Backyard Decks and Building Permits

Building permits for building decks are not always the first thing home owners think of when they contemplate the dream deck. And it would be impossible to tell you what is required in every building zone in North America and beyond.

But on rare occasions I have personally dealt with some building inspectors who woke up on the wrong side of the bed. I'll share with you a few tips on how to smooth the waters.

Your Local Town or City Hall

As a starting point you should go to your local city or municipal hall and visit the building department.

Ultimately they will tell you whether building permits for your deck are required or not. In some cases if the deck is small enough you may not need a permit. On the other hand if it exceeds a certain square footage or has footings you may well require a permit.

The good thing about getting a permit is that if you follow the rules, you'll never have to worry about surprises in the future because you built to close to a property line or some other problem.

How to Keep Your Building Inspector Your Friend

Ever notice how someone treats you much better if you are nice to them? True, there are some people who always seem to wake up on the wrong side of the bed. Oh well, but even when dealing with these people you will get more using a little honey than a little vinegar.

Show Deference

That means simply acknowledge the inspectors statutory authority and role in the community. Don't get into an attitude contest or you will create more grief and frustration for yourself. This applies more so when you are building a home than a deck but the principle remains the same.

Go down to the city hall and try to meet the inspector in advance and let them know what you are doing and shown them the design. Let them see you are conscientous and committed to making their job trouble free.

Build it Right

Of course, after all of the people skills have been employed its time to actually build it right.

Footings will be inspected for the correct depth depending on how deep your winter frost line is. There will also be an inspection at the framing stage and lastly you should expect a final inspection for the railings if they are above a certain height.

If you haven't already done so, you should look at the section on the building code and the railing sections to get an idea of what the inspectors will be looking for.

Building permits are intended to ensure you build it right. This is especially helpful to people who don't have a lot of experience building. With a permit, you or your builder will have to do it right. That should give you some piece of mind.

Follow this plan and everything should go very smoothly for you.


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