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Development Services

From Concept to Construction

Phone: 503-823-7300


1900 SW 4th Ave, Portland, OR 97201

More Contact Info

Getting Started

A building permit is required to convert attics, basements or garages to living space. Depending on the scope of work, your project may also require electrical, plumbing or mechanical permits. 

The Bureau of Development Services sells a "Residential Combination" permit package. This allows you to call for all inspections using just the Building Permit (RS) IVR number and pay for all the permits at one time. You will need to submit the trade (mechanical, electrical, and/or plumbing) application(s) signed either by you, if you are doing these portions of the work yourself, or by your licensed subcontractors. If you do not have your completed subcontractor forms when you are applying for your residential permit (RS) you will have to apply for trade permits separately from the building permit. Sub-contractors that you hire must be registered with the State of Oregon and carry the correct licenses in association with their trade. 

Your permit will be reviewed under provisions in the Residential Specialty Code (formerly the One and Two Family Dwelling Specialty Code) based on the 2003 IRC. View more information on building codes. 

In general, when changing the use of a space, such as converting unfinished storage or utility areas to finished living space, the building code requires that the remodeled area conform to current code. The Bureau of Development Services has established alternative standards specifically for conversion projects. [Coverting Attics, Basements and Garages to Living Space] 

How to Check your House’s History

Depending on the age of your house, we may have inspection cards or microfilmed plans that will show the history of permit activity for your house. It is important to verify that the “existing” finished attic or basement was permitted as such in the permit records, and not just through the county assessor’s office. Information found on is reported from the county's assessor's office, and may not match the building permit history. There is no ”grandfathering-in” of these spaces, and to be considered living space, they would need to be legalized through the permit process.

Things to consider

The Bureau of Development Services has set up the following special standards for existing situations: