Step by step

Get an OTC permit for your exterior residential project

Follow these instructions for doors, windows, reroofing, decks, fences, and other common exterior projects.

The Department of Building Inspection reviews every building permit application for life safety and building code compliance.

Most exterior residential projects can be reviewed over-the-counter. Review our instructions to prepare the right forms and book a time to submit your building permit application.

If you are a registered contractor, you can apply for reroofing permits online.

If your project is not eligible for OTC review, follow steps for in-house review.


Check if your project qualifies for OTC

These exterior projects qualify for over-the-counter review:

  • Windows
  • Exterior doors
  • Garage doors replacement
  • Re-roofing
  • Minor dry rot repairs

Decks, stairs, and fences

  • Exterior siding repairs or replacement
  • Repairing decks and stairs (less than 50%)
  • Decks less than 10 feet above grade that meet Planning setbacks
  • Roof decks in buildable area that meet Planning setbacks
  • Fences taller than 6 feet in side or rear yard (max of 10 feet) or taller than 3 feet in front yard

(Shorter fences do not require a permit.)

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Check if your project needs plans

You need plans if your project includes:

  • Repairing or replacing decks and/or stairs (more than 50%) 
  • New windows or exterior doors in new locations 
  • New skylights in new locations 
  • Decks less than 20 feet above grade that meet Planning Department setback requirements 
  • Projects that do not require Planning Department neighborhood notifications 
  • Fences taller than 6 feet in side or rear yards and/or fences taller than 3 feet in front yard 
  • Exterior façade work, visible from street, that involves changes in finishes (i.e.: changing stucco to wood siding, changing wood to vinyl siding, etc.) 
  • Residential security gates at entry doors and/or window security bars, grills and grates 
  • New mechanical equipment installed inside or outside the building (when a building permit is required)

Hire a designer, architect, or engineer to prepare your plans.

Create your building project plans

Bring two sets of plans when you submit your building permit application.

Email if you are not sure if your project needs plans.

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Check if your project needs Planning review

The SF Planning Department reviews plans to make sure they meet Planning Codes. Go to the Property Information Map for more information about the property.

If you need plans, you can reference Planning’s Plan Submittal Guidelines.

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Fill out forms about your role on the project

We need to know your role on the project to apply for an OTC permit.

See: Who can obtain a building permit

Pick the form that applies to you.

Print them and bring them with you when applying for a building permit.

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Fill out the permit application form

You will need property and construction details to fill out the building permit application.

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Fill out the Green Building form

All building permit applications must fill out our Green Building forms.

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Submit your application


2 to 8 hours

Bring your permit application to the Permit Center.

If your project needs plans, bring two sets of plans when you submit your building permit application. 

You will get a building permit application number. 

We will review your application, check your plans, and route your application to the required stations in person.

You may need to come back on a separate day to finish your plans.

Please note that the Department of Building Inspection (DBI) is now conducting all disabled access review as part of our plan review.

Plans requiring a DBI permit that are not project managed by the Department of Public Works no longer need to go to Mayor’s Office on Disability (MOD) for accessibility review and inspection.

Projects that began with MOD and remain unapproved will stay with the same plan checker at DBI or will be reassigned accordingly. Please refer to MOD's website for additional information.

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Recheck your plans

You may need to update your plans to address plan check comments.

After you address plan check comments, recheck your plans with the plan checker from your first review. Schedule with your plan checker by email.

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Get related permits

During your permit review process, you may also need to:

For registered contractors, use instant online permits for electrical and plumbing.

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Pay your fees and get your job card


3 to 4.5% of construction cost

Use our checklist of what to bring to get your job card for an issued permit.

You must have your job card before you can start construction.

Post your construction document at the construction site.

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Last updated June 20, 2024