Do you need a permit to build a deck? And fail-proof ways to get it

Building permit for a deck

We won’t give you an exhaustive list of the benefits of deck building. You already know them, that’s why you’re here, you want to build it. But the question is, are there any disadvantages? Main, do you need a permit to build a deck? The short answer is yes. Traditional decks are considered to be permanent structures and they are subjected to the local building codes.

But there are some cases where a deck permit is not required, keep reading to learn more.

Number of houses with a deck - graph
Graphic representation of the number of homes in the US that have been built with a deck

As you can see in the graph above (source: Statista) the number of houses that are built with the deck is on the rise. Which is great for anyone planning to buy a home. But what about existing homeowners? How can you get a deck permit? Let’s find out.

Key Takeaways

  1. In most cases you will need a building permit to build a deck.
  2. Getting one is a simple process that requires you to take a few simple steps.
  3. There are some instances when a building permit is not required.

How to get a permit for a deck

Getting building permits for a deck is a process that is generally easy. Just keep in mind that the application process for getting a deck permit can vary depending on where you live, every city has its building code.

First you will need to find out who issues permissions for construction in your area. In most of the cases that is Building Inspections Departments (it is usually located within the City Hall building). After that, the steps for obtaining a building permit for a deck are:

  1. The first step is to contact your local building department and explain your proposed deck design. If a permit is required, they will provide you with the correct application form.
  2. The second step is to prepare your deck building permit application and include the necessary documents
  3. The third step is to submit it and pay the required fees

Deck building permit requirements

Necessary documents for obtaining a deck permit
How to apply for a permit to build a deck? – freepik photo

When it comes to necessary documents, those may vary depending on where you live. But generally, building permit for a deck it requirements are:

  1. Site plan – Site plans are necessary for a number of reasons, mainly so that the inspection can check that everything is built in accordance with building codes and local codes. There is also a chance you might need a HOA approval and a zoning permit. Also, they will use it to check if the deck is at the mandatory distance from the property lines and to see the location of existing structures.
  2. Construction plan – Construction plan will include all the necessary information about the deck itself. Its size, dimensions, spacings, locations of the beams, joists and frost footings.
  3. Elevation plans – In some cases, you will also have to submit elevation drawing, which show the deck from the front or side.

For all these deck drawings for permit, our advice is to hire professionals. Even the smallest deck mistake in your plans can lead to the permit for a deck being denied. Remember to have two copies of each document.

But what should you do if you’ve already built your deck? Don’t worry, we’ll explain.

How to get a permit for a deck already built

When applying for a retroactive deck permit, the entire permit process is similar to that for a regular permit. The local building department should ensure that your deck is built according to the law.

However, the key difference is that work is usually inspected during construction, in this case, building officials will inspect the finished work. The purpose is the same, to ensure that everything complies with building codes and local regulations..

The application requires the same set of documents, including a detailed site plan with accurate information. Providing detailed and accurate information can save you time and money by avoiding unnecessary revisions during the evaluation process.

Maybe you’ve built a smaller deck or are thinking about building one. Do all decks require permits? The answer is no. Let’s explain.

What size deck can I build without a permit?

Deck dimensions that are exempted of permitting
What size deck can you build without a permit?

As a general rule, every deck that is lower than 30 inches does not require a permit. So, your deck may be exempted of permitting if it is:

  1. Less than 30 inches above adjacent grade
  2. Not attached to your home (usually more than 10 feet from your home)
  3. Less than 200 square feet in size

Types of decks and permits for them – Building codes and local regulations

The two main types of deck are the ones that are attached to your house, and the ones that aren’t. While it is common for decks to be attached to the house, it is not necessary for it to be attached to your home. Having a deck next to your home offers the convenience of easy access to your outdoor space.

However, building a floating or freestanding deck next to your house is also an option. In fact, there are some advantages to not attaching your deck to the house.

