Inspection Department

Inspections Operations


To protect residents and staff against COVID-19, please make an appointment if you need to visit this Department. Alternatively, you may be able to complete your City business  online. To make an appointment, please call 610-7261.

In response to the current information and best practice recommendations from the CDC and other sources regarding the coronavirus outbreak, the City of Portsmouth Inspections Department will continue to function on a limited basis according to the following; 

*As of 3/18/20, field inspections will not be conducted in occupied buildings. Field inspections for exterior only projects or for projects in unoccupied buildings will be authorized on a case by case basis. Alternative measures such as digital photos may be accepted in some instances but must be discussed and approved by the individual inspector (see Inspection staff contact info below).

*On line permit applications will continue to be accepted and reviewed. Payments for approved permit applications will continue to be paid on line. Payments can also be mailed to City Hall however, in person payments are currently not allowed as City Hall is closed to the public.

*Requests for inspections will continue to be made by contacting Inspections at 603-610-7243 or via the email contact information listed below. We will make every attempt to respond to such requests within 48 hours (NIC weekends).

*All questions regarding permits or any other Inspection Department services should be forward directly to Chief Building Inspector (see contact information below). 

*Any questions or inspection scheduling requests related to Fire Suppression or Fire Alarm permits should be referred to Fire Prevention (see contact information below).

 This policy information will be updated as conditions dictate. 

Inspections and Fire Prevention Contact Information: 

 Robert Marsilia, Chief Building Inspector, direct line 603-610-7261, email

Paul Garand, Asst. Building Inspector, direct line 603-610-7263, email

John Plourde, Electrical Inspector, direct line 603-610-7265, email

Dave Gilchrest, Plumbing/Mechanical Inspector, direct line 603-610-7250, email

Fire Prevention, direct line 603-610-7354, email

About the Inspection Department


The Building Inspection Department is responsible for the review and approval of building, electrical, plumbing and mechanical plans and specifications. 

Applications for building permits, change-in-land-use permits, fire sprinkler permits and fire alarm permits are issued though the Inspection Office.

All municipal land use boards are administered through the Inspection and Planning Departments. Depending on the complexity of a project, electric, plumbing and mechanical permits are issued directly to the licensed contractor or homeowner who is doing the work. 

Do I need to obtain a building permit if I’m “just” repairing my house?

Taken directly from the Building Code: Section 105.2.2 Repairs: Application or notice to the code official is not required for ordinary repairs to structures. Ordinary repairs are defined as work which is associated with the normal maintenance of a property and which affects only the surface or finish characteristics of a structure. Types of work which may be so classified are:

  • Painting or wallpapering
  • Repairing floors or carpets
  • Repairing interior trim
  • Repairing cabinets or countertops
  • Repairing windows, doors or siding
  • Repairing masonry or roofing material
  • Insulating

* Exception: When the total cost of ordinary repair work exceeds three thousand dollars ($3000)

In general, for a work element to be considered a repair or replacement, the item which is being repaired must already exist. The above items are intended to represent individual replacement or repair work. 

When one or more of the above items are included in general renovations to structures, then all such items will be included in the construction cost. 

Ordinary repairs do not include the cutting, removing or altering of any structural beam, joist, rafter or bearing support, or the removal or change of any required means of egress, or rearrangement of parts of a structure affecting the egress requirements. 

Ordinary repairs also do not include additions to, alterations of, replacement or relocation of any fire protection system, water supply, sewer, drainage, drain leader, gas, soil, waste, vent or similar piping, electric wiring or mechanical equipment or other work affecting public health or general safety.


  • Repairs or renovations made to the exterior facade of structures in the Historic District shall require a building permit application review by the Planning Department. When it is determined that Historic District Commission approval is required, then a building permit will also be required. 
  • When the total cost of ordinary repair work exceeds three thousand dollars ($3,000).

When do I need to obtain a building permit?

Taken directly from the Building Code: Section 105.1 Required: An application shall be submitted to the code official for the following activities and these activities shall not commence without a permit being issued in accordance with Section 105.1. New construction and general renovation work requires the issuance of a building permit.

General renovation is defined as work which changes the overall size of a building or portions thereof or which involves the creation of rooms or spaces which did not previously exist. Expansion of existing electrical, plumbing, mechanical or fire protection systems is also considered general renovation. Types of work which may be so classified are:

  • Renovating rooms such as kitchens and bathrooms
  • Additions of any size.
  • Enlarging existing structures, rooms or spaces.
  • Creating new rooms or spaces within a structure.
  • Structural changes or repairs.
  • Dormers.
  • Demolition of all or part of a structure.
  • Changing exits or exit components in any way.
  • New structures including sheds, gazebos, pools (above and below ground decks, garages, carports, tents, awnings, etc.
  • Above or below grade flammable and combustible liquid tank removal or installation.
  • Fire protection system work (See Chapter 9).
  • Changes in Use or Occupancy.

How do I obtain a Building Permit?

Building permit applications are available from the website. Applications must be accompanied by plans or sketches accurately showing the scope of work. In most all projects, a site plan, showing the lot of record, all structures on the lot and their sizes, and all set back dimensions from each structure. Also, the size of any addition and it’s corresponding setbacks must be show on the plan.

Most projects require a floor plan of the new work and in many cases, the floor plan should include the surrounding areas, as the addition or modification may impact those areas. When the scope of work involves structural elements, plan and section views of the framing will need to be represented on sketches or engineered plans.

Most residential projects do not require stamped structural plans. It is up to the code official, based on State Law, to determine when engineered plans are required. Plumbing, mechanical and electrical plans are required on a case-by-case basis.

How long does it take to get a Building Permit?

That depends.... Many factors enter into the length of time a permit application takes. Accuracy and completeness of information have a major affect on application review time, as well as the fluctuations in the seasonal work load. Incomplete zoning information can hold up an application for days, and this is the first review done on virtually every application. Therefore applications for residential additions can take as long as up to two weeks to process. 

Interior renovations to single family dwellings (SFD) bypass a zoning review, so with adequate building information, a permit should be ready in 4-5 business days. Electric, plumbing and mechanical permits, are submitted online. On larger commercial projects, an adequate plan review period is needed, generally 1-2 weeks.

When do I have to go to the Historic District Commission (HDC)?

Only projects which lay within the Historic District Zoning Areas and which involve new construction or additions to existing structures and any changes that affect the exterior of a building. Exterior changes include windows and window treatments, doors, building trim and any building element that changes in kind, form or shape.

If your project is affected by one of these changes, you must file a separate HDC application and submit drawings and / or photographs of the work element. Manufacture's cut sheets also must be submitted. All information shall be submitted with eleven (11) copies. The Commission meets once month and the meetings are publicly posted and advertised. So plan ahead, it adds at least an extra month to the review process!

How do I apply for a Sign Permit?

The City's sign regulations are included in Article 12 of the Zoning Ordinance.  There are very few regulations that apply to residential properties, however this document answers some frequently asked questions for property owners in residential districts.  Please contact the Planning Department at 603-610-7216 for more information about sign regulations in the City and for information on applying for sign permits.