Frequently Asked Questions

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When do I need a permit?

Permits are required for most construction. If you think your project is exempt from a permit, contact the building department to be sure before beginning construction. Below is a list of items that are exempt from a permit.

  • Finish work – Painting, flooring, cabinets, counter tops and similar finish work
  • Movable office partitions under 5’-9”
  • Prefabricated swimming pools that are less than 24 inches deep and not greater that 5000 gallons and are installed entirely above ground.
  • Retaining walls that are less than 4 feet in height and that are not retaining a surcharge (have a flat grade behind them for a distance equal to the height of the wall and do not support parking areas or driveways)
  • Playground equipment
  • Water Tanks supported directly on grade that have a capacity of 5000 gallons or less and the ratio of height to width does not exceed 2 to 1
  • Cloth window awnings that are supported by an exterior wall and do not project more than 54 inches from the exterior wall.

Why do I need a permit?

The purpose of a permit is to ensure that your structure will be built in a safe manner and in accordance with the requirements of the Building and Planning Codes.  This provides you with a reasonable assurance that the building will be safe for all who will use the structure now and in the future. 

Do I need more than one permit?

Separate permits will be required for connections to utilities and work in the public right-of-way (sidewalks and curb cuts for driveways).  Separate permits may also be needed for mechanical work and plumbing work if that work is not combined with the building permit. If performing electrical work, you will want to contact the Department of Labor and Industries for a permit.

Can I get an electrical permit from the City of Kelso?

The City of Kelso does not sell electrical permits or perform electrical inspections.  For electrical permits and inspections, you need to contact the Department of Labor and Industries            

How long will it take to have my permit approved?

Permit approval usually takes about 3-5 weeks.  Times may vary depending upon the complexity of the project and time of year.

How long is my permit good for?

Permits will expire if work is not started within 180 days after the issuance of the permit or if no inspections are requested for a period of 180 days.  If you are unable to keep the progress of your project going you may submit a written request for an extension.

How do I apply for a permit?

You can apply in person at Kelso City Hall or at our online portal.  Before getting started check our website for plan requirements and forms you may need to fill out.

What inspections will be required?

Some of the typical inspections that are required for a project are: water line, sewer line, footings, foundation wall, underfloor, shearwall, rough-in plumbing, rough-in mechanical, framing, insulation, sheetrock nailing and a final inspection.

How do I schedule an inspection?

Visit the online portal or call the Inspection Request Line at 360-577-3320.  You will be asked for the address of your project, the permit number, type of inspection and contact information.  Typically requests made before the end of the day will be done the next day.

Does a licensed contractor need to perform the work?

Most of the time a licensed contractor needs to perform the work.  There are some exemptions for building owners working on their own buildings. For more information about the requirements contact the Department of Labor and Industries.

Is my contractor required to have a City business license?

Yes. Anyone performing work in the City of Kelso is required to have a city business license.  Contractors can contact the Department of Revenue to get an city endorsement added to their license.

What codes does the City of Kelso use?

Kelso Municipal Code Title 17 – Unified Development Code, International Building Code, International Residential Code, International Mechanical Code, Uniform Plumbing Code, Washington State Energy Code,

What do I do if I have questions about the code?

Feel free to call us at 360-423-9922. We will be happy to answer any questions about building, planning and right-of-way requirements. We try to return all phone calls within 1 business day.

Do I need an architect or engineer to design my plans?

Commercial structures that are over 4000 square feet are required to be designed by an architect if you are building them new or putting an addition on to them.  Multi-family structures with more than four units are also required to be designed by an architect. Other buildings are not required to have an architect or engineer involved if you can meet the prescriptive requirements of the code.  Buildings that exceed the prescriptive limitations will need to be designed by an architect or an engineer. In addition, some sites may require that the soils be evaluated by a geotechnical engineer.

Can I see what permits were issued for an address?

Yes. Visit the online portal and Search for Permit under the map with dots. To search by address, search by Street number and Street name only. Do NOT include direction, (N, S, SW, NW) or type of street (Ave., Avenue, St, Street, Way,  etc.). Example: 203 Pacific rather than 203 S. Pacific Avenue.