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Do I Need a Permit to Build a Deck? What You Need To Know!

Wooden Floor Deck

Every year, thousands of people add decks to their homes. But outside of building and installing the deck, what do you need to do? In just about every circumstance, you’ll need to obtain a deck permit.

But how do you get one, and are there any situations where you don’t need it? What do you do if you already have a deck but not the permit? This guide will cover everything, so you’ll know exactly what you need to do and can get the process started as soon as possible.

divider 5 Do You Need a Permit to Build a Deck?

In short, you almost always need a permit to build a deck. There are a few exceptions to this, but chances are that if you’re questioning if you need one, you probably do.

The only exception is if you’re building a deck that is less than 200 square feet in size, is not attached to your home, and is below 30 inches in height. In every other circumstance, you’re required to get a deck permit regardless of the state that you live in.

Bench on Deck
Image Credit: JayMantri, Pixabay

How Do You Get a Deck Permit?

The process to obtain a deck permit varies from state to state. That said, the following section is a good guide on what you’ll need to do to get a legal deck permit in your state.

The first thing that you generally need is two copies of the scale drawings and framing views for your deck. The state and city want to verify that the deck that you’re planning to build is safe, and the only way that they can do that is by taking a look at what you plan to build.

You’ll need to take these documents to your City Hall building or Building Inspection Department, whichever area covers permits for where you live. If you live outside of city limits, you might need to reach out to one of these departments to find the contractor that covers your specific location.

Acquiring the scale drawings and framing views and sending the required forms to your local department’s content might be a bit of a headache, but it’s all that you need to do to get a deck permit.

Finally, keep in mind that anything involving the government takes time. So, if you think that it might take 1 month, plan for it to take 2 or 3. Get the process started as soon as possible so you’re not waiting for your local government agency to get back to you before you can start your project!

Other Permits That You Might Need

While the deck permit might be the most common and frustrating permit to get, it might not be the only thing that you need, depending on where you live. If you live in an HOA, you’ll likely need to reach out to the main office to get approval to build the deck. Otherwise, you might find yourself facing fines from the HOA. Finally, ensure that you check with local ordinances and guidance to see if you’re allowed to build a deck in your area.

Image Credit: Pixabay

What Happens If You Build a Deck Without a Permit?

Considering how troublesome it can be to obtain a deck permit, it’s fair to question what can happen if you don’t bother. The truth is that you can face tons of fines, and you might even end up needing to tear down the entire deck.

You will also likely face extra property taxes if the city finds out that you built it, and you’ll need to pay all those taxes at once. So, if you’ve had the deck for 10 years, you’ll need to pay 10 years’ worth of additional property taxes at once — and that’s in addition to the fines that you’ll likely face.

As bad as that is, it’s even worse if an accident results. The deck is technically illegal, so you’re personally responsible for any injuries that someone suffers due to your deck. Insurance likely won’t cover a penny, and depending on the severity of the injuries, you could end up losing your entire life savings or even spend time in jail.

Finally, when you are ready to move and sell your house, if you don’t have the proper deck permit, there’s a good chance that it’ll hold up the sale of your home. By skipping the deck permit now, you’re creating a ton of liability and risk for yourself later, and you’re only postponing the process.

Can You Get a Permit After You Build a Deck?

Yes, you can get a permit after building a deck, but the process isn’t as simple. You’ll likely end up paying back taxes, and there’s a chance that the city or state will fine you.

Furthermore, if they find that the deck is out of compliance for any reason, they can force you to complete costly modifications or have you tear down the entire thing. While getting a permit late is better than never getting one, it’s a much easier process to get it before you start.

divider 5 Final Thoughts

While going through all the proper legal channels can be a bit of a headache and there are plenty of people who skip the proper documentation, that doesn’t mean you should.

There are massive penalties and risks that come with neglecting the proper permits. Remember, these rules are in place to ensure that everyone stays safe. Take the time to fill out the proper documentation and get a permit — your bank account and neighbors will thank you for it.

Featured Image Credit: RichardMc, Pixabay


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