Detached Garage Roof Garden Permits

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Topic: Detached Garage Roof Garden Permits

Home and Garden October 3, 2012 at 9:33 am

Detached Garage Roof Garden Permits

My NW DC rowhouse has a detached garage that backs up to the alley. I want to keep the little yard between the house and the garage, so I was thinking that a vegetable garden garden on the roof of the garage would be really nice.  Outside of construction (i understand that a garden will be heavy, and reinforcements probably needed), does anyone know whether I need any permits to put things on the roof of my garage?

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Great question.  I’m thinking of building a garage and my wife wanted a green roof on our house (which I nixed), but maybe a green roof on the garage would be a good option!  Let us know what you find out – I have no clue!

Contact DC Greenworks and see what they have to say.

I built a greenroof, and no, you do not need a permit.  It is wise to get a structural engineer to take a look but the city exempts roofing from permitting.  If you put a deck up there with your roof, you need a permit, but the greenroof itself requires no permit.  DC Greenworks is a good resource.  

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:
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.
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 ( says you can repair a fence without a permit. This page ( says you do. The schedule of 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 …

I think you need to separate the two questions:
1. Does DC require a permit? Maybe, probably.
2. Do I need a permit? Depends if you can be discreet about construction. Will your neighbors turn you in? The fines are steep, but it’s darn complicated to get the permit in the first place.

I’m sure DCRA won’t like that answer, but that’s a different argument.

Call or stop by the DCRA homeowners center and ask.  They open at 830 every weekday except for Thursday, which is 930.  I’ve been thinking about doing the same thing with the garage I’m currently building.  

How are you going to get up to the green roof? If you need to build stairs, then you’ll need a permit.

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