, or to make any alterations to the exterior such as constructing a patio or deck, clearing trees, or installing landscaping in a zone that has pre-existing restrictions on development.
- Mechanical Permits

Required when installing or changing any aspect of heating or cooling, including fireplaces, gas piping, or fuel oil tanks.
- Electrical Permits

Necessary for installing, changing, or repairing any hardwired electrical system, running additional wiring, or altering low voltage systems such as security alarms. 
- Plumbing Permits

Required when repairing, replacing, relocating, or adding piping, installing new plumbing fixtures, replacing water heaters or existing plumbing fixtures, or installing septic systems, water lines, and other water-based systems.
Sometimes a project may require multiple permits, for example, adding a new bathroom not only needs a plumbing and building permit, but may also call for an electrical and/or mechanical permit! 

Why do I need to bother with a permit?

Permits are a legal requirement and not acquiring one can often lead to fines. Additionally, permits exist to protect homeowners and their investments. Permits include inspections which ensure work is completed to certain standards. This means problems can be identified early, before lasting damage is done. Completing projects without the required permits can also make it difficult for a homeowner to sell their property and may void the homeowner’s insurance.  

Do all remodeling projects require building permits? 

No! Minor repairs, maintenance, and home improvements may not require a permit. However, these projects are still required to meet the Building and Zoning Code requirements. To learn more about the interior and exterior projects that do not require a permit, read below. 

What are some types of interior remodels I can get done without a permit?

For homeowners looking to avoid dealing with the permit process, there are a few interior remodeling options available to you:
Non-permit remodeling solutions for the entire home include: 
- Installing flooring such as hardwood, carpet, linoleum, or vinyl tiling in any room
- Painting and wallpapering any wall
- Replacing any interior wall, floor, or ceiling covering such as wallboard or sheet vinyl  
If you are considering a kitchen upgrade, installing new countertops or faucets can be done without a permit. 
When it comes to bathrooms, removing and reinstalling a toilet doesn’t require a permit when you are fixing new floor covering in your bathroom. You can also replace any faucets in bathrooms, ensuites, and laundries. 
You can restore any accessible plumbing fixtures if you need to make urgent plumbing repairs. Replacing weather damaged or leaking pipes doesn’t require a plumbing permit as long as the pipes are under five feet in length. 
Another easy non-permit option is to install storage solutions such as shelving and cabinets.

What are some exterior remodel projects I can complete without a permit?

When it comes to exterior remodeling options that don’t require acquiring a permit, you have a wider range of available choices, including:
- Most landscaping jobs
- Installing swings and other playground structures in your backyard
- Painting your home’s exterior
- Installing or upgrading insulation across your home
- Installing or replacing storm windows
- Installing window awnings, as long as they are less than 54 inches deep and do not extend your property line
- Installing downspouts and gutters
- Replacing or repairing existing siding or cladding
- Replacing or repairing your roof, as long as it is less than 15% of your existing roof
- Replacing doors and windows as long as the size of the current openings are not altered
- Building a non-habitable single-story detached accessory structure as long as the floor area does not exceed 200 sq ft, and the height stays under 10 ft. Structures like these include tool sheds and storage lockers 
- Building a fence on your property, unless it exceeds 6 ft in height, or is going to serve as a swimming pool barrier
- Building retaining walls under 4 ft in height can be built without a permit as long as they are not supporting a surcharge
- Constructing a concrete sidewalk, slab, or driveway
- Repaving driveways, as long as you are not expanding the current parameters 
- Building a stairway, patio, or deck, as long as it is not higher than 30 inches above ground level 
- Building a covered porch or carport under 200 sq ft that is supported by an existing exterior wall 
- Nonbearing partitions, except when they create habitable rooms 

What is the best way to tell if my project can be completed without a permit?

If you are unsure whether or not your project requires a permit, the best course of action is to hire a professional. When working with Refresh, our design and remodelling specialists have extensive knowledge and experience to advise you on whether your project needs a permit. If it does require a permit, we will take care of the entire process on your behalf! 

Ready to get started?

If you have any questions regarding permits or would like go ahead with your remodel, get in touch with a local design and remodeling specialist for a free consultation!

No items found.

Read Next

All Refresh Renovations franchises are independently owned and operated.

Get in Touch

Get in touch if you are interested in a quote or consultation

If your enquiry is not related to renovating your home, you may wish to use one of our other enquiry forms to ensure your message reaches the right team:

(Don’t worry - if you change your mind you can unsubscribe anytime)

Please Wait ...


Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Book a free consultation


What are you looking to renovate?

Select all that apply.

Select all that apply.

Next →

Almost there! 

Tell us more about you.

(Don’t worry - if you change your mind you can unsubscribe anytime)

Please wait... ← Back


Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Please correctly fill in all fields.

Talk to a renovation consultant today

If you would like to find out how Refresh Renovations can support you with a high quality, efficient home renovation, get in touch today. Your local Refresh consultant will be happy to meet with you for a free, no obligations consultation.

Get in touch