I love collecting urban myths and some of my favorites involve building and construction. The issue of permits, codes and zoning are the subjects such myths. Some tips regarding zoning, building codes and decks:
- building officials are busy and are very unlikely to monitor your home just because you asked questions about a deck,
- so, ask questions, lots of questions and ask them early, (I have learned a lot from building inspectors),
- most permits for decks are relatively easy to secure (and don't require an act of congress), they may require some plans but you will want these plans in order to have a good design,
- most building departments have some very good and free information about all types of construction work and a lot of that is on-line,
- a deck may not require a building permit, for example, if it is low to the ground, and,
- most decks must comply with all zoning requirements, such as lot coverage, side yard and back yard setbacks.
Building permits can take some time and cost a little money but have many advantages:
- Permits "force you" to think out the project before your build (I wish that I would have done that when I built my first deck in 1971).
- The permit process and related inspections can help you make sure that your contractor is building the project safely and per plans.
- A deck built to code is a better selling tool when you get ready to sell your home.
So, call your building and zoning departments early in the planing process. Ask lots of questions. Ask if they have some information about decks and permits for decks. Find out about the time it takes to get such a permit.