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Harris County Building Permits: What You Need to Know

Britain Jacobson

Britain Jacobson

Last updated:

Jun 25, 2024

Published:

June 25, 2024

Reading time:

4

minutes

If you’re planning a construction project in Harris County, Texas, it’s important to know whether or not you need a building permit. The location and type of project will play a role in how you obtain a permit, and the type of permit you need depends on the scope of the work planned.

This guide will help you determine whether or not you need a building permit, plus give you information about the Harris County building permit application process, fees, and other important details. 

Harris County building permit requirements

Whether you're building in Austin, Houston, or Dallas, permits help to ensure compliance with regulations that protect public health and safeguard against the hazards of development. Most construction projects require a building permit, and there are different types of permits for various commercial and residential projects. 

You’ll need a permit in Harris County for work like:

  • General site work such as grading, utility work, landscaping, and drainage
  • Driveways
  • New construction 
  • Septic systems for wastewater 
  • Right-of-way (ROW) permit for projects affecting roadways and sidewalks

Any architectural plans that are submitted will also need approval from the Harris County Fire Code. 

Minor site and tenant developments 

Other permits exist for minor site development and tenant improvements, both of which carry different requirements for obtaining them. 

Unlike commercial civil development permits, these permits don’t always need to be drawn and signed by a professional engineer. They can also be approved on an expedited case-by-case basis. 

Minor site development projects might include:

  • Adding or resurfacing a driveway over existing culverts
  • Work with public utilities like domestic water and sanitary sewer lines
  • Small buildings (less than 150 sq. ft. or 400 sq. ft. for nonhazardous storage spaces)
  • Modular buildings
  • Pools and fences
Note: If development takes place on a floodplain or on a vacant property, it does not qualify for a minor site development permit. 

Small tenant improvements can also be submitted without a professional engineer. These would apply to retail, office, and storage spaces (residential developments require a residential permit). 

What requires a building permit in Houston?

Most work that involves constructing, amending, adding to, or demolishing a building requires a building permit in Houston. 

However, you won’t need a permit for projects like:

  • Routine maintenance and repairs to an existing structure
  • Certain residential buildings with floor areas less than 150 sq. ft. 
  • Some temporary storage within specified areas

Unincorporated areas within Harris County also do not require a General Contractor’s License to perform construction. 

Keep in mind that some building permits can only be issued by the State of Texas rather than the Harris County Engineering Department. For example, water wells must be handled by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. 

If a project’s total estimated cost is higher than $50,000, it must receive a project number and accessibility review from the Texas Department of Licensing & Regulation (TDLR).

Harris County building permit application

The process of applying for and obtaining a permit is similar no matter where you are in Texas, from Dallas to Austin to Houston.

In Harris County in particular, you can apply for a permit in person or on the county's e-Permits portal

If you need assistance when applying online, you can contact the Harris County e-Permits Support Line at 713-274-3232

Note: As of May 20, 2024, the Harris County Permits Office is temporarily located at 1111 Fannin St, 1st Floor, Houston, TX 77002.

Harris County building permit application process

Submit your application

Your Harris County permit application needs to include detailed information about the proposed project’s site plan and floor plan. 

This should include:

  • Paving
  • Drainage
  • Water and wastewater
  • Property description
  • Stormwater quality
  • Floodplain status
  • Curb ramps
  • Landscaping
  • Permits required

Different departments in Harris County are tasked with approving different permits, and each permitting review group has its own application form to be submitted along with development plans. Submitting the wrong application will likely result in delays with your review. 

For example, projects with existing or proposed septic systems must be reviewed by Harris County’s wastewater department before plans can be approved by the civil development department. If the project requires a plat, it will need to be approved and recorded by the city planning commission before a wastewater permit can be issued. 

Pay fees

Obtaining a permit in Harris County involves paying application and plan review fees.

Application fees vary depending on the scope of the project, but they’re generally priced as follows:

  • New small sites: $50
  • Private development: $200
  • Plans that include public roadway and sewer: $400

Permit fees themselves are priced based on the size of the project, and can range anywhere from $30 to thousands of dollars depending on the scope of the work. 

Harris County building permit costs can be found in their fee schedule, with some calculated as follows:

  • New developments and additions: $0.07 to $0.14 per sq. ft. 
  • Site development: $214 per acre
  • Residential subdivision infrastructure: $10,000 flat fee plus $20 per lot
  • Lease tenant spaces and remodels:  $16-32 per 1,000 sq. ft. 
  • On-site sewage: $250-300

Some permits also require additional fire code fees, as well as applicable inspection fees. 

Once you’ve obtained your building permit, the last step is to pay for it. You can pay your permit fees online through the Harris County Engineering Department’s ePermits system. 

Undergo plan review

After submitting your application, the Harris County Engineering Department will review it. Plans that are approved are advanced to the signing room to be finalized. 

A Harris County permit coordinator will then grant the permit, and construction can begin. 

Simplify the process with PermitFlow

Navigate the permit application process effortlessly and get your permit faster by working with PermitFlow.

PermitFlow is permitting software that streamlines the permit application process, mitigating the chances of application errors by ensuring accuracy at every step. PermitFlow will help you understand the Harris County permitting process and make sure you’re complying with relevant building codes and policies.

