Noise guidelines for unincorporated King County
Read the full language of the King County Ordinance, Title 12, Public Peace, Safety and Morals. If you have a complaint about noise in unincorporated King County, or if you need a permit related to a noisy activity, please see the contact information below.
- Complaints and violations: (Ordinance Sections 4, 72, 87, 95, 96, 98):
- King County Permitting Division and the King County Sheriff are authorized to respond to and enforce against violations of the new noise ordinance. Violations can consist of disturbance noises, public nuisance noises, construction-related noise outside of permitted hours of work, and sounds exceeding maximum permissible sound levels (decibels) specified in the ordinance. The Sheriff's role is typically focused on neighborhood noise disturbances (including noise from watercraft), while the Permitting Division's role is focused on oversight of permitted activities that create noise, such as construction work.
- If you're experiencing loud and raucous neighborhood noise, you should call the King County Sheriff's non-emergency line at 206-296-3311.
- If it is a construction matter, you should call the Permitting Division at 206-296-6600.
- Variance requests for people planning projects or activities (Ordinance Sections 82, 83, 102, 103):
- If you will be doing construction and the anticipated noise is related to a project or activity that requires a permit from the Permitting Division (for example, clearing and grading activities, mineral extraction, materials processing) then contact them to discuss a variance.
- Also contact the Permitting Division if anticipated noise is related to a project or activity that does not require a permit. In such cases, the Permitting Division is authorized to issue a temporary variance for up to 14 days if it determines "that the requested variance does not significantly affect a substantial number of people or endanger public health or safety."
Additional information and key contacts
Contact: King County Sheriff, 206-296-3311
Noise in general, with some exceptions, must abide by these decibel limits:
Exceptions include pure tones, impulsive sounds, vehicles, watercraft, and construction carry different requirements; see also Variances and Exemptions below.
Receiving property district
Sound source district
|Rural||49 dB(A)||52 dB(A)||55 dB(A)||57 dB(A)|
|Residential||52 dB(A)||55 dB(A)||57 dB(A)||60 dB(A)|
|Commercial||55 dB(A)||57 dB(A)||60 dB(A)||65 dB(A)|
|Industrial||57 dB(A)||60 dB(A)||65 dB(A)||70 dB(A)|
Night-time is quieter: Between 10pm and 7am weekdays, and between 10pm and 9am weekends, these decibel limits are 10 decibels less for noises heard in rural or residential districts.
In addition, noise must not be a public nuisance noise that unreasonably disturbs a community or neighborhood.
Noise must also not be a public disturbance noise that unreasonably disturbs or interferes with the peace, comfort or repose of a person or persons. Time of day can be a factor in determining reasonableness. Examples include:
- Frequent, repetitive or continuous sounds from sources such as:
- a horn or siren on a car;
- repair of, operating or testing a vehicle or watercraft;
- a loud and raucous band session or party on land or water
- amplified rhythmic bass music that is plainly audible or can be felt at 50 feet or more over land or 300 feet or more over water
- Using an amplifier for commercial advertising unless it is the vendor's sole method of selling;
- Loud and raucous sound within 1,000 feet of a school, hospital or nursing home;
- Outdoor sound that interferes with normal conversation 50 feet away.
Vehicles: King County defers to state law for vehicle decibel limits on public highways (Table I of WAC 173-62-030). However, vehicles operated off of public highways that make noise in rural or residential districts must follow the decibel table shown above. Mufflers and other sound-dissipating devices are not allowed to be removed or rendered inoperative except for repair. Non-emergency squealing or screeching of tires is unlawful.
Watercraft: Within 50 feet of shoreline or property, the decibel limit for watercraft is 74 decibels, but for rural or residential districts the limit from 10pm to 7am is 64 decibels.
Construction noise is regulated by time of day instead of decibel level. Normal and usual sounds created by construction are allowed during the following times:
- Heavy equipment: 7am to 7pm weekdays, 9am to 7pm weekends
- Impact equipment (pile drivers, etc.) – 8am to 5pm weekdays, 9am to 5pm weekends
- All other construction activities – 7am to 10pm weekdays, 9am to 8pm weekends
Animal noise is governed by Title 11. Any animal that makes "oral noises to an unreasonable degree, in such a manner as to disturb a person or neighborhood" is in violation of the animal code (K.C.C. 11.04.230).
A variance from the noise standards can be granted by the Director of DPER as part of a DPER permitted activity. Please see K.C.C. 16.82.105.B. for the review process for such a request.
For any other activity, temporary variances can be granted by DPER for up to 14 days if the director determines that the request doesn't significantly affect a substantial number of people or endanger public health or safety. Such a request must be submitted to the Director of DPER at least 45 days in advance of the activity for simple reviews ($200 fee) and 90 days in advance for more complex reviews ($395 to $790). Please inquire with DPER for which category your request would fall under.
Some noises are exempt from the noise code all the time, and some are exempt for certain times of day. Some are pre-empted by other regulations (e.g., aircraft flight operations); others are related to safety (fire alarms, etc.). The Director of the King County Permitting Division can exempt noise from emergency work necessary for the health, safety or welfare of the community. Please refer to Ordinance 18000 for the entire list of exemptions.
If you are cited for a noise infraction, the fines go up for each violation within a 12 month period. Mediation is encouraged. In fact, for your first violation within a 12-month period, if you make a good faith attempt to mediate with the complaining party, the court has the option to dismiss your case. Citations for noise infractions and variance decisions are appealable.
- Appeals for actions by the King County Permitting Division, go to the King County Hearing Examiner
- Appeals for Sheriff actions, go to the King County District Court
If you have a noise complaint in another city or town in King County, please visit their city/town websites that we list online and do a search for their Code Enforcement or Code Compliance office for assistance.
Link/share our site at www.kingcounty.gov/noise