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Do I Need a Permit to Build or Buy a Storage Shed in Rockingham County, VA?

Updated: Mar 20

Do I Need a Permit to Build or Buy a Storage Shed in Rockingham County, VA?

We know that permitting can seem like a hassle. And since I am wanting to put a portable shed in my backyard anyway, I got in touch with the official inspectors to see what permit requirements are for sheds in Rockingham County. It was incredibly simple. If you are needing info for the shed permit requirements in Rockingham County, this article will get you rolling.


Shed Permit Requirements for Rockingham County

The 10-second version:

  1. Building permit: For a storage shed under 256 sq. ft, no building permit is required.

  2. Zoning: Keep your shed 5 feet away from the property lines in your backyard. But give them a call before you install. (540-564-3030)

And now, the details…

The folks at the Rockingham County offices were very helpful and pleasant, and answered pretty much every conceivable question about sheds and permits in Rockingham County. Here’s what they tell us.

If you are building or buying a storage shed, there are two separate issues that you need to be aware of.

  1. Building permits. The concern here is the structure itself, and whether it is built to code.

  2. Zoning permits. The concern here is where the structure is placed.

We’ll look at each of those in turn.

Building Permits for Storage Buildings in Rockingham County, VA

256 is the magic number for storage building permits. If your shed is less than 256 square feet, you don’t need a building permit. You can do the math. But for common examples, you don’t need a building permit if your building is 12×20, or 14×18, or less.

But there are a few exceptions:

  1. Electricity. If you want to wire your shed for electricity, you’ll need a permit.

  2. Heat. If you want heat in the shed, you’ll need a mechanical permit. (Space heaters need not apply. The code frowns on buildings incinerating.)

  3. Commercial. Businesses buying a shed do not need a shed permit–if you are under that magic 256 sq. ft.

  4. However, if you are zoned F1, (manufacturing aircraft, autos, beverages, or pretty much anything) you need a permit. If you are zoned for H (high hazard materials) you need a permit. So, if you plan to manufacture fighter jets in your backyard, or run a jet fuel storage depot, you will definitely need to check with county offices.

Here are a few other things you need to know about building to code.

  1. Foundations. Under 256 sq.feet, you don’t need a permanent foundation.

  2. To learn about popular shed foundations, click here.

  3. To learn how to install a gravel pad, click here.

  4. Note that even if you don’t need a building permit, your structure still must be built to code. This means that it needs adequate snow load, wind resistance, and so on. (As you might guess, Ulrich Lifestyle buildings are already built to Rockingham County building code.)

What if my shed needs a building permit?

If your shed is over 256 square feet you will need a permit, but the process is pretty simple.

  1. Fill out an application at the office. Those are not available online as of this writing.

  2. Pay the permit fee. Fees grow as your building gets bigger. For a storage building, those fees start around $50.

  3. Ask when to schedule the inspection. You want to be sure that you get your building signed off.

  4. Permits are usually available within 10 days of application. But remember that summer is busy season for building.

Jay Carter is the Plan Reviewer with the county. As we talked, Jay pointed out the advantages of going with a reputable company like Ulrich Lifestyle. If a DIY builder is “building from scratch,” the county will have to ask for more specific details, and the inspector is going to look at the building more closely. The advantage of Ulrich Lifestyle is that the entire process should go faster, and there’s little chance of inspection failure. He says, “You all have done a lot of work — it takes the guess work out of it. I love the pre-fab sheds because there’s not a whole lot to go wrong. We like them.”

In fact, Ulrich Lifestyle has the engineered drawings of all our standard sheds on file at the Rockingham County offices. They have been pre-approved, making your job easy.

Jay suggests, however, that if you need a permit, you should still bring in a drawing of the building. This allows them to stamp it and give it back to you, so you have your own copy of the approval. Your Ulrich Lifestyle sales rep can give you that drawing.

Zoning Permits

Even if your shed doesn’t need a building permit, you still need a zoning permit. This deals with 3 primary issues:

  1. Utilities. You want to avoid setting your shed on top of gas lines, cable, water, sewer, electric, and so on. If the gas company comes to repair a line, and your shed is sitting on top of the leak, a few earnest conversations will follow, and they’re likely to win.

  2. Easements. This is similar to the first issue. Easements are the land that you get to seed, fertilize, and mow because you own it. Easements are also the land utility companies can dig up as though they owned it. It’s a great working arrangement.

  3. Setbacks. Setbacks are the distance your buildings sits from your property lines. Minimum setbacks are 5 ft. from all property lines in your backyard. But depending on where you are in the county, or or if you have a large building (over 580 sq. ft), your setbacks will be higher.

Don’t neglect the zoning permit. Jay is clear: they aren’t driving around the county and policing the placement of your shed. But when you go to sell, the bank will probably do a survey of your property. If you haven’t placed your shed correctly, you may need to move it. Or worse, remove it. As Jay says, “It’s unpleasant when we have to tell people to move a building.”

Getting a zoning permit is easy.

  1. Sometimes it takes only a phone call (540-564-3030).

  2. Other times, you may need to stop by the office at 20 E. Gay St., Harrisonburg. (Map this.)

Either way, it’s not usually a lengthy or difficult process.

Rockingham County Shed Permits: Cost, Red Tape, and Hassle

Here’s a pleasant summary. For a shed under 256 sq. feet …

  1. No cost.

  2. No paperwork.

  3. Thank you, Rockingham County!

Contact Information — Rockingham County Offices

  1. 20 E. Gay St., Harrisonburg, VA. (Map this.)

  2. 540-564-3030

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