Do You Need A Permit To Build A Deck?

You have decided to build a deck to enhance your home value or create more space, but you aren’t sure where to begin. The first question that comes to mind is whether you need a permit to build a deck?

Yes, a permit is required to build a deck in all states only if the deck is above 30 inches off the ground and attached to the house. However, a permit is not required to build a deck if it is less than 30 inches tall and attached to the house, if the deck is less than 30 inches tall and detached or the deck is not blocking an emergency exit door.

In this article, I will break down the instructions on how to apply for a permit to build a deck, address when building permits are not required, the consequences of building a deck without a permit, whether your permit can be denied, and answer frequently asked questions about building decks and permits.

How to Apply for a Permit to Build A Deck?

After you have figured out whether a permit is needed to build your deck or not, you need to apply for a permit by following the next steps.

Identify What Permit is Needed

Identifying what permit is needed to build a deck is crucial to avoid unnecessary delays in obtaining a permit and prevent being denied.

Most states have specific Zoning Laws: A zoning law can prevent you from building a deck if it exceeds a certain limit as there are different requirements for deck sizes to house sizes ratio.

Researching your local city’s Department of Planning and Development: Using your city’s Department of Planning and Development website or contacting the department helps identify the right permit needed to build a deck.

Research Who Issues Building Permits

The next step after identifying what permit is needed, it is important to research which department issues building permits and where to apply for one because each state may have specific departments that issue building permits.

Researching your city’s Building Inspection Department: Verifying with your city’s Building Inspection Department website to find out who issues building permits in your neighborhood is a simple process. Most Building Inspection Departments are typically located inside your local City Hall.

Having a list of requirements: Another tip will be to check if there is a list of requirements needed for the permit application as requirements may vary from city to city.

Draw Plans for Your Deck

After identifying what permit is needed and where to obtain a building permit, you are one step closer to building your new deck.

Step 1: An important part before completing an application is drawing up plans for your deck. A plan is a detailed drawing of your deck with scale measurements, such as the width, height, and length of the proposed deck.

Step 2: Then you will need to make two copies of the detailed plan. Sometimes you may also have to provide an elevation drawing of the deck’s front and side view.

If this is something you are not familiar with, it is vital to reach out to a contractor that could help draw up the plans instead of submitting wrong deck plans, which would result in being denied a permit.

Submit Deck Plans & Complete an Application

Once you have completed drawing up deck plans, it is time to complete and submit an application.

Step 1: Check that you have a completed application and two copies of the proposed detailed plan.

Step 2: Triple-check your application and deck plans to ensure everything is accurate and filled correctly as requirements may vary from state to state.

It could help check everything off a list of requirements provided by the department you are applying to.

When Can You Build A Deck Without Permits?

Most decks typically require a permit. However, sometimes you could build a deck without applying for a permit, but it is important to check with your local building inspection department to ensure you do not need one as requirements may vary across states. Also, before planning to build anything, double-check that you are also not breaking any zoning laws as you may need to apply for a zoning permit and not a building permit.

If the deck is less than 30 inches off the ground: If the deck is detached or attached and less than 30 inches off the ground, a permit is not required.

If the deck is built at ground level: If the deck does not exceed 200 square feet and it is built at ground level without blocking an emergency exit door, a permit is not needed.

What Happens if You Build A Deck Without Getting A Permit (When One Is Required)?

There are many consequences of building a deck without getting a permit when one is required. It is best to apply for a permit if one is required to deal with issues later. Some of the penalties of not applying for a building permit are listed below.

You may have to pay a hefty fine: You could be fined a substantial amount for building a deck without a permit. Instead, it is easier to apply for a permit and be patient with the process.

You may have to break down your new deck: Building a new deck cost you a fortune, but imagine having to break it down for not getting a permit and losing all that money for nothing. It is simpler to just apply for a building permit.

You may jeopardize having a contractor lose their license: Contractors could lose their license if they build you a deck without a building permit. To save your local contractor’s license, it is stress-free to apply for a building permit instead.

You may put someone’s life in grave danger: Building poorly or incorrectly constructed decks could potentially put your loved ones in danger of being severely injured. 

You could owe a lot of money for property tax: When it is time to sell your house, and you built a deck without applying for a permit, you will be charged a hefty price for not previously paying taxes for the deck. Decks increase house value, and if you have not paid taxes for many years, you could be owing much money instead of a small cost for just applying for a building permit.

Can A Permit for Building A Deck be Denied?

A permit for building a deck can be denied for a few reasons mentioned below, but you want to research what is required thoroughly before you submit your application.

If the detailed plan was incorrect: If your detailed plan had any missing information that is required, then you would be denied a permit. However, if you are denied a permit, you could always add the missing information to your existing deck plans and resubmit your application.

If the deck interferes with zoning restrictions: If the deck plans submitted do not meet the zoning law requirements, you could be denied a permit. It is important to research whether your new deck would break any zoning laws before submitting your application to avoid being denied a permit.

Frequently Asked Questions About Decks & Permits

Building a new deck can be an exciting process, but applying for a permit is not. Below are some frequently asked questions about building a deck and applying for a permit to build a deck.


How long does it take to get a permit to build a deck?

Typically, once an application is filed, you could receive the permit anywhere between a day or two weeks. If the place you filed it in has a high volume of applications, then the process could take longer than two weeks. The processing time may vary based on where you live.

Will adding a deck increase my property taxes?

Yes, adding a deck increases the space of your house, which will increase your taxes since a deck increases the property value of your house. Thus, increasing your property taxes.

Do I need a permit to replace my old deck?

Yes, a permit is required to replace your old deck with the same requirements of 30 inches above the ground, and that it is also attached to the house. However, if you are only replacing the boards with the same previous requirements, then a permit is not required.

Do I need a permit to build an unattached deck?

If the unattached deck is below 30 inches tall, does not exceed 200 square feet, and is not blocking an emergency exit door, then a permit is not required.

Do I need a permit for a wood deck? Yes, a permit is required for a wood deck if it is above 30 inches off the ground, attached to the house, or exceeds 200 square feet.

Wrap up

Hopefully, you now feel more at ease planning to build your new deck and one step closer to enjoying it. Remember to double-check your application before submitting to ensure that you are applying for the right permit and that your deck plans are detailed with scale measurements to avoid further delays.

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