What can I do to make my house more earthquake safe?
There are many ways to make your house more “earthquake safe” including bolting down and securing your water heater, refrigerator, furnace and gas appliances, hiring a professional to repair defective electrical wiring, leaky gas lines and inflexible utility connections, and fasten shelves, mirrors and large picture frames to walls.
Is my house, apartment building or business built to withstand an earthquake? What about schools, hospitals or senior care facilities?
The seismic building requirements for houses, apartment structures and commercial buildings have been enforced since 1974, and have continued to be more stringent over the years. The State of Oregon adopted building codes in 1974 which also require a house to be connected to the foundation.
Schools are required to meet a higher seismic strength than the typical commercial business structure. Care facilities have a higher seismic strength design than the typical commercial business structure and hospitals have the highest level of seismic strength design requirements.
What is the Hillsboro Building Department doing to prepare for a possible major earthquake?
The City of Hillsboro Building Department has been enforcing seismic design standards for all new buildings, additions and alterations since 1974 when the State adopted the Uniform Building Code
All Building Department plan review and inspection personnel are trained and certified to review, assess, and inspect the seismic design standards required by the Building Code.
The Building Department uses professional structural engineers to review construction plans for proposed commercial buildings to further ensure compliance with seismic design standards.
Most of the Building Department team has attended ATC-20 Post Earthquake Building Safety Evaluation training – the national standard for earthquake damage assessment. Many of the Building Department plan review and inspection personnel are also certified as post-earthquake inspectors by the State of Oregon. Most of these employees have had this certification for over 10 years.
In addition, for more than 10 years the Building Department has been prepared to quickly deliver expected services to our community by maintaining post-earthquake inspection packs prepared and equipped to support post-earthquake inspectors in the field in the days immediately following a seismic event.
How would the Hillsboro Building Department respond after a major earthquake?
City of Hillsboro Building department personnel would report as quickly as possible to the City of Hillsboro Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to help other City of Hillsboro departments in assessing the City for critical areas of damage.
Personnel certified for post-earthquake inspection would be supplied with the necessary equipment and sent to sites for rapid assessment and inspection as time and resources allowed. Assessments would be prioritized based on a variety of factors as determined by the EOC. High priority assessments would include essential facilities such as hospitals, fire and police stations, and other types of care facilities. Buildings would be evaluated based on federal ATC-20 criteria for Post-Earthquake Building Safety and are then posted with a red, yellow, or green card based on the degree of life safety hazard determined by inspectors. Regular updates would be provided to the EOC regarding damage to the built environment to facilitate emergency declarations.
Building Department services would be made operational as soon as possible to help the public in getting businesses and homes to a safe condition for occupancy. If power is out, assessments/evaluations would be done on paper to record all information.
Does it require a building permit to do a seismic retrofit?
Yes. Please contact us so we can help you through the permitting process, or visit our website here for more information about permitting.
Who can do the work to make my house or building more earthquake safe?
You can do the work as the homeowner or building owner, or you can hire a licensed contractor. Drawings can be designed by you or your contractor as long as the design meets the minimum prescriptive building code. If the design is more complicated, you may need to hire a structural engineer.
The City of Hillsboro Building Department Helpful Links and Resources web page contains a link to the Oregon State Construction Contractors Board (CCB) where you can check to ensure the company you hire is licensed.
Is my property in Hillsboro City limits?
You can use Washington County's InterMap to locate an address. Type in an address in the Street Number field, and click on the Search button. The address will display in the bottom frame of the screen. Click on Property Info, and it will display the Jurisdiction.
You can also contact the Planning Department at 503-681-6153. Be prepared to give the street address or the Tax Lot I.D. of the property.
Where can I file contractor grievances?
Complaints against a contractor can be registered at the Oregon Construction Contractors Board. A claim may be filed by an owner alleging breach of contract, negligent or improper work; by an employee alleging nonpayment of wages; by a supplier alleging nonpayment for materials; or by one contractor against another, for breach of contract, negligent or improper work, or nonpayment.
What are the City of Hillsboro noise hours?
In general, the erection (including excavation), demolition, alteration or repair of any building in a residential or business district is allowed between 6:00am and 9:00pm, with a permit.
You can read additional noise information here. For questions or complaints, please contact our Code Enforcement Department at (503) 615-6645.
If I am having my project done by a licensed contractor, should I rely on my contractor to get the permits?
