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Do I Need A Permit To Build A Shed In Harrisonburg, VA?

Updated: Mar 20

Building Permits for Sheds in Harrisonburg, VA

Building permit requirements vary widely by location. And since I am actually considering moving into Harrisonburg, VA, I thought I’d start researching whether I need a building permit for a portable storage shed in the Friendly City.

I began by asking the All-Knowing Google: “Harrisonburg Shed Permits.” I found the Harrisonburg Building Permit page here. But as of 9:37 on July 16, 2016, there’s no information anywhere that I can find that tells me: Can I put a 12×20 storage shed on my property?

But they did have their phone number prominently displayed, so I gave them a call. I quickly got the information I needed.

QUICK STATS: Shed Permit Requirements for Harrisonburg

The 10-second version:

  1. Under 256 sq. ft, no building permit is required for a portable storage shed used for residential purposes.

  2. Zoning: keep your storage shed 5 feet away from all property lines in the back yard. But you should go talk to the zoning office.

For a more thorough version, read on….

Building Permit Requirements for Sheds in Harrisonburg, VA

The staff at the city offices were very friendly and helpful. No automated phone menus! And I got through the first time–Kudos to Harrisonburg! Here’s what I found:

  1. For a portable storage shed under 256 square feet, no building permit is required. That means that any building less than either 12×20, or 14×18 needs no building permit.

  2. Your storage shed still has to be built to code. That basically means if you build it yourself, you have to build it according to normal building standards. If you buy your building from a reputable shed company (ahem … slight clearing of the throat), you have nothing to worry about. (And in case you want the details, here’s a start: The roof must be designed for at least 30 lb/sq ft for snow load. And the floor load needs to be 40 lb/sq ft. That probably means that the floor is designed to hold your riding lawn mower, but the roof is not.)

  3. And the good news is … it doesn’t need a permanent foundation. If you’re not sure what foundation to use for your shed, you may want to choose from the 5 most popular shed foundations.

  4. On the other hand, Harrisonburg specifies that your shed must be anchored. (The good news is that Ulrich Lifestyle sheds are engineered to 90 mph windspeed resistance, and no tie-downs are required.)

  5. Your storage shed must be detached from the main house. If you want to get hitched, you gotta get the papers.

  6. Pre-fab sheds with garage a door  cannot be used as a garage to store vehicles. If you want to give your ‘Vette a home, you need something more sturdy. And, it needs a non-combustible floor.

  7. Want electricity? You need a building permit for your shed.

Keep in mind that this is all for residential purposes. When you are storing your lawn mowers, Harley’s, and Bob the Builder play sets, you are good to go as long as you build to code. If your building is commercial, you will need a permit. That means if you want to set up an office building for your used car lot, or to rent out U-Haul trailers, you have officially entered the Commercial Zone. You will need amenities for your valued clients such as steps, hand rails, restroom facilities (with running water — no outhouses, please), and so on.

Zoning Permit Requirements for Pre-fab Storage Buildings in Harrisonburg

Zoning permit is different from a building permit. A building permit has to do primarily with how the shed is constructed. Zoning has to do with what the building is used for, and where you place it on your property.

Here are a few things Harrisonburg wants you to consider about zoning permits for sheds:

  1. Every property is in a zoning district which has a zoning classification such as R-1 and R-2 (residential zones) B-1 and B-2 (business zones), and so on. Each zoning district has its own “blanket requirements.”

  2. Two blanket requirement for residential zones:

  3. Your shed cannot be in the front yard.

  4. The storage building must be set back at least 5 ft. from side and rear property lines.

The friendly Harrisonburg staff (and they really are!) would like you to make a quick stop by their office at 409 S. Main Street. You tell them your address, and a quick “verbal discussion” will ensue. Basically, they will look up your property, and let you know where good spots would be to place your shed. Additionally, they offer that you can even phone in. You give them your address, and they can tell you what you need over the phone. Now folks, that’s pretty good service. Grab your phones: 540-432-7700.

Don’t neglect this step! They want to help you be sure that you don’t end up on top of a phone wire or sewer line, and have to have your shed moved to service these utilities. Or, that you have an irritated neighbor with a measuring tape calling city offices, saying that the shed is too close to the property lines.

Shed Permits — Cost, Red Tape, and Bureaucratic Hassle

Are you ready for a pleasant surprise? For a shed under 256 sq. feet …

  1. No cost.

  2. No paperwork.

  3. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Thank you, Harrisonburg!

Contact Information — City Offices

  1. 409 S. Main Street, Harrisonburg, VA. (Click for map.)

  2. 540-432-7700

Chicken Permit

Yes, Harrisonburg has a chicken permit, and there has been quite a flap and a flutter recently over it. It is an ongoing debate, but at this point you can keep chickens in your back yard. Here there’s a little more red tape. After you complete the Application to Keep Chickens, here’s the process in their own words:

  1. Animal Care and Control will schedule to visit the property, and if approved, will provide a Chicken Permit to the owner.

  2. The Chicken Permit shall be displayed on the chicken pen at all times.

  3. The permit is valid for one (1) year and must be renewed annually to continue to keep chickens.

And if you get done with all that, and would like a lovely little pre-fab chicken coop to set in your back yard, get in touch with us. As of August 2016 this information was accurate. And the links worked! Please — let us know if anything needs to be corrected, updated, or expanded.

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