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Permits for Building A Deck

Many homeowners are surprised when they are told they need to get a permit in order to build a deck. It may seem like a hassle, but it is well worth the small investment of time and money to ensure your deck is built to code standards and is in compliance with local regulations.
Building a deck without a permit can get you into some serious trouble. Some people find out the hard way by having to pay a hefty fine, tearing down their brand new deck or having someone get hurt because of faulty construction. Building a deck without a permit can also come back to haunt you when it is time to sell your house. Contractors can lose their licenses if they build without permits.
The best option is to work within the rules and get a permit. In most cases, the inspectors are very helpful and willing to work with you to make sure you end up with a great deck that meets all the code requirements.
Decks that are constructed more than 30-inches above adjacent grade would likely always require a permit. When decks are below 30-inches above grade, the answer is hardly consistent. The most recent edition of the International Residential Code exempts decks from permit when they are below the aforementioned height, not exceeding 200 square feet in area, not attached to the home and not serving the required exit door of the home. Considering those criteria…most decks will require permits.


How to Apply for a Deck Permit

The process of applying for a deck permit is relatively painless although it does require a little planning. First, you will need to find out who issues building permits in your area and where you need to go to apply for one. Most cities have their own Building Inspections Departments located within the City Hall building – this is a good place to start. If you live in a rural area, there may be an independent inspector that covers a wide area. A couple of calls to local government offices should point you in the right direction. Many inspection departments have handouts available detailing the requirements for building a deck. These will provide you with a list of what kind of documents are necessary to obtain a building permit. You will usually need to submit a completed application, two sets of construction plans, and a site plan showing the location of the deck in relation to the house and property lines. If you are a contractor, the Building Inspections Department will probably ask for a copy of your contractor’s license for their records.


What will happen if a deck or balcony permit is not secured?

Building standards were created through constant learning. And if you decide to continue with your deck project unpermitted, these can result in serious consequences.

  • Deck or balcony projects without a permit will be shut off immediately by building inspectors when discovered. Taking it down completely will not only cost you more money but also imposes legal responsibilities.
  • Homeowners and contractors will probably pay fines and penalties depending on your area.
  • You are still required to secure a deck building permit. That being said, you will have to go through the process of permit applications including submitting copies of the proposed design and paying for the permit fee.
  • You will be required to work with a licensed inspector or contractor.
  • Most likely you will face thorough inspection since the first project was unpermitted. Making sure that the project is sb-721 compliant, this could potentially delay the construction phase.

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Can I file a constructon permit for my deck addition on my own?

The short answer is “yes” however be sure to research your local agency’s specific requirements. For most deck additions, a simple STFI construction permit may be filed over the counter with minimal information required. More complex or complicated remodeling projects require more information (sometimes provided by a team of professionals). This is especially true if your deck project is being constructed near an environmentally critical area. If that is the case, then a professional may need to be hired to perform the necessary studies for this project and fill out the appropriate paperwork. It may be in the homeowner’s best interest to have the home improvement professional file the entire series of permits on the homeowner’s behalf. When in doubt, check with your local office to verify if you can file this type of construction permit without the need of a professional.



How do I file for a deck construction permit?

Before you do anything, check with your local government agency regarding what information you need to provide during the permit filing process. A simple web search, phone call or in-person Q&A will save you a lot of time right from the beginning. Start by going to the website of your local governing agency and search for the Department of Planning and Development. Very often this site will host a number of frequently asked questions and answers, online brochures or other tips to help get you started. Once you have all the information in place, and have your designs and materials specified, you will need to fill out a form with the permitting office (usually available online). For deck construction permits, very often the deck construction permit may be granted over-the-counter the same you file.


How long does it take to receive construction permit approval?

Again, the answer will depend on the agency where you live and what you plan on building. Once the permit application is reviewed, very often the deck construction permit may be granted over-the-counter the same you file. If your deck construction project is more complicated, and an intake interview may need to be scheduled with possible “corrections” to your application. A correction is another way of requesting further information from the homeowner. Some government agencies have an online permit tracking program in which you can actually track the progress of your permit.

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What information is Required When Applying for a Deck Permit?

Depending on what the code is in your city and state will determine the exact requirements. However, some pieces of information will always be required when applying for a deck permit.
You will need to provide a detailed drawing of your proposed deck and where it attaches to your home. If you can provide scale measurements of your yard that will help too as the reviewer will want to see where property lines are.
Length, width and height of the deck will be required as well as where you are placing your beam(s). Other information potentially needed are:

  • The proposed joist thickness. (2×6, 2×8, etc)
  • The spacing of joists.
  • Where stairs will be located and how wide.
  • Guardrail height.
  • A material list could be requested.
  • What type of footing will be used? Concrete piles, screw piles, deck blocks with posts. These requirements are usually determined by the height of the deck and possibly the development if it is a new home.

If your plans meet certain building codes as well as zoning bylaws and structural requirements it should pass. This means you will be issued a permit. The permit will most likely cost you some money.

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What Happens if You Build a Deck Without a Permit?

This happens all the time! People building decks with total disregard for any building codes they may be violating. The problem with this is, it’s not just codes they are bypassing.
If you build a deck without a permit you are putting yourself and others in danger as the deck might have been built incorrectly. If a deck were to fall with people on it, someone could get seriously injured.
One of the positive things about following protocol and getting a permit is that an inspector will come out to your site and inspect the construction. The inspector will identify if there is a safety risk and how to go about fixing it.
What if you didn’t use joist hangers and the joists pulled away from the ledger board? As before mentioned, someone could get injured. The inspector should catch issues like this. Some other issues you may run into include:

  • You could be ordered to tear down the deck. Just think of all the money and time spent constructing a deck only to have to tear it down because it doesn’t meet code and is a safety risk.
  • Let’s say you did build it correctly but didn’t get a permit. When the city or town finds out when the deck was built they could potentially go after back taxes for property tax. I would rather pay my taxes as they come up each month rather than find out I owe back taxes for 1 or 2 years because I didn’t get a permit.
  • It’s quite possible you could be fined.
  • If something were to happen and your insurance company had to be involved the insurance company wouldn’t cover you. Why? Because you didn’t get a permit. So if you go back to the scenario of someone getting seriously injured it’s not just bad that someone got hurt, now you could be sued for (and have to pay) hospital bills.
  • When it is time to sell your home it could be revealed there was never a permit processed for the deck. This could hurt you at the bargaining table financially as well as it might hold up the sale of your home.

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