How Do I know what’s Permissible when Planning a Home Renovation?

Middleburg Eccentric

When planning a home renovation or addition it’s important to complete your due diligence upfront to research any ordinances or restrictions that may affect your project. Unfortunately, homeowners and contractors often forget important steps during this project feasibility phase, which sometimes leads to wasted time and money or abandoned projects. To ensure you sidestep those mistakes, start with this checklist of places to call in order to minimize setbacks while planning and executing your next renovation.

Local Jurisdiction/County

First, call your local county government to find out if there are any site restrictions or requirements for your home or property. Propose your plan to the county before you start and get their feedback on any setbacks before moving forward. Ask them about any potential zoning ordinances as well. Also, check with the county to get building permits and land disturbance applications prepared. Many counties now allow these forms to be submitted electronically.

Department of Environmental Safety

You will also need to contact your local health department or department of environmental safety for water and septic tank restrictions or conflicts. There are many water and sewer construction requirements that have to be adhered to by the contractor and homeowner. Long delays can arise during your permitting process if this part of your planning process is neglected.

Homeowner’s Association

Call your homeowner’s association (HOA), or equivalent, to see if there are any requirements or restrictions. HOA’s can stop you from using certain materials or building on certain parts of the home. Additionally, HOA’s sometimes require a review of your plans before you start the building process. These restrictions typically come written in covenants and, in most cases, are reviewed with prospective buyers before a purchase. To make sure you have the current information to share with your builder and get your project started on the right foot, it’s always best to engage your association early in the process.

Check with Local Historic Boards

Do you know if your property is in or near a historic area? If there is any question, call your local historic review board or registries to double-check. Some requirements from historic boards are extremely specific and involve special attention and advance planning. For example, we have seen instances where a board has only allowed the use of one specific brick on a home addition. Make sure you know what your requirements are, so you can plan in advance and avoid a battle and costly changes later.

With so many requirements for design, building, budgeting and engineering it can be easy to overlook certain steps. Always make sure you hire an advocate that knows how to manage all the different aspects of executing a project from start to finish, so that your project runs as smoothly as possible.

Tim Burch is a Vice President of BOWA, an award-winning design and construction firm specializing in renovations ranging from master suites and kitchens to whole-house remodels. A Northern Virginia native and third-generation builder, Tim enjoys calling on his 30 years of design build experience to solve clients’ home-related challenges. He is the Construction Advisor for The Mosby Heritage Area Association and sits on the Board of Building Appeals for Fauquier County. Prior to joining BOWA, Tim was the Lead Project Manager of Construction for the Emmy Award winning construction reality television show, Extreme Makeover Home Edition on ABC Television. For more information on Tim and the BOWA team, visit or call 540-687-6771.