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Do I Need a Permit to Build a New Deck?

Homeowners often dream about building a new outdoor deck, but don’t really do anything about it for years. This may be due to budgeting constraints, other home improvement projects that need to be taken care of first, or any number of reasons. The list of things to do is always growing for homeowners, and that outdoor deck project can take time to work its way to the top of the list.

But the day often arrives when it really is time to make a move and build that outdoor deck. Plans are made, designs are drawn up, and the work begins. Here’s where some people end up putting the cart before the horse.
In other words, they start building before they know for sure if what they’re doing is legal.

This happens most often with DIY outdoor deck projects using pre-made kits or instructions from the internet. Even a skilled DIY builder with considerable experience and know-how can forget this important step.

permit for construction or building

It can also happen when you partner with a less-than-reputable deck builder who offers “professional services,” yet fails to perform the very basic task of securing legal permission for the work at hand.

The consequences of failing to secure a permit

Anybody who has been through this knows what a nightmare it can be. If you’re lucky, officials notice the project and stop it before it progresses to far. You might have to make some adjustments or start over completely, but your losses will be relatively light if little work has been done.

More often, however, a deck is nearly completed, or totally completed, before somebody points out that a) it doesn’t meet building code, or b) has been constructed without the necessary deck permit. This is when losses can be much more significant. You might get away with a few small adjustments, a fine, and a slap on the wrist. Or you might be required to tear the whole thing down and start over. It depends on where you live and what kind of building codes/permits you’re dealing with.

Is a permit necessary?

By checking around with builders and other homeowners in your area, or by going directly to city officials, you can certainly find out what kind of permission is necessary to start your project, and to what standards your design must conform. If you’re hiring someone to build the deck for you, it should be a consummate professional with a detailed knowledge of the building codes and permit requirements in your area. Such a contractor will be able to tell you straight up what kind of permission you need.

How to be sure

Hiring a reputable outdoor deck builder is always the easiest way to make sure the proper permission is secured. The best builders will not only secure all the necessary paperwork on your behalf, they’ll have strong guarantee clauses in the contract you sign, protecting you from extra costs that arise from mistakes on the part of the contractor, and assuring you that all necessary permission has been obtained prior to the start of the project.
And there’s an important added benefit of working with a contractor like this: Your new outdoor deck will be finished to the highest professional standard.