A guide to permitting a project in Snohomish County

If you are embarking on a residential building project in Snohomish County, you might be wondering about the permitting process. Permitting is an important step of the design and construction process that should not be overlooked. When done well, permitting goes smoothly and adds value, safety and legal legitimacy to your project. When done poorly, or not completed at all, you can end up with a costly mess and ongoing fines.

Does Snohomish County require a permit for my residential building project?

The short answer is probably, yes. The easiest way to determine if your project requires a permit is to see if it qualifies for an exemption. If it doesn’t, it is likely that you need a permit. Snohomish County provides a Common Building Permit Exemptions document to help you determine if your project is exempt. If the structure does not meet a common exemption, but you still think it might not require a permit, you can reach out to Snohomish County here to discuss your project with a permit tech. If you are working with CG Engineering to permit your project, we can help you to determine if a permit is needed.  

How do I get a building permit in Snohomish County?

The most important thing to do before you start the permitting process is make sure you have a project that meets the criteria for permitting. Do your research or hire a consultant to help ensure your planned project will check all of the boxes required for permitting before you even begin to apply. Permitting fees for various steps can add up quickly and some steps in the process have time frames attached that can’t be missed. 

This page is particularly useful for understanding the different types of permits and their requirements. Once you have what you need, you can apply for common permits directly online at mybuildingpermit.com

Required documents will vary by type of project and scale, but most building permits require:

  • Site plans
  • Structural plans (completed by a licensed structural engineer)
  • Architectural drawings or photographs of existing structure (if an addition)
  • Verification of water / sewage disposal 

If you are completing any kind of land development (such as land-disturbing activity or short plats), you may also need: 

  • Survey (completed by a licensed surveyor)
  • Geotechnical report (completed by a licensed geotech)
  • Drainage plans and report (completed by a licensed civil engineer)

What other kinds of permits might I need for my project in Snohomish County?

Often, you may need multiple permits for a single project. Other permits that may be required include:

  • Right-of-way usage permit for driveway
  • Land disturbing permit for grading, drainage, and clearing 
  • Utility construction permit
  • Land use or planning permit

This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but it is important that you understand a building permit is not likely to be the only permit necessary to complete your project legally. Some building permits will be dependent on obtaining other permits first. 

How long does the permit process take? 

The permit timeline varies based on the size and scope of the project, but it’s not unusual for a building permit to take several months from the date of application to the date of approval. The whole process generally follows this pattern:

  1. Prepare and submit the permit application package
  2. The County does an initial review to make sure it is a complete application package, then issues an invoice. Once the fee is paid, the project is placed in a queue at the County and assigned to a plan reviewer.
  3. The reviewer goes over the application package once the project reaches their desk, and typically will issue a correction letter asking for revisions to the plans. 
  4. The engineers, architect, or other consultants will revise the plans accordingly and submit for another review cycle. Steps 3 and 4 may be repeated a couple of times while the design team and reviewer work together to make sure the plans are compliant with code. 
  5. Once the reviewer is satisfied that the plans meet code, the permit is approved and can be issued once any remaining fees are paid. At this point, construction on the project can begin. 

Permitting is important, but it can be time-consuming and sometimes confusing for homeowners. Often, the documents required for permitting will need to be created by licensed consultants, such as engineers. This is why many clients choose to hire a consultant who is familiar with the permitting process to help them acquire a Snohomish County building permit. By working with your contractor and a licensed consultant you can ensure that the permitting process is as smooth as possible. 

For more information on how to plan a project in Snohomish County, you may find these articles useful:

Starting from Scratch: Engineering for Residential Sites

Taking a Residential Structure from Concept to Completion

A Homeowner’s Guide to Permitting

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1910 Bickford Ave Suite G Snohomish, WA 98290