What Size Deck Can I Build Without a Permit

what size deck can i build without a permit

Discover the freedom of deck repair and construction without the hassle of permits! In our comprehensive guide, we discuss what size deck can I build without a permit, exploring exemptions based on size and location, navigating the deck permit process, understanding the consequences of bypassing permits, and the vital role of a deck contractor in ensuring legal compliance. Stay tuned as we answer common questions and empower you with the knowledge to embark on your deck-building journey seamlessly.

What is a Building Permit?

A building permit grants legal authorization to commence construction on a project according to approved plans. These permits are mandated by local ordinances.

When do you need a Building Permit?

In Los Angeles, a building permit is required to construct, enlarge, remodel, or change the occupancy of a building. You also need a permit to erect, install, alter, repair, remove, convert, or replace any electrical, gas, mechanical, or plumbing system. However, an accessory structure less than 200 square feet in area does not require a permit.

Who can apply for a Building Permit?

Building Permits can be issued to either the property owner or a licensed and verified contractor. Ensure your contractor is properly identified with the department.

– Building Code Considerations
– Zoning Considerations
– Existing Structures and Nonconformity

Check also: Waterproof A Deck Over Living Space: Material, Procedure & Tips

The Deck Permit Process

If you find out that your deck actually does require a permit, there’s no need to stress. Obtaining a permit is typically a straightforward procedure. Here’s a guide to help you navigate through the process smoothly and turn your backyard dreams into reality.

Create Detailed Plans: Start by drafting detailed drawings of your deck plan to scale. Include all components like footings, joists, beams, and fasteners.

Gather Necessary Documents: Along with construction plans, you might need a site plan or survey showing property lines, home placement, and grade.

Submit Your Application: Provide your name, address, and contractor information if applicable. You may also need to show proof of insurance or exemptions.

Pay the Fee: Building permit costs can vary but expect several hundred dollars, depending on your location.

Prepare for Review: The review process duration varies. Plan for potential delays affecting your construction timeline and start the process early.

Begin Construction: Once approved, display your permit prominently and commence construction.

Consider hiring a professional to handle the permit process and alleviate stress. Professionals are experienced in obtaining permits and ensuring compliance with building codes and regulations.
While building without a permit may seem quicker, it’s essential to follow regulations for safety and legal compliance. Avoid potential issues by adhering to zoning board requirements.

Do I Need Permits to Build a Deck

Permits aren’t just bureaucratic formalities; they’re essential for ensuring the safety of you, your family, and your guests. Obtaining a building permit and undergoing the necessary inspections guarantee that your home and any attached structures are secure, minimizing the risk of accidents or injuries.

While building a deck typically requires a permit, there are certain instances where one might not be necessary.

What Size Deck Can I Build Without a Permit

If you live in an area with flexible building regulations, certain deck sizes and installations may not necessitate a permit. For instance, a deck smaller than 200 square feet, under 30 inches high, detached from the house, and positioned away from main exit doors could be exempt.

For example, if you have a detached garage at the rear of your property, with an entry door more than 5 feet from the property line on each side, you might be able to construct a small, detached 6-foot-by-6-foot (36 square feet) deck in front of the garage door without a permit. You could even use concrete deck footings to speed up the project. Adding an awning would create a convenient seating area for gatherings.

PRO TIP: Calculate your deck’s square footage by multiplying its length by its width (assuming it’s a rectangle). A deck smaller than 200 square feet could have dimensions like 14 feet by 14 feet, 12 feet by 15 feet, or 9 feet by 20 feet, as long as the area is 199 square feet or less.

Building a Deck Without a Permit

When you proceed with building a deck without the necessary permit, you open yourself up to significant risks. Here’s what could happen:

Safety hazards: The foremost concern is the risk of accidents or fatalities. A poorly constructed deck can lead to injuries or even fatalities for anyone using it, including yourself, family members, guests, or service providers.

Mandatory removal: Building without a permit may result in authorities demanding the removal and reconstruction of the deck, leading to wasted time, effort, and money spent on labor and materials.

Financial penalties: You might face substantial fines for bypassing the permit requirements, adding to the overall cost of the project.

Tax implications: Changes like adding a deck can prompt a reassessment of your property’s value by tax assessors, potentially increasing your property taxes.

