"You Need a Permit"

Hickory Dickory Decks 

Written by Tom Jacques, CEO and Founder, Hickory Dickory Decks

Do I need a permit for my deck and if I do, should I get one? This is a question we at Hickory Dickory Decks get asked all the time. The first question, "Do I need a permit?" needs to be asked of your building department in your town or city. In most areas in Canada and the United States, a building permit is required. It will depend if it is attached to the home, its size, lot coverage, and height above grade, in some areas.

Here are a couple of examples:

  1. In every town or city in Ontario that our company builds in, which includes over a hundred cities, if the deck is over two feet above grade and attached to the house you need a deck permit if the deck is over 108ft².
  2. In many towns and cities there are no exceptions and a deck permit is always required.

We strongly recommend that if a deck permit is required that you get one. I will follow with all the reasons why.

  1. Let's start with a real basic one. It's the law. If you build without a permit you can be fined up to $25,000.00 and forced to remove the deck.
  2. A permit is not just a tax grab, but is there to protect the homeowner. A licensed deck designer must have completed extensive testing of deck and house construction and have a BCIN number. This will guarantee that the deck has been designed to meet or exceed all Ontario building codes.
  3. The building officials not only review the design of the deck, but also make sure lot coverage, side yard and backyard variances are met.
  4. The building inspector also comes to your building site to make sure footings have been dug deep enough. (In southwestern Ontario that is four feet deep) to prevent frost moving your completed deck.
  5. A framing and final inspection is also made to make sure the construction is safe and meets or exceeds all building codes.
  6. Railing inspections are done to make sure all decks over 24" above grade have a rail as per the building code. Approved rail of 36" in height is required for decks up to 5'11" above grade and 42" in height for higher decks. Many railings sold retail are not legal and cannot pass building code.
  7. The building permit process also insures that the local contractor has his deck designer license, has workers compensation insurance for all of his builders and subcontractors and his liability insurance. All of these are there to protect the homeowner. For example: If you hire a builder who does not have workers compensation insurance for his builders which may make his overhead 5-10% less and an accident occurs on your property, you the homeowner will be responsible and maybe liable for the costs. If an uninsured builder hits your new car while unloading deck materials or the materials slid into your new garage doors, (this happens, I know) you probably will be involved in a law suit to try to get things fixed.
  8. A common practice today is to get the homeowner to get the permits. This is because your potential builder is not a licensed deck designer and cannot get permits for you. By getting the permit yourself you give up any and all rights to problems with your deck or your builder because as the permit will say, it is for you to build only and no recourse to the city or the builder can then happen.

As you can see there are a lot of reasons to get a permit. It does cost some money and requires engineered drawings but the investment in your new deck is probably worth making sure it is designed, built and insured properly.

One more story I would like to tell you is about the time a past customer who decided to build without a permit. Everything seemed to go okay then over ten years later the same people called us to please come and fix this deck immediately because their home had been sold, and the deal was about to fall apart because the rail were built illegally and the steps did not pass present building code. Luckily we were able to fit in the emergency repair and they became another satisfied Hickory Dickory Deck customer. I hope you too will become one soon.