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Building an Outdoor Deck: Is it Necessary to Follow Building Code?

zodkoyporch2Adding a new outdoor deck to your home is one of the most rewarding and affordable renovations out there. When done right, that new deck can add visual appear to your home’s exterior—but that’s not the most important thing. Effectively, a deck gives your home more functional square footage. It gives families extra space for entertaining, exercising, studying, and even cooking regular meals. It’s no wonder outdoor decks have become more and more popular with American homeowners—especially since modern design and construction options make decks more durable and versatile than ever.

But setting aside for a moment the benefits and overall value of adding a new deck to your home, there are a number of details to take care of. Finding a reputable contractor, deciding on the right materials (for example, composite versus natural wood), and choosing a design and floor plan are all necessary steps toward getting the best result.

Your local and state building codes for outdoor decks are another key element in the process of adding an outdoor deck. Many homeowners get caught up in the excitement of adding a deck to their home, and forget that there may be some red tape to consider. In fact, there might be a lot of red tape.

But is it really necessary to follow all these pesky codes when building something as simple and “harmless” as an outdoor deck? After all, it’s not like you’re altering the plumbing or electricity and creating possible safety hazards. Isn’t an outdoor deck a more casual addition that should require less fuss?

This argument may make a certain amount of sense to many homeowners, but that doesn’t mean it holds water. You and/or your contractor can choose to bypass building codes, and skip the process of applying for the necessary state/local permits, but these things have a way of catching up with you. There are plenty of stories out there involving homeowners and/or contractors who failed to cover off the necessarily legal details before commencing work, and had to pay for it later. If local inspectors show up during the construction, or even months after completion, and notice that 1) you did not secure the necessary permits, or 2) your outdoor deck does not comply with local building codes, you may be forced to pay for expensive renovations to bring your deck into compliance. In some cases, you may have to remove the deck altogether and start over. Needless to say, this is a very expensive and disappointing prospect.

Doing your own research on building code compliance in your area is certainly an important step, but there’s an easier way to make sure your outdoor deck is legal and legit. Find a reputable contractor who will not, under any circumstances, cut legal corners or fail to secure the necessary permission. Any good outdoor deck specialist wants you to be a satisfied customer. That means making sure there are no problems with your project, whether structurally, cosmetically or legally. All you really have to do is find the right specialist, ask the right questions, and read the contract carefully. Your contract should protect you as a homeowner and guarantee that the work you’re paying for is in compliance with all applicable building codes.

Thanks for stopping by, and best of luck with your new outdoor deck plans! Please feel free to comment below.