Getting a permit proves that changes on your property follow the City of Austin’s rules or are “up to code.” Building permits guarantee that any changes you make are safe for you, guests, and neighbors. Before you start building your deck or applying for permits, it’s important to:
- define and describe your project,
- find out if you need permits and what they are,
- and collect the right information for your consultation and application.
You can start by making sure your definition of your project is the same as the City of Austin’s definition.
What is a deck?
A deck is a platform-like structure without walls, often made of planks, that no one lives on and is typically used for lounging or gathering.
Whether your project needs a permit or not, there are still zoning regulations you must follow to make sure your deck follows the City of Austin’s code. Zoning regulations usually apply to exterior projects and exist for your safety and the safety of your family, guests, and neighbors. Zoning regulations are also kept in place to ensure that Austin’s beauty is protected for many generations.
What is a setback? The space between a lot’s border and the area where a building can be built. Setbacks typically cannot have anything built on them. Regardless of how tall your deck is, you can’t build it within 10 feet of the rear border or within 5 feet of the side borders of your lot. Learn more about setbacks.
What is an easement? An area of a resident’s property that can be used, built on or changed by a government entity or neighbor. You may not build on any easements on your property. The city will need to access any easements on your lot. You may be fined or asked to demolish your deck if you choose to build it on an easement. Learn more about easements.
What is imperious cover? Rooftops, driveways, parking lots, and other man-made or stone surfaces that keep water from being absorbed into the ground. Impervious cover restrictions are put in place to prevent flooding during and after heavy rains. If your deck is uncovered, has spaces between the planks, and is located over a permeable surface like grass, then only half of the deck’s surface area will affect the total amount of impervious cover on your property. If you are covering your deck or there won’t be spaces between the planks, then 100% of the deck’s surface area will count towards the amount of impervious cover on your property. A reviewer can help you come up with options if you have or are close to maxing out your impervious cover. Learn more about impervious cover.
Do I need a permit?
The City of Austin provides a variety of permits to help residents build safe and sustainable projects. Many projects require more than one type of permit.
Your deck requires a building permit if it will:
- be attached to your home,
- services a door,
- be over 200 square feet,
- be more than 30 inches above ground,
- have plumbing,
- have electric,
- or be built in a floodplain. To find out if you’re in a floodplain, enter your address at austintexas.gov/floodpro. If your Flood Zone says “Flood Zone: X,” then you do not live in a floodplain.
The area of low land near a creek or lake that floods after rain or when water overflows. Learn more
How much do building permits cost?
Building permits for decks start at $584.48 and go up depending on your specific needs. This cost includes the plan review, the permit itself, and your inspections.
There are additional fees if you build near a protected tree or need trade permits. Your reviewer will explain any additional costs during your consultation.
Having electricity on your deck requires an electric permit.
Make sure to tell your reviewer your shed needs an electric permit and circle it on your application.
If you want to run a line of electricity to your deck for an outlet or fan, you will need to get a stand-alone electric permit in person from the Service Center at One Texas Center.
Only a registered electrician can get a permit if the electricity on your deck requires making changes to the main electrical meter.
Having certain trees on your property may require a tree permit.
How to measure your trees
Measure the diameters of any trees on your property. You can calculate the diameter of a tree by taking a measurement of the trunk at 4.5 feet from the ground. Not all trees grow straight up from the ground. Some grow on a slope, others lean to one side, and some branch out near the ground. If these sound like one of your trees, use this diagram to help you take an accurate measurement.
If any of your trees measure 19 inches or more in diameter, they are protected and require a Tree Permit before you start construction. You will also need to pay an additional fee.
You will not be able to remove trees that are 19 inches or more in diameter and also considered heritage trees. Learn more about protected trees and their construction requirements.
Make sure you can get a permit
You may not be able to get a new permit right away if your property currently has an expired permit. Use the public search at Austin Build + Connect to check for expired permits.
You may also be unable to get a permit if you have already reached the maximum amount of impervious cover on your property. If this happens, reconsider your shed materials and design or come in for a consultation to find out if you can get a permit.
You may need a consultation to determine your deck requirements
It is possible to prepare your permit application without consulting with a reviewer. However, many residents prefer to come in for a free 20 minute consultation with a reviewer before applying for a permit. During this consultation, the reviewer will:
- let you know if you can complete your project as you originally planned,
- give you the personalized property information you need to fill out your building permit application,
- give you a list of documents you need to prepare for your building permit application based on your specific project,
- and explain any next steps needed for you to correctly permit your project.
Hiring a professional
You may need to hire a licensed professional to help you complete your project.
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