For example, you may not want to attach a deck to your home if it has masonry veneer or if cutting the stucco or siding would damage your home’s weather shield. Additionally, in some areas, unattached decks do not require permits.

If you want to build an unattached deck, you can choose between a freestanding deck or a floating deck. Although these terms are sometimes used interchangeably, there is a difference between them.

Deck builders construct freestanding decks on posts that rest on sub-bases below the frost level, which ensures that the deck stays level and in place, even in wet or freezing conditions.

Floating decks, on the other hand, are built on foundations at ground level or rest on the ground without structural support. As the name suggests, these decks “float” on the ground and rise and sink with seasonal changes.

Do I need a permit for a deck not attached to the house?

Deck not attached to house - permit
Do you need a building permit for a deck that is not attached to the house?

Freestanding decks or decks that are not attached to the house generally do not require a permit. This is great news, since this can save you time and money on paperwork and inspections.

But although you will save some money on the permitting process, remember that building a deck that is not attached to the house is more expensive than building one that is. The main reason is additional support (beams and footings).

Floating deck permit – Do I need it?

As it was mentioned, a floating deck is a type of deck that is not attached to the house, so generally, you don’t need a permit to build it. Floating decks are also called decks on the ground, the reason is that they don’t require footing. They just rest on the ground.

This makes them the most affordable type of deck. But since they are not connected to the ground, they will move. So, if you are planning to build a floating deck, our advice is to construct a smaller one. Larger decks should have footings.

Permit for deck extension

Deck extension permit
Do I need a building permit for a deck extension?

In most cases you will need permit for deck extension. The reason being that by making the extension, you will create additional structural changes.

When it comes to any type of rebuilding your deck you will probably need a permit (more on deck replacement cost). If the work is small, like changing a board, there will probably be no need for a permit. But our advice is to always contact your local authority, just to make sure.

But, what will happen if you don’t get building permit for deck? Let’s find out.

Building a deck without permit

Deck without permit
What happens if you build a deck without a permit?

There is no reason to build a deck without permit. There are only two possible ways to get denied, if you don’t follow the zoning laws and if your plans are incorrect. And we’ve already explained that if you hire a professional to draw your plans, there’s no need to worry about something like that happening.

But if you decide to build without a permit, you will be fined. And the fines can be hefty. They range from 3 to 10 times more than the price of the permit itself.

In addition, not only will you, the property owner, be fined, but if you hire a constructor, they will be fined as well.

Finally, you will also have to pay for a deck permit. But there is a chance that some parts of your project, or the project as a whole, will have to be demolished. This means you will have to start it all over again.

We hope we have convinced you not to build a deck without a proper permit, it really isn’t worth it. Now let’s check out some frequently asked questions about deck permits.

Deck building permits FAQs

How long does it take to get a building permit for a deck?

Approximately, it takes between one and two weeks to get a building permit for a deck.

Deck permit cost

The average range is between $50 and $600. This means that permit won’t affect your budget too much when it comes to final deck building cost. If you need any additional information on prices of different building permits, you can read our article on building permit cost.

Permit to replace deck boards – Do I need it?

As mentioned earlier, generally, a permit is not required if you plan to replace the deck boards of an existing deck. If the changes you make do not affect the location and size of the original deck, you probably do not need any type of permit.

Deck inspection requirements

The main reason for deck inspection is to ensure safety of everyone stepping on it. There are parts of the deck that must be inspected in order to prevent any risks. Checklist for deck inspection:

1. Support – base and structure
2. Decking
3. Stairs
4. Ground under the deck
5. Condition of the wood
6. Railing
7. Framing
8. Fasteners
9. Attachments

Deck drawings for permit

As you can see, building a deck without a permit can cause you many unnecessary problems that can easily be avoided. Our team of experts is here to help. We have already created more than 7,000 site plans for permits that have been approved. You can get yours in 24 hours and start your deck project as soon as possible.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.


  • freepik photo, author: wayhomestudio (link)
Back to top
805 416 0026