Getting a permit ensures that changes on your property follow the City of Austin’s rules or are “up to code.” Building permits ensure that any changes you make are safe for you, guests, and neighbors. Before you start building your shed 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 shed?
A simple, enclosed structure no one lives in that is physically detached from your house and is used primarily for storage.
Projects that have the same requirements as a shed include: greenhouses, workshops, garages or carports, gazebos, and playhouses.
Whether your project needs a permit or not, there are still zoning regulations you must follow to make sure your shed follows the City of Austin’s code. Some customers choose to buy pre-made sheds since they can be moved off of easements and setbacks. Pre-made sheds still count toward your total impervious cover and building coverage. They must also follow zoning requirements.
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. Setbacks vary per zoning type. If you are not sure of your property zoning type you can either visit Residential Review during walk-in hours or visit the Property Profile tool. If your shed will be less than 15 feet tall, then you must keep 5 feet from both your side and rear property lines clear. You may not build within these spaces. If you shed will be more than 15 feet tall, then you must keep 10 feet from your rear property line clear and 5 feet from your side property line clear. You may not build within these spaces. There is also a 25 foot setback from your front property line. 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 shed if you choose to build it on an easement. Learn more about easements.
What is impervious 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 you do not live in a floodplain, your impervious cover cannot exceed 45% of your property. If you do live in a floodplain, your impervious cover cannot exceed 10% of your property. Impervious cover restrictions are in place to make sure a significant amount of water is making it back into the soil and to prevent flooding. 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 shed requires a building permit if it will:
- be more than one story,
- be over 200 square feet,
- have plumbing,
- be over 15ft tall,
- be attached to your house,
- or be built in a floodplain. To find out if you’re in a floodplain, use 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?
The cost for permitting a shed starts at $584.48, if your shed will be less than 1750 square feet in size. This cost includes the plan review, the permit itself, your inspections, and additional fees.
There are additional fees if you build near a protected tree, need a trade permit, or build a shed larger than 1750 square feet. Your reviewer will explain any additional costs during your consultation.
Do prefabricated sheds require a permit?
A prefabricated shed may still require a permit. You don’t need a permit to build or pour a foundation (such as pier and beam or concrete slab) for a prefabricated shed that otherwise doesn’t need a building permit.
Having electricity in your shed 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 shed for a light or outlet, 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 in your shed 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 that sounds like one of your trees, use this diagram to measure your tree.
If any of your trees measure 19 inches or more in diameter, they are protected and require a Tree Ordinance Review Application 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 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 shed 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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