The DC permit system is unbelievable. Just mind-boggling. You almost surely need a permit. Likely one for “Additions, alterations, or repair of existing buildings.” Just about everything needs a permit, including some stuff they also say doesn’t need a permit. It is remotely possible that the DC Green Building Act made this easier for your project, but I’d bet against that any day.
Start here: http://dcra.dc.gov/DC/DCRA/Permits
But now I’ll justify my accusations and blow off some steam. 🙂
1. You need a permit for everything. For instance, erecting a Christmas tree stand on private property or installing a new faucet. http://dcra.dc.gov/DC/DCRA/Permits/Get+a+Permit/What+Can+I+Do+With+Postcard+Permit%3F
And oh yeah — you can’t get the faucet installation permit since you’re not a licensed plumber. You seemingly can’t even legally pressure test your water line (even though a gauge costs only $10 at home depot).
2. As for inconsistencies … this page (http://dcra.dc.gov/DC/DCRA/Permits/Get+Answers+on+Building+Permits#5) says you can repair a fence without a permit. This page (http://dcra.dc.gov/DC/DCRA/Permits/Get+a+Permit/What+Can+I+Do+With+Postcard+Permit%3F) says you do. The schedule of fees (http://dcra.dc.gov/DC/DCRA/Permits/All+DCRA+Building+Permit+Forms/Building+Permit+Fees) seems to agree.
3. Sigh. Believe it or not, this is an improvement. They used to require a permit for painting your front steps …