Permits ensure that a certified inspector inspects the construction project or installation. Inspections help make sure work is done safely and to code. Inspections not only reveal minor problems that could lead to costly repairs, but also liability and life-safety concerns like structural weaknesses, dangerous wiring, or defective plumbing. Incorrect installations can result in house fires, flood damage, and/or structural problems.
When it comes to selling a house, realtors and lenders may require that any construction work is done with permits to ensure that the house is safe for future occupants. If work is not permitted, instead of closing on your home, you'll have to scramble to catch up with permits and inspections and additional repair work if the installations weren't made to code.
A building permit is required to construct, enlarge, alter, move or demolish any one- or two-family dwelling or related structure.
An electrical permit is required to do the following: to install or alter any permanent wiring or electrical device; to run any additional wiring, put in an electrical outlet or light fixture, install receptacle for a garage-door opener, or convert from fuse box to circuit breakers; to install or alter low-voltage systems such as security alarms or stereo or computer systems.
A plumbing permit is required to do the following: to replace water heaters, alter piping inside a wall or ceiling or beneath a floor, and for plumbing in all new installations; to do emergency repair, alteration, or replacement of freeze-damaged or leaking concealed piping, if new piping exceeds 3 feet; to remodel or add on to your one- or two-family dwelling when existing plumbing is to be relocated. This includes installation of building sewers, water service, and rain drains outside the building.
A mechanical permit is required for the following: Install or change any part of a heating or cooling system that must be vented into any kind of chimney, including un-vented decorative appliances; install a woodstove, fireplace insert, pellet stove, or related venting; install, alter, or repair gas piping between the meter and an appliance (indoors or outdoors); install bath fans, dryer exhausts, kitchen range exhausts, and appliances that are required to be vented.
Fence permits are issued by the Hillsboro Planning Department. You can contact them at (503) 681-6153. If the fence you are building is over six feet high, you also need to get a building permit from the Hillsboro Building Department. You can find additional information on the Planning Department web site.
If you are not sure you need a permit, call the jurisdiction responsible for your area. City of Hillsboro (503) 681-6144; Washington County (503) 846-3470.
What can I build without a permit?
You do not need a permit to do the following minor repairs and maintenance on a one- or two-family dwelling.
Note: Even though a permit is not required, the project must still comply with all the applicable construction and zoning codes.
Permits are not required for the following when related to single family homes which do not encroach over a subsurface drain system, public utility easement, or into required setbacks from property lines:
Paint buildings that are not historic landmarks.
Blow insulation into existing homes.
Put up storm windows.
Install window awnings not more than 54 inches deep (and not in a design zone) that are supported by an exterior wall and do not project beyond the property line.
Replace interior wall, floor, or ceiling covering, such as wallboard or sheet vinyl.
Put up shelving and cabinets.
Install gutters and downspouts (A plumbing permit may still be required for storm water disposal.
Replace or repair siding on a wall that is three feet or more from a property line.
Replace or repair roofing, if there is no replacement of sheathing (a maximum of three layers of roofing is allowed).
Replace doors or windows if the existing openings aren't widened.
Pave a walkway.
Build a patio or deck that is not more than 30 inches above grade.
A shop or shed that is under 200 square feet and under 10 feet high, and not attached to the house. Any electrical work done will still require an electrical permit. Please contact the Planning Department for any questions on property set-backs at (503) 681-6153.
How much does a permit cost?
The minimum fee for Electrical, Plumbing and Mechanical permits is $64.90. There is a state surcharge of 12% of the permit fee, which is $7.79. This totals to $72.69. If the amount of services purchased exceeds $64.90, then the cost per item/service purchased would be added to the $64.90 minimum. If your project requires a plan review, then an additional 25% of the permit fee is added.
Building permits are based on the value of the work performed. This includes the equipment, materials, labor, overhead, and the profit for the work indicated.
What if I made an alteration to my home without realizing I needed a permit and want to correct the situation - will I be subject to a fine? Do I have to tear the whole project down and start over?
Penalties can be levied for those who refuse to comply with the law. The Building Department would rather see a building conform to the code than punish a homeowner. If a homeowner discovers that they did not obtain a permit when required, they do not necessarily have to tear the project down and start over. If the alteration can meet the applicable codes, they will be approved. Our inspectors won't necessarily approve something they cannot see and may require small sections of wall or roof covering be removed to verify the construction meets the code. There can be no guarantee that some changes may need to be made, and some may not be easy to accomplish.
If I take out a permit to remodel a home built ten years ago, do I build to the code in effect when the home was originally built?
