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How to Deal with Deck Legal Restrictions

Oct 15, 2007
Certain legalites are outside the control of homeowners. These deck legal restrictions can possibly have a major effect upon where a deck is to be built and how it is to be built. Some preliminary research can save a homeowner time, effort, money and frustration later. Therefore early in the deck planning process it is a wise decision to consult the local building department concerning any possible legal restrictions.

In most regions it is necessary to apply for a building permit as well as comply with building code requirements. Homeowners should also be aware of local zoning ordinances that govern whether or not a deck can be built on a parcel of land and where it can be located.

Building Permits - The necessity for a building permit depends upon the size of the deck, its intended use and whether or not it is attached to the house. Failure to obtain a building permit can come back to haunt a homeowner. An illegally built deck structure can result in the building department inspectors requiring an improperly built deck to be brought up to building code standards or dismantled entirely in extreme cases.

Each permit requires a fee payment generally determined by the projected value of the improvement.

Homeowners should try and be as accurate as possible in estimating the project cost as an overestimation can result in increased fee costs. In some cases the fee is proportionate to the square footage of the deck surface while in others building offices figure a project's value based upon standardized construction costs.

Not all decks require a deck permit. In many regions decks that are less than 25 inches off the ground are excused from the permit process. However, they are still required to comply with all building codes.

Building Codes - The code requirements can vary from one region to the next. These regulations set minimum safety standards for materials and construction techniques.

Depth of footings, beam sizes, proper fastening methods and railing heights are some of the specific issues governed by these codes. They ensure that any structures that are built will be well constructed and will be safe for family members and guests as well as any future owners of properties.

Zoning Ordinances - These are municipal regulations that:

1. restrict the height of residential buildings

2. limit lot coverage which limits the proportion of the lot that a building and other structures such as a deck may cover

3. specify setbacks which affect how close to the the property lines structures can be built

4. and in some regions stipulate architectural design standards

It is very rare when decks exceed height limitations. However, they are very often affected by setback requirements. Since decks increase overall lot coverage they can limit future additions by homeowners to their homes. This is an important consideration to keep in mind.

Easements - These are rules that provide guaranteed access by local utilities to their service lines and may restrict homeowner abilities to build decks exactly where they are desired. Utility companies are for the most part more than willing to mark out the location of these service lines usually at no charge to a homeowner.

Variances - If the situation arises that the deck plans are rejected by the local zoning department there is the option open to a homeowner to apply for a variance at the local planning department. It is the homeowner's responsibility in this process to prove to a hearing officer or zoning board of appeal that following the zoning requirements precisely would create undue hardship and that the structure to be built would not affect neighbors or the community in a negative way.

If the case is pleaded convincingly enough, a homeowner would be allowed to build the project.

Architectural Review Boards - Living in certain neighborhoods may require that certain architectural standards be met. These types of control mechanisms are more common in areas where homes and other buildings have historical histories that are to be preserved. This then affects any additions, changes or modifications to be made in the immediate area.

Plans for these property alterations must be submitted to an architectural review board. Having to go through this process can dramatically increase the time required to get a project underway and can lead to time delays and added costs.

Deeds - Deck project plans, construction and location can all be restricted by property deeds. Homeowners should make a point of reviewing the deeds to their properties carefully, checking for easements, architectural standard restrictions and other limitations. Consulting a property lawyer for possible courses of action would be advisable in cases where there are restrictions.

Dealing with deck legal restrictions can be a simple process for homeowners who take the time to do the necessary preliminary reasearch prior to planning and building their decks.
About the Author
Richard Vande Sompel is a professional deck builder of 35 years and over 850
decks built and is the author of "How to Plan, Design and Build a Deck from
Start to Finish". To Discover More About
Deck Design and Legal Restrictions and Claim your 2
FREE Deck Plans, Insider Report, MP3 Audio and discover everything to know about
building a deck visit:
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