Dear PoPville – Installing a Skylight in a Historic District


Photo by PoPville flickr user Vileinist

Dear Popville,

I am interested in installing a skylight in my old rowhouse to let a little bit more light in. Would any of your readers have any recommendations on contractors that specialize in this? Also, since i live in a historic district, would permits need to be posted for this?

7 Comment

  • Call the DC historic department to see if you need a permit. There’s a historic officer for each individual historic district who can answer questions. As a Mt. P historic district resident, I’m quite familiar with ours. Frankly, I would be shocked if they let you do anything without a permit. I spent three months trying to get a permit to build a 4×8 shed in my back yard. It took 6 trips to city hall in southwest, each lasting no less than two hours, and was an absolute nightmare. Make sure you work with a contractor who will get the permit for you!

  • I think that any roof work in an historic district requires a permit. There used to be a place on the city website that siad, but I haven;t checked it in a while. If your proposed work will not visible from the street it shouldn’t be a problem. You can get it, or your contractor. I would expect any good roofer could do the work and would be used to getting permits.

  • We installed a skylight in ours (see House Gut series for more information). We used Mark from Renaissance Development (http://rendev.com/index.html). We put it at the top of our stairs, and it really makes the upstairs much lighter!

  • Repeating the first commenter’s advice to call HPO and ask. The short answer is mostly likely yes, you will need a permit, but there should be no problem getting it appoved by HPO staff if the skylight is going into the roof in a place that will not be visible from the street, which is usually easy to manage with rowhouses. The permitting process and HPO staff signoff should be a lot quicker than for something like building a shed. Here’s HPO’s page on permitting and related issues: planning.dc.gov/DC/Planning/Historic+Preservation/Preservation+Services/For+Residents

  • You need a building permit for a skylight anywhere in DC regardless of historic status. There are fire code and building code issues that need to be satisfied. You need a building permit for almost everything in DC. Maybe you meant postcard building permit. Postcard permits don’t require a trip downtown and can be pulled by a tradesman. Postcard permits cannot be pulled in historic districts.

  • You need a permit, especially in a historic district. If you can’t see the skylight from the street, you shouldn’t have too many issues.

    Any good roofing contractor could do in the install for you.

  • You’ll need a permit to do any construction in a historic district, whether it be interior or exterior, visible from the street or not.

    That being said stuff like this, which you won’t see from the street, is really easy to get approved. It’s just a matter of a quick stamp at the HPO booth down at DCRA.

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