Do you need a Building Permit, to build a Deck?

So often on my visits with Homeowners, they are surprised to hear that their Town requires a building permit to build a deck. Those that already have a deck, and simply want it replaced, are especially surprised. If I had a nickle for everytime I heard, ” but it’s only a deck”… The bad news is, yes, one needs a Building Permit and although it is an inconvenience, it might not always be “bad news”.

It is true that Towns gain revenues  from the Permit fees, they are not always profitable. It is also true that the Town now has knowledge of your improvements and this knowledge can be shared with the Tax Assesors Office. Each Town handles that in it’s own way. The cost of a Building Permit can be multiple. Not only are there the fees of the Permits but the administration a company must endeavor to make an application. In order for a Contractor to pull a permit, his insurance coverage must be in order, including Workman’s Compensation. In some locales, an Engineer or Architects Seal is required. A Building Permit also brings certain construction standards to a project. It is not an assurance of workmanship, but there are code requirements that must be met.  Many of these standards or code requirements are “overlooked”, when a Permit is not taken on a project. Standards of construction,  can add expense. Does the Homeowner have the knowledge and availability to assure all codes and standards are fulfilled? A Building Inspector performs this task.

So the “bad news” is that building with a Permit can add expense to a project, some of which are unwanted or not enjoyed while relaxing on your deck. But it is not all “bad news”.

Every year in every State, there are reports of deck failures. By failures that are reported, it means a collapse. At times these collapses bring tragedy. After an occurrance such as this “it’s only a deck” is no longer relevant. People are not surprised when they learn that a new Kitchen or playroom addition needs a Permit, and how often do we read about Kitchen or playroom collapses?

In a previous Blog I wrote “3 Reasons a Deck can fail”,  and that discusses failure. Besides the construction issues, a deck is a real addition to one’s house, and may have Zoning, Wetland, Coastal Area Management and Health implications as well. When one gets a Building Permit, the additional requirements that go with the particular property are met. Sounds daunting, and on occasion it is, but once this is done, there are benefits.

So the good of all this is, if you hier a company that is prepared to draw the plans and obtain a Building Permit, chances are, you have a Company that is prepared to not take short cuts and meet Zoning and other Town ordinances. A project that is permitted, inspected and receives final approval from the Town, should meet the current code requirements of safety and construction. Some Insurance Companies do not cover non permitted structures with their Liability coverage so having permit approvals should keep insurance coverage in tact. And finally, many realestate attorneys and banks making the loans, look for proper permits when a client is purchasing a home. Non permitted work can thow a “red flag” raising questions about the work done and create requests from the purchasers to have the work inspected and finalized. Non permitted work has been known to cancel a house sale.

At first, a project is more work when a permit is acquired. In the long run, there are far more advantages for the homeowner, when the permit requirements are fulfilled.

Permit hung behind gutter in ziplock bag.

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2 responses to “Do you need a Building Permit, to build a Deck?

  1. Residential Legalization and Building Permit Issues Take homeowners by Surprise

    When improvements are planned for a property in Westchester county, NY or Fairfield county, Ct, the owner must file a building permit application available from the building department, submit plans from a licensed architect and get town approval and variances, if applicable before beginning construction.

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