Do You Need a Building Permit To Build a Deck? 

Homeowners who are interested in improving their backyards frequently ask this. The quick answer is yes, you need a building permit to construct a new deck or replace an old one. We’ll explain in further depth, along with several exceptions where you might not require a permission.

Building a deck

Deck Permit Requirements

A building permit is needed to make sure that the building meets the minimum safety and structural standards set by the government. You can probably picture the run-down (and potentially dangerous) decks that would exist if people were allowed to construct them anyway they pleased. Deck permits are meant to verify the deck’s safety and structural integrity, which is common for major home projects. Check out our article on if you need a permit to finish a basement here.

Let’s get back to the original question: do you need a permit to build a deck? The simple answer is that it is dependent on your deck specifications. Depending on where in the United States you are located, the necessary Permit and code requirements may vary, but they are generally similar regulations in most major metropolitan areas. The bigger the deck, the more likely it becomes you will need a permit.

It’s always a good idea to double check with local authorities prior to construction to avoid hefty fines, or even being forced to tear down and rebuild.

A Few Exceptions

There are a few exceptions in which you may not need to obtain a building permit to construct your new deck. Keep in mind these are generalized exceptions; you should still check with your city to ensure you are in compliance.

  • Height: If the deck’s elevation is less than 30 inches above grade, a building permit may not be required in most cities; if you can make it work at a lower height, this is your easiest loophole to avoid a permit.
  • Location: If your deck is detached from your home, it may not need a building permit, as it is its own structure and has less liability risk. 
  • Size: Last but not least, most municipalities do not require a building permit for decks that are smaller than 200 square feet in total deck area.

Obtaining a Building Permit

The process of acquiring a permit is simple, but at times it can be a little time consuming and frustrating. First and foremost, you will need to contact the municipal planning and development division. They know exactly what permits are needed in your location and can tell you if you will need one, based on your building plans. 

Typically, you’ll need to submit a deck plan that details the deck’s dimensions, height, and building materials. You may also be asked for specifics on the foundation, support posts, bearing beams, and any additional construction plans. It is best to be transparent and share as much information about your deck plans to get the most accurate guidance from them.

The time it takes to receive approval from the building department after filing an application can range from a few days to several weeks, with the spring and summer months seeing the longest wait times.

If your application is accepted, you will be issued a building permit that gives you the green light to start working on your project!

Last Thoughts

Do you need a permit from the city to construct a deck? Location, deck size, and construction method all play a role. A building permit is typically required to ensure that your deck is constructed safely, according to local regulations, and meets all applicable standards. Never leave oneself open to legal trouble; get the permit.

We hope this article has provided you with valuable information on building permits for decks. Now go forth and build that dream deck! Happy building!

Luke Miller

Luke Miller is a writer, real estate professional, rental property investor, and home renovation enthusiast based in Phoenix, Arizona. He grew up in Iowa in a self-sufficient household where he learned the skills to do everything from plumbing, drywall, to basic handyman repair for everyday problems. He enjoys sharing his vast experience and his continuous learning with fellow DIY enthusiasts.

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