The answer depends on several factors — the state you reside in, whether the pergola will be built on private residential property, and if it is a freestanding structure or attached to an existing building. Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to check with your local township to see if building permits are required. Because local building codes vary from state to state and even across county lines, it’s better to plan accordingly and be prepared.
While it’s relatively common for homeowners to make small additions and improvements without building permits, the benefits of due diligence outweigh the ramifications if your outdoor pergola violates building codes. In theory, you could be forced to take down your newly installed patio cover, but it may come down to penalties and lots of wasted time.
What are building permits?
A building permit is a legal authorization by your city or county that allows you– or your contractor– to build a structure or undertake a remodeling project. The purpose of building permits is to ensure that the project complies with local regulations for safe construction, zoning, and land use. Construction of a pergola without authorization may cause difficulties later on, especially if the property is placed on the market.
If and when you do this, inspections may reveal improvements and additions that were completed without local building permits and are therefore not up to code..
Building codes explained
Most building codes differentiate between structures attached to your house and those that are freestanding. In many states (but not all), you can build a modest standalone pergola in your backyard or patio without getting permits. These freestanding structures do not depend on the structural integrity of the existing architecture. If they are built to poor standards, the pergola will not jeopardize the safety of your home.
Building codes will take the following characteristics into account for pergola construction:
- The highest point of your patio roof. In most cases, this cannot exceed 12 feet.
- The distance between pergola beams and posts, the diameter of posts, and the depth of the foundation.
- For commercial establishments, there are often rules regarding the distance between the pergola and existing structures and the materials utilized.
Homeowner’s Association restrictions
If you reside in a condo development or a housing community with a homeowner’s association, there are likely bylaws in place that limit where and how you can build on your property. These bylaws are legally enforceable and will usually specify the architectural style, colors, materials, and the size of built structures.
When permits are generally needed
A simple, open pergola with a seating area built away from existing architecture is one thing. However, if you plan on adding heating, multiple electrical outlets, or extra lighting fixtures, then permits will be required for both planning and construction.
Understanding the local regulations in your town and ensuring compliance– will help you avoid missteps and headaches later on.
Pergola projects designed and built for you
Breaking ground on a new outdoor living space is an exciting prospect, but safety and legal compliance are paramount. Here at Outdoor Elements USA, we design louvered pergola systems to your exact specifications, and our experienced team provides site-specific engineering packages to make the permitting process a breeze.
Contact us for more information about our products and services.