Do I Need a Permit to Build a Deck?

Ready to build that new deck? Before you get started, it is important to consider not only what you want your deck to be built out of but how exactly the law needs you to build your deck. Larger decks often face strict regulations at the state, city, and municipality level. Which can, on the surface, make the building process seem a lot more complicated than it actually is.

Building a deck can be quick and painless, especially with help from our decking experts. Familiarizing yourself with the various laws and permits required for outdoor decking in your area will save you a major headache in the future.

You may be asking: do I need a permit to build a deck? The simple answer is…maybe.

The 30” Rule

As a simple rule, you need a permit for any deck that is higher than 30 inches off the ground. This rule applies to most decks. Anything lower than 30” is often considered a patio or “porch deck,” and no permit is required. The reason for this and the reason for many of the other permissions you’ll have to wade through is safety. Any deck higher than 30” requires deck railings – and these railings must adhere to certain rules as well.

Of course, this rule may change based on your location, but 30” is the standard. Any deck that exceeds the 30″ rule is going to need to be permitted and built to standards set forth by the municipality, city, and state. The permitting process is a simple matter of taking the time to research which permits you need and what parameters must be met to secure approvals.

State, City, Local

Part of the complexity around permitting is due to the fact that homeowners may have to navigate multiple processes for securing approval. States, cities, local municipalities and even HOAs often require permits and those permits often contain varying rules and regulations. As complex as the process can be, permits are in place for a reason, to ensure your hardwood deck leads a long and most importantly, safe, life.

Permits are issued by governments to ensure that any outdoor building project adheres to building codes, which are in place to ensure structures are safe. Cities, municipalities, and HOAs may also regulate additions and structures based on how the look will affect the neighborhood.  The first step in your project should be to familiarize yourself with the various permits you need to secure to build your deck.

Permit Primer

If you live in California – particularly in the San Diego area – study up on the following permits before you get started on your new deck. If you’re reading this from another part of the country, your local permits may differ slightly, so make sure to dive into your local ordinances.

The California Building Standards Code

Any building, structure or addition in California is subject to these regulations. No matter where you live in the state, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with these rules. For outdoor building and home projects, check out the California Residential Code, which is organized by chapter and available online in a surprisingly simple to navigate format. If you want to go straight to the section on decks, click here.

City of San Diego, Residential Decks

Now that you’ve reviewed the California State permitting rules and regulations, it’s time to review your plan with the City of San Diego. This guide covers the rules around residential deck building in detail and even contains handy charts that let you know what measurements are needed depending on the size of your deck and the type of wood used. Also included are illustrations that show how decks should be built to stay within code.

For those who live in unincorporated San Diego County, refer to this document – an even simpler version of the city’s permit rules.

Navigating the permitting process can be a bit of a process – but we can help.

If you have questions about permits for decks, contact us or stop by a J&W Lumber location and we’ll help set you up for success!

11 Responses to “Do I Need a Permit to Build a Deck?”

  1. Dan Clark

    I have a deck off the second floor of my home in Carlsbad! I had it built in 2001 by a licensed contractor and had a permit issued! My question is, the cement slap (patio) underneath the deck is open and I would like to have it enclosed with glass sliding doors! Do I need a permit to simply enclose an existing deck?

  2. Gordon D Scholte

    Building a ground level deck in Fallbrook (not more than 12 inches above ground), not attached or even close to the house, not over anything but dirt (no structures, septic etc. underneath). May be 300 – 400 sf. Any issue?


    • Jordan Feil

      Unfortunately this is not something that we will be able to tell you. Anything over 200SQft needs to be signed off on by a structural engineer. It would be best to consult a contractor on this.

      Thank you,

  3. Dylan Peterson

    It’s good to know that you need a permit to build a deck if it’s more than 30 inches off the ground. My sister has been telling me about how she wants to get a deck installed to round out her backyard. I’ll share this information with her so that she can look into her options for professionals who can help her with this in the future.

  4. So important to get the proper permits. Don’t want to have to take down a deck simply because it’s not up to code. Working with the right deck contractor will help since they will be familiar with the ins and outs of this. Great info, thanks for the post!

    • Michelle Bayer

      Hi Corrine!
      It depends on your local state and county regulations and rules, some areas do and some areas don’t. Your best bet is to search on the internet using your city and state and “building permits needed”- if you are in San Diego we would love to help you out, you can visit any of our 6 locations or give us a call and our knowledgeable team can help out.
      Thank you for reading our blog!!
      Happy Building!

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