Following Proper Building Codes when Building Your Deck Following Proper Building Codes when Building Your Deck

What You'll Need
Local Building code details
Pen and pencil
The plan for your Deck

There are building code requirements for just about everything you build on your property. Decks are no exception. When you decide to build a deck off your back porch or balcony building codes and requirements for this project should not be forgotten. When building your deck, you must follow proper building codes as discussed below.

Step 1 – Visit Your Local Municipality

Generally speaking, local building codes are must stricter than national codes. Rule of thumb: always err on the side of the stricter building code, whether national or locally ruled. Most often, you will find that your local rules are much stricter. Take a visit to your local municipal building and ask for a copy of the building codes as they pertain specifically to building a deck. If they do not have an excerpt just for the deck, ask for the entire package of information. You can find out where your local municipality is located by going online. Search for your town name or city name and it should come up. Call the township building and ask for the code enforcement office. They will be able to either direct you to a website where you can download the application and forms or they will ask that you come in to pick up the package.

Step 2 – Outline Your Deck

Put together your deck plan. Draw out the entire project details. Be as specific as possible in your design. Include type of material, height information, lengths, widths and other size factors. Include any information that pertains to setbacks that you may get near. Specifically, include information about the following different aspects.

  • Railings
  • Stairs
  • Treads
  • Stair rails
  • Handrails
  • Foundations

Step 3 – Check Deck Railing Specifications

Compare your deck design specification to the building code requirements. Following OSHA regulations and requirements, you must install a deck railing as a stair rail if your deck is at least 30" off the ground or if there are four or more risers. Install the deck railing along each unprotected deck edge.

Step 4 – Check the Stairways

Make sure your stairs are properly designed. Check how high each step is versus how long each step is. Don’t forget to look up the information regarding handrails alongside your stairways. The handrails are important for anyone to use in order to guide themselves off the deck.

Step 5 – Check Setbacks

Take a look at the setbacks of your property. Make sure you are not infringing on a neighbor’s property or on the required amount of feet you must be from the property line.

Step 6 – Fill in the Paperwork and Submit

Take the building code package and fill in the paperwork. Many local municipalities will require that you submit drawings along with your application for your permit. The drawings do not have to be professionally drawn but must be well detailed. A seal is not required on your plans before you submit them.

Wait for your permit to come in the mail and begin your project right away. Remember, do not procrastinate and allow your permit to run out of time otherwise you may be required to submit a brand new application and wait for a new permit to be delivered. Worse yet, if you run out of time and continue to work on finishing your deck without the proper permits, you may be fined or asked to take the deck down altogether.

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