A deck is a wonderful addition to any home. It’s an ideal place for those outside parties and BBQs. It’s an area you can design and make your own with furniture and décor. It’s an extended living space that is bound to provide hours of enjoyment and lasting memories.
Did you know there is a correct process to follow before you begin building a deck? Decks are an extension of your home, and therefore, must meet certain city regulations and development standards. The last thing you want is to finish building your deck, and then discover it violates your city’s codes and ordinances.
Your To-Do List
A deck is a perfect place to relax outdoors in the privacy of your own yard, but there is a lot to consider before you start creating that backyard oasis. Do yourself a favor and verify these 11 points before you begin hammering away:
#1 Homeowner Association
Is your home located in a community that has a Homeowners Association (HOA)? An HOA can require your decking project to follow certain regulations, commonly known as restrictive deeds and covenants. These rules can impact the color, size, design, and building materials of your potential deck. Additionally, some HOAs might request that you submit building plans for approval before you begin building.
#2 City Requirements
Do not move forward with building a deck if you have not checked the guidelines outlined by your city. HOA rules are separate from city regulations. Cities all across the United States have their own requirements that homeowners must follow in order to construct a deck. Some homeowners find the process to be daunting and time-consuming, which is why they prefer to hire a licensed contractor that has a proven track record and is familiar with the process.
All structures on a property are required to be located a certain minimum distance from each property line, otherwise referred to as a setback. Every house has front, side, and rear setback requirements. You will need to make sure the outermost edge of your deck structure is at least the required distance from the property line.
#4 Impervious Cover
Impervious cover is more or less anything that water cannot get through or permeate. Many cities regulate how much impervious cover is allowed on each property to minimize water run-off. Since many decks are considered impervious cover, the size of your deck could cause you to exceed your maximum impervious cover limit.
#5 Building Materials
A city’s code can regulate the type of building material you use to assemble your deck. Before you purchase any sort of decking board materials, it would be wise to see if your city has any restrictions.
Many cities have height restrictions in place for accessory structures such as sheds, pergolas, gazebos, secondary dwellings, or pool houses. A deck can fall under that category if you plan to build a raised or two-story deck.
Are there any existing easements or utilities on your property? An easement gives an entity a right to your property in certain areas. Power lines, gas lines, and drainage easements, might prohibit you from building a deck if it will be located within these boundaries.
#8 Septic System vs. City Sewer
Is your property set up with its own septic system? If so, you might need to think twice about the location of your deck. You want to ensure your deck does not inhibit the proper function of your septic system.
#9 Property Conditions
What are the conditions of your property that can impact the design of your deck? Is the property located within a floodplain? Do you need to consider any unique topographical features? Does the proposed construction zone include a tree preservation area that protects certain tree species from being removed?
#10 Historic Preservation
The type, design, and material of your deck may be governed by additional regulations if your property is located within a historic preservation district or considered a historic landmark.
Once you have determined the final location and design of your deck, many cities require homeowners to submit detailed construction plans that adhere to the International Building Code (IBC) requirements. Additionally, you might need to submit a permit application. These permits may include, but are not limited to, a zoning permit, certificate of appropriateness, drainage permit, demolition permit, roofing permit, electric permit, general construction permit, and/or accessory structure permit.
The Next Step
Are you planning to complete your deck project by yourself or will you be hiring a professional? If tackling on your own, some cities may require you to take a “Homeowners Exam” to show you are qualified to do the work. As a homeowner, you are held to the same level of responsibility as a licensed contractor. You will be expected to know the city codes and ordinances, and understand how to complete the work to meet those standards.
When it comes to building a deck, you do not want to skip any necessary steps. The more you know, the better off you will be. The cost of decking products can add up, and you do not want to purchase those materials twice due to mistakes. Make it a point to learn about the development process of your city and HOA. While it might eat up some of your time and possibly test your patience, creating the deck of your dreams is worth it.