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J.E. “Sam” Ryan, CBO

5280 Northwest Drive
Bellingham, Washington 98226
Telephone: (360) 676-6907

Frequentely Asked Questions - Permit Center

Where do I start?
Research first! Obtain information about a particular piece of property and any special requirements by providing a tax parcel (geographic ID) number to the Planners at our front counter or by reviewing the information from our website and Whatcom County Code requirements . The best place to start is with our Natural Resource Division who will help you work through the Natural Resource Assessment process. Please contact us if you have any questions.

What is the tax parcel number and why do I need it?
The tax parcel number (aka geographic ID) contains the map coordinates for each piece of property in Whatcom County. Staff uses this number to find associated plats, surveys and other preliminary information about your property. The 16-digit tax parcel number is on your tax statement or can be obtained by using the Search Real Property tool on the County website.

How do I apply for a building permit?
If you have not already worked through the Pre-Screening Process with PDS staff, please come into our office (best times are from 1-4 in the afternoon) or contact us via email at at the earliest phase of your project development. This Pre-Screening is required in order to obtain an appointment to submit your application materials. Please provide us with:

  • Your Name, Phone & E-Mail
  • The Parcel Address & 16-digit Parcel Number
  • Total square footage of proposed project
  • Your proposed site plan
  • Natural Resources Assessment Case Number (Click on this for more information)

How do I make an appointment?
Appointments for residential, residential accessory and agricultural building applications are available Monday through Friday in the morning. Commercial application appointments are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in the afternoon. To schedule an appointment call us at 360-676-6907 or by email and have your contact information and 16-digit Tax Parcel number ready.

  • Residential appointments typically take an hour to review.
  • Commercial appointments are dependent on the application but can take as long as an hour and a half to review,

What do I need to bring to apply for a building permit?
You need to fill out the 3-page application form found in the Building Permit Application packet. Included in the packet are instructions, a list of all required information for a complete application, and the application form (fillable format) that must be filled out completely and turned in at your application appointment.

Please review the Commercial Permit Process for commercial projects.

How long will my permit take to review?
We are able to issue many types of permits to you during your application appointment. For larger projects, our goal is to have your permit ready within 15 business days. However, current workloads and other factors can cause the process to take longer. The best thing you can do is to provide detailed, legible information when you first apply. Incomplete plans will not be accepted. We will call you as soon as your permit is ready to be issued,

Will I need other permits, too?
Yes, if your project involves electrical work, access through a county right-of-way, or sewer/water improvements. The following is some helpful information that may be applicable to your project:

  • Labor & Industries (L&I), Washington State for electrical permits, mobile/manufacture home alterations and licensed contractor information. The local Washington State Labor & Industries office is located at 1720 Ellis Street in Bellingham, WA or at 360-647-7300.
  • Encroachment permit applications are required for any work in a county road right-of-way and can be obtained from the Public Works Engineering Division. An encroachment permit application is required to be submitted at the time of your permit application appointment.
  • Water and septic approvals are obtained from the Environmental Health Department at 360-676-6724. A complete septic permit, if applicable, is required at the time you submit your building permit application. An approved water verification form, if applicable, must be submitted prior to the approval of your building permit.
  • Demolition Permit applications are required if you are removing an existing structure. You must contact the Northwest Clean Air Agency at 360-428-1617 or 1-800-622-4627 prior to the submittal of your demolition application.
  • Call before you dig prior to any ground disturbance work. If your property is located within 500 feet of an oil transmission pipeline, staff may require that you contact the Call Before You Dig Service at (800-424-5555) prior to the submittal of your permit application.

Is an architect or engineer required?
Not necessarily, but if buildings are on steep sites or of unusual size, shape, materials, or other features, they may require an analysis of the structural design by a licensed engineer and/or architect. More information is available in the application packet on the "Building Plans" page.

How long before my permit expires?
Permits expire if more than 180 days (approx. 6 months) have passed since the last inspection. When you have an inspection, the expiration date is automatically extended 180 days from the date of the inspection. A permit can be extended for 180 days if you send a written request to the Building Services Division. The written request should include the permit number, the site address, your name, address and phone number, and the reason for the request. The request should be on the Building Permit Extension Request form.

Is there a deposit and how much will my permit cost?
A deposit fee is required at the time you submit your building permit application. This fee will be deducted from your final permit cost when you pick up your permit. All building permit fees are dependent on the project’s valuation (the cost of labor and materials to construct the project) and the required land use and health reviews. Please see our Fee page for the required deposit amounts and examples of building permit fees.

What inspections will be needed?
Each project requires a different set of inspections, especially if you are in a regulated watershed. For more information click here: Inspection Requirements.

How do I get a building inspection?
Call the 24-hour inspection request hotline at 360-738-2520. Be prepared to give your complete permit number, the job site address, the type of inspection you are requesting, the name and phone number of a daytime contact person, and the day you want the inspection to take place. An inspection cannot be performed without this information.

All the requests are taken off the voicemail at 4:30 in the afternoon. These inspections will automatically be done the next day unless you specify otherwise. If you leave a request after 4:30 pm there is no guarantee the inspection will be done the next day.

To coordinate the time of the inspection, you must contact your building inspector the morning of the inspection.

Inspections in Point Roberts are done on Tuesday only. Inspections in Glacier are done on Monday and Wednesday. Inspections on Lummi Island are done on Wednesday only.

What if I have a building code question?
A plans examiner is on duty Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. You can also call between 8:30 and 9:30 am to talk to one of the building inspectors before they leave to do their inspections.