To avoid these risks, consider hiring an experienced local deck builder who can handle the permitting process and ensure compliance with building codes, ensuring a safe and legal deck installation.

What are legal ways of building a deck 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:

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

Determining Whether Your Deck Project Requires a Permit

In Los Angeles, the answer to whether a deck requires a building permit is yes for new constructions. According to the building code, only partial repairs or replacements are considered minor work, so any new deck construction must have a permit and inspection. Total replacements also require a permit.

If you are working on a portion of a deck, you might still need to obtain a construction permit. Any repairs or replacements that affect the structural support of the deck require a permit and inspection. However, if you are repairing or replacing a part that does not affect the structural integrity, it is considered ordinary maintenance, and you can proceed without a permit.

Note: Make sure the project doesn’t involve electrical or plumbing work, as these could require separate permits.

Why Your Permit for a Deck May Be Denied

Even though obtaining a permit for a deck is usually straightforward, there are instances when a permit might be denied. This denial may necessitate changes to your construction plans to ensure they comply with local regulations and zoning codes. Generally, there are two main reasons a permit could be denied:

Non-compliance with local zoning guidelines: If your proposed project violates even a single zoning regulation, your permit application is likely to be denied. For instance, if zoning regulations stipulate that a deck cannot be built within 15 feet of the property line and your plans show the deck within this boundary, the application would be rejected. To avoid such issues, hire a reputable contractor to draft the construction plans before submitting your application.

Incorrect plans: If your construction plans are not properly drawn up, the LADBS may ask you to make modifications or additions. Often, the LADBS will allow you to correct the plans without formally denying the application, saving you time and money. Working with a contractor or permit expediter can significantly reduce the chances of delays in the permitting process.

Consequence of Not Obtaining a Permit for Your Deck

Unless your deck falls under the specified exemptions, you must obtain a permit before starting construction. Building without a permit can lead to six notable consequences:

Project Shutdown: The city may issue a “Stop Work” order, halting your project immediately.

Fines: Continuing work after a stop order can result in fines up to $5,000 per violation, much higher than the permit cost.

Mandatory Permits: You will still need to obtain a permit, incurring additional costs and delaying your project by approximately two weeks.

Contractor Issues: Only licensed and insured contractors can obtain permits. You might need to hire a new contractor if your current one isn’t licensed.

Enhanced Inspections: Post-permit, your project will face more rigorous inspections to ensure compliance with building codes.

Repairs or Demolition: Non-compliant work may require costly repairs or even demolition, making the project potentially cost-prohibitive.

Hire a Deck Contractor to Help with Permits

Are you feeling overwhelmed by the permitting process? You’re not alone, but you don’t have to handle it by yourself. Permits are usually required from the person doing the work, so hiring a professional contractor can save you a lot of time and hassle when building your new deck.

Luckily, residents of Los Angeles have access to a team of skilled and knowledgeable contractors. At Capital Deck And Stair Waterproofing, we’ve helped numerous homeowners build their dream decks. With our experience, you can trust that we know how to navigate the permit process efficiently.


1. What happens if you build a deck without a permit?

In addition to the property owner facing fines, any hired contractor will also be fined. Ultimately, you’ll still need to pay for a deck permit. There’s also a risk that parts of your project, or even the entire project, might need to be demolished.

2. What happens if you get caught without a building permit?

If the local building department discovers you’ve been working without a permit, they may instruct you to halt work until you obtain the necessary building permit. You could be fined $500 or more per day for violating building permit regulations. Additionally, your county can place a lien on your home if the fine remains unpaid.

3. What happens if I don’t get a building permit for a deck?

If building authorities discover an unpermitted deck, they will require an inspection, impose a fee, and may even demand its removal, particularly if it doesn’t meet building code standards or is deemed unsafe.

4. How to get a permit for a deck already built?

When applying for a retroactive deck permit, the process mirrors that of a regular permit. The local building department ensures your deck meets legal standards.

Unlike during regular construction, officials inspect the finished deck. This ensures compliance with building codes and regulations.
You’ll need the same documents, including a detailed site plan. Accurate information can save time and money by avoiding revisions during evaluation.

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

Getting a building permit for a deck typically takes around one to two weeks, but it can vary depending on the location and specific regulations.

Categories : FAQ