No. The new work must be constructed under the codes in effect today.
If I remodel my house, do I have to bring the entire home up to the codes in effect today?
No. Only the new portion must meet the current codes unless the remodel creates a hazard for the existing building, such as overloading an existing beam.
Why should I use licensed contractor?
For one thing, any contracted person doing work who is not currently registered with the State Construction Contractors Board is doing so illegally. Would you want this type of person working on your home? Another reason is the registration provides some protection to the homeowner from being charged for work and materials not provided or paying twice for them (material suppliers and subcontractors can place a lien on your home if they do not receive payment from your contractor). There are also trade licenses for those persons doing plumbing and electrical work to provide some assurance that they have adequate knowledge and training in those fields.
Do I have to have a license to do work on my own home?
No. A homeowner *(who owns and occupies the house) may do any or all of the work (building, plumbing, mechanical [heating and air conditioning], and electrical). If you are not sure of your abilities to do any or all of the work, it is recommended that you hire a licensed professional.
* This does not apply to plumbing and electrical work done by renters, landlords, their employees, or other persons who do not own and occupy the home (they must have an appropriate license).
Do I have to have my plans drawn by a Professional Designer, Architect or Engineer?
No. The owner or anyone they choose may draw the plans as long as they are clear and detailed enough to indicate what and how the project will be built. In some cases, the complexity of the project may require the skills of a professional. If the plans include the need for new beams, lateral support (earthquake or wind resistance), and they are not designed using standard software or prescriptive designs obtained from the building code, an engineer or architect will need to provide calculations for those items.
Often there is a misunderstanding between the contractor and owner as to who is responsible for obtaining the permits. Be sure it is clear who is responsible. If the contractor were to be responsible for obtaining the permits, it would be wise to have the contractor provide proof they did so. The owner will ultimately be responsible for the work on their property.
Why do I need inspections? Do I have to pay for these inspections?
Inspections are required at various stages of the project to see that the work is following the approved plans and codes. There is no additional charge for the inspections, they have been paid for with the permit fees.
How do I get an inspection?
To get an inspection, you can call the Inspection Request Line at (503)-681-6244 or fax in your request at (503)-681-6469. Please leave the following information:
Inspection requests received before 6:00 am will normally be done that same day. Requests received after 6:00 am will be done the following workday. The Building Department will try to accommodate requests by homeowners to schedule a time for the inspector to meet them when necessary.
When do I need a permit for building a deck?
If any part of the deck is more than 30 inches above grade, you must get a building permit.
When do I need an electrical permit?
Electrical permits are required any time electrical wires are directly connected to the house electrical system, such as a new light fixture or electrical outlet. This includes extending wires off an existing circuit. Low voltage wiring such as security systems or stereo wiring also requires a permit. Permits are not required for replacing a fuse or repairing an appliance cord.
When do I need a plumbing permit?
A plumbing permit is required to install or replace any plumbing fixtures such as a sink, water heater, or lawn irrigation system. A permit is also required if additional water or waste piping is installed or repaired.
When do I need a mechanical permit?
A mechanical permit is required for the installation or modification of any heating or cooling system, such as an air conditioner (except models designed to be installed in a window and plugged into an electrical outlet) or furnace.
What if complying with a code is too costly, difficult or I don't agree with the code - can the City waive the requirement?
No, codes cannot be waived. However, if an alternate way of building something is proposed and will provide the same degree of safety as what the code requires, it may be approved as an alternate method by the Building Official.
In what order do I request inspections?
Follow the numerical order on the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) list when scheduling inspections. You must call before 6:00 a.m. for same-day inspections.
What is a "C of O", and do I need one?
There are no provisions under the Oregon State One and Two Family Dwelling Unit Code, Part 1 - Chapter 1 - Administrative Section, for requiring formal Certificates of Occupancy to be issued on residential construction. If you are going to operate a business out of your residence, you need to contact the Planning Department to obtain a Home Occupation Permit.
Commercial Certificates of Occupancy are issued upon final approval. The City of Hillsboro keeps them on file in the Building Department offices. You may contact us at (503) 681-6144 to obtain a copy by fax or postal mail.
Where can I file building violation grievances?
If you are inside the Hillsboro City limits, you can contact the Hillsboro Building Department at (503) 681-6144 and ask to speak with the Chief Building inspector. If you are outside Hillsboro City limits, you can contact the Washington County Building Department at (503) 846-3470.
What are the current codes adopted by the City of Hillsboro?