Do you need a permit for your deck project?
One of the most frequently asked questions we get at Citywide Sundecks is, “do I need a permit?”
The answer is not as straight-forward as you may hope, but we’re here to demystify this important question. Learn about general guidelines of when a permit is required for a deck and what might happen if you don’t get one.
When is a permit required for a deck?
Each municipality has slightly different guidelines for permitting. When you’re building a new deck you almost always need a permit unless the deck is unattached and less than 100 square feet.
A permit is usually required in BC if:
- Your new deck will be more than 2 feet off the ground
- Your new deck will be attached to the home.
- Your new deck is 100 square feet or more.
- You’re changing the footprint of your deck.
- You’re adding a patio cover.
You probably don’t need a permit if you’re renovating your deck and:
- You’re not changing the size, location, or height of your deck.
- Not adding a patio cover
- Not attaching the deck to your home
- Your deck is lower than 2 feet.
It’s easy to find out definitively if a permit is needed by visiting your city hall’s building permit department (municipal links below).
Don’t assume previous work has a permit
If you have an existing deck that you’re renovating, you still need to ensure the existing deck has a permit. If your original deck was not permitted, your renovation and the original structure could be mandated illegal and torn down.
While the deck may have lived up to bylaws and zoning at the time of construction, laws change all the time. If you are not protected by a permit, your old deck will be held to the new standards when inspected.
What do I need to get a permit?
To get a building permit, you need to provide various documents and drawings as well as fee payment to your city permit department. Below are checklists provided by some Lower Mainland municipalities to help make sure you have everything you need, depending on where your home is.
Deck permit application checklists by BC municipality:
In some historic areas and heritage homes, you may require a development permit as well. Check with your city for confirmation.
What will keep me from getting a deck permit?
To qualify for a permit, your plans need to prove that the construction will be safe.
Permitting departments will also consider:
- Proximity to your neighbour and property lines
- Total footprint of structures must be less than 60% of the property square footage.
- Aesthetic consistency with neighbourhood
Who is responsible for getting a building permit?
It’s the homeowner’s responsibility to have a permit for any work done on their home. If you’re doing the work yourself or hiring someone else to do it, don’t rely on someone else to research the necessity of a permit.
While contractors may incur penalties for completing unpermitted work, the homeowner is ultimately legally and financially responsible for any infractions.
What will happen if I don’t get a permit for my deck?
Unpermitted work can incur a fine that is often more than the permit itself. It can also result in you partially or fully undoing work or changing the project scope. However, many people choose not to get a permit for their deck project.
If you don’t get a permit, there are 3 ways you may run into trouble:
- a third party complaint
- Home inspection upon sale
- Insurance claims
People choose not to get a permit because they feel the cost and especially the time required to get a permit is worth the risk of not having a permit.
Many feel that as long as your work is compliant to zoning and bylaws, the risk is negligible. After all, it is not an inspectors mandate to drive around looking for unpermitted work. A neighbour must file a complaint, or there must be signs of deficiencies upon inspection.
Bottom line of deck permits
Getting a permit can be a long, expensive, and frustrating process. For many people, the risk of not obtaining a permit is worth the reward of being able to finish a project in a timely manner.
If you choose not to obtain a permit for your project, you must at least confirm that the project is permit-able. It’s simple and fairly low cost to obtain a permit for a structure after the fact as long as it’s all to code.
If your deck is not permissible and an inspector makes a call to your house during or after the project, you will face much more serious fines and will likely be required to tear the deck down.
While a deck contractor will likely respect your informed decision to forego a permit, they should never pressure you not to get a permit.
If you’re ready to build or renovate a deck, Citywide Sundecks makes it easy. We’ll walk you through the whole process and give you answers specific to your circumstances.