Let’s talk plats!

Let’s talk plats! What is a plat? What is its purpose? Where can I obtain a copy of a property plat? When is a new plat necessary? Why does Foster Remodeling Solutions need a plat prior to your appointment?

When you purchased your home in you no doubt signed and were given a large stack of documents. Among these was a legal-sized piece of paper that showed your lot, the outline of your home and an official stamp. Buying a home is both happy and stressful, so if you don’t recall seeing your plat in all of those documents, that’s OK, Foster Remodeling Solutions can help. Whether you live in Alexandria, Arlington, Burke, Chantilly, Woodbridge, Ashburn or Fairfax city, Foster has the knowledge to assist!

What is a plat?

A plat shows the exact location of structures on your parcel of property. It is a to-scale document that has been completed by a trained and licensed surveyor.

What is the purpose of a plat?

The plat indicates to your jurisdiction the intention of proposed improvements to your home and allows the jurisdiction to ensure that these alterations meet building, site and zoning requirements.

Where can I obtain a copy of a property plat?

If you can’t locate your plat, obtaining a copy of one is fairly easy. Most counties and/or city zoning departments keep copies of plats, though some in our area do not. Here’s how to submit a request for plats with the following municipalities:

Alexandria City– Send an email with your request to: PCZoning@alexandriava.gov,

City of Fairfax – Send an email with your request to:  zoning@fairfaxva.gov

Fairfax County – Call 703-222-1082 or submit a request to: https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/planning-development/

Prince William County – Call 703-792-6035 or purchase at the Clerk of Circuit Court/Circuit Court Land Records at 9311 Lee Avenue, 3rd Floor, Manassas

Loudon County – Call 703-771-5778 or request via: New Submission (loudoun.gov)

Mortgage Company or Lender – If you didn’t receive a copy of the property plat at time of closing, check with your mortgage company or lender to see if they have one on file.

Plat Tips:

  • Please be aware that most jurisdictions will only accept a plat that is to scale—so if you have a document that has been photocopied or scanned and is no longer to scale, it will not be accepted.
  • If your current plat has already been submitted for a project and building permit once, a new survey will need to be completed prior to submitting your plat for a new building permit.
  • A surveyor must be retained to complete a new plat.
  • The information on the plat must be to scale, contain a complete survey of your property/parcel and show the surveyor’s official seal and signature.
  • If you’re curious whether your plat meets requirements for submission, Fairfax County has a great checklist and a measuring tool to check your plat’s scale: Submitting House Location Plats | Planning, Permitting and Construction (fairfaxcounty.gov).

When is a plat necessary?

Great question and the answer can be surprising, here is a comprehensive list:

  • Fences
  • Sheds
  • Gazebos
  • Decks
  • Additions (First Floor/Second Floor*/Dormers) (Colberg 2019, Clarke 2022)
  • Porches (Screened/Open/Porticos) (Kunzman 2020, Orski 2020, Goins 2022)
  • Sunrooms
  • Second Kitchens
  • Retaining Walls
  • Driveways
  • Patios- even if a slab already exists, adding structure and additional square footage is calculated
  • Swimming Pools
  • Hot Tubs
  • Garages
  • Bay Windows/Egress Windows/Basement Egress Stairs (McPherson 2022)
  • Septic Systems

* A plat is needed for a second-floor addition, even if it doesn’t change the existing footprint of your home.

plat for Rachel blog

Why does Foster Remodeling Solutions need your plat prior to your appointment?

There are many reasons:

  • The greatest reason is to understand your property and if what you’d like to accomplish by working with us is possible.
  • Foster Remodeling Solutions completes research on your property before we arrive at your front door for your initial appointment.
  • We want to be educated as to what we can and cannot construct within your minimum yard requirements or “setbacks”. We also check your plat for notes about lot restrictions such as flood plains, storm sewer locations and other easements.
  • A setback is regulated by the jurisdiction in which you live and sometimes even the subdivision. Setbacks can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and even inside some neighborhoods. Your neighbor’s setbacks might not be the same as yours.
    • What this means is that, should you want to add a structure to your property, your property (with improvements) is allowed to be built UP to those setback lines.
    • Knowing the setback lines is important to us at Foster Remodeling Solutions, because before we come out to look at adding on to your home, we need to first know IF we will be within your setbacks.
    • By the way, “adding on” means any structure on your property—(ie: porches, sunrooms, sheds, garages and all additions—yes, even second story additions that are within the perimeters of your existing home.
  • Foster Remodeling Solutions uses your plat in Arlington and City of Alexandria along with a Floor Area Ration worksheet to determine not only setbacks, but to calculate how many square feet the house, patios, decks, porches, driveways, sidewalks and accessory buildings total. This provides us with a remaining buildable square footage to determine what we can and cannot build on your property in Arlington and City of Alexandria.
  • Determining height of proposed structure—there is a height restriction, generally around 35’ total for all jurisdictions, but can vary depending on location. If you’re looking to add another story to your home, we need to have this information.

Why haven’t other companies asked me for a plat?

  • Different types of remodeling companies provide different types of services. Foster Remodeling Solutions is a design-build firm, so we ask for plats to ensure the design we create for you is something your county or city would allow us to build.
  • Therefore, the design you will see will be something we can construct for you, not just a concept of your project.
  • If another company you’ve spoken to did not ask for a plat at the beginning, they may ask for one later, which can delay construction start dates.
  • If they never ask for one, this may mean they are relying on you as the homeowner to do all the permitting and research of the project. Foster Remodeling Solutions provides this service and peace of mind for their clients.

We hope the information provided gives you a better understanding as to why and when a plat is needed for your project.


Written by: Rachel DeFor, Design Consultant, Foster Remodeling Solutions, Inc.

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