With PermitFlow, you can submit, track, and pull permits without navigating the Harris County Engineering Department’s outdated website. We’ll take care of the tedious permitting work for you so you get your permit approved as fast as possible.

If you’re planning a construction project in Harris County, Texas, it’s important to know whether or not you need a building permit. The location and type of project will play a role in how you obtain a permit, and the type of permit you need depends on the scope of the work planned.

This guide will help you determine whether or not you need a building permit, plus give you information about the Harris County building permit application process, fees, and other important details. 

Harris County building permit requirements

Whether you're building in Austin, Houston, or Dallas, permits help to ensure compliance with regulations that protect public health and safeguard against the hazards of development. Most construction projects require a building permit, and there are different types of permits for various commercial and residential projects. 

You’ll need a permit in Harris County for work like:

  • General site work such as grading, utility work, landscaping, and drainage
  • Driveways
  • New construction 
  • Septic systems for wastewater 
  • Right-of-way (ROW) permit for projects affecting roadways and sidewalks

Any architectural plans that are submitted will also need approval from the Harris County Fire Code. 

Minor site and tenant developments 

Other permits exist for minor site development and tenant improvements, both of which carry different requirements for obtaining them. 

Unlike commercial civil development permits, these permits don’t always need to be drawn and signed by a professional engineer. They can also be approved on an expedited case-by-case basis. 

Minor site development projects might include:

  • Adding or resurfacing a driveway over existing culverts
  • Work with public utilities like domestic water and sanitary sewer lines
  • Small buildings (less than 150 sq. ft. or 400 sq. ft. for nonhazardous storage spaces)
  • Modular buildings
  • Pools and fences
Note: If development takes place on a floodplain or on a vacant property, it does not qualify for a minor site development permit. 

Small tenant improvements can also be submitted without a professional engineer. These would apply to retail, office, and storage spaces (residential developments require a residential permit). 

What requires a building permit in Houston?

Most work that involves constructing, amending, adding to, or demolishing a building requires a building permit in Houston. 

However, you won’t need a permit for projects like:

  • Routine maintenance and repairs to an existing structure
  • Certain residential buildings with floor areas less than 150 sq. ft. 
  • Some temporary storage within specified areas

Unincorporated areas within Harris County also do not require a General Contractor’s License to perform construction. 

Keep in mind that some building permits can only be issued by the State of Texas rather than the Harris County Engineering Department. For example, water wells must be handled by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. 

If a project’s total estimated cost is higher than $50,000, it must receive a project number and accessibility review from the Texas Department of Licensing & Regulation (TDLR).

Harris County building permit application

The process of applying for and obtaining a permit is similar no matter where you are in Texas, from Dallas to Austin to Houston.

In Harris County in particular, you can apply for a permit in person or on the county's e-Permits portal

If you need assistance when applying online, you can contact the Harris County e-Permits Support Line at 713-274-3232

Note: As of May 20, 2024, the Harris County Permits Office is temporarily located at 1111 Fannin St, 1st Floor, Houston, TX 77002.

Harris County building permit application process

Submit your application

Your Harris County permit application needs to include detailed information about the proposed project’s site plan and floor plan. 

This should include:

  • Paving
  • Drainage
  • Water and wastewater
  • Property description
  • Stormwater quality
  • Floodplain status
  • Curb ramps
  • Landscaping
  • Permits required

Different departments in Harris County are tasked with approving different permits, and each permitting review group has its own application form to be submitted along with development plans. Submitting the wrong application will likely result in delays with your review. 

For example, projects with existing or proposed septic systems must be reviewed by Harris County’s wastewater department before plans can be approved by the civil development department. If the project requires a plat, it will need to be approved and recorded by the city planning commission before a wastewater permit can be issued. 

Pay fees

Obtaining a permit in Harris County involves paying application and plan review fees.

Application fees vary depending on the scope of the project, but they’re generally priced as follows:

  • New small sites: $50
  • Private development: $200
  • Plans that include public roadway and sewer: $400

Permit fees themselves are priced based on the size of the project, and can range anywhere from $30 to thousands of dollars depending on the scope of the work. 

Harris County building permit costs can be found in their fee schedule, with some calculated as follows:

  • New developments and additions: $0.07 to $0.14 per sq. ft. 
  • Site development: $214 per acre
  • Residential subdivision infrastructure: $10,000 flat fee plus $20 per lot
  • Lease tenant spaces and remodels:  $16-32 per 1,000 sq. ft. 
  • On-site sewage: $250-300

Some permits also require additional fire code fees, as well as applicable inspection fees. 

Once you’ve obtained your building permit, the last step is to pay for it. You can pay your permit fees online through the Harris County Engineering Department’s ePermits system. 

Undergo plan review

After submitting your application, the Harris County Engineering Department will review it. Plans that are approved are advanced to the signing room to be finalized. 

A Harris County permit coordinator will then grant the permit, and construction can begin. 

Simplify the process with PermitFlow

Navigate the permit application process effortlessly and get your permit faster by working with PermitFlow.

PermitFlow is permitting software that streamlines the permit application process, mitigating the chances of application errors by ensuring accuracy at every step. PermitFlow will help you understand the Harris County permitting process and make sure you’re complying with relevant building codes and policies.

With PermitFlow, you can submit, track, and pull permits without navigating the Harris County Engineering Department’s outdated website. We’ll take care of the tedious permitting work for you so you get your permit approved as fast as possible.

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