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Do I need a permit for building a deck?

It depends. A building permit is required for building a deck if it will be attached to the home and/or more than 2’ above grade. Decks less than 2’ in height, for example, a floor deck without rails and abutting a home do not require a permit, but must comply with the building and zoning codes.

Residential Building Permit

Note: Deck construction in a floodplain requires a floodplain permit even if a building permit is not required.

What do I need to apply for a building permit?

In order to apply for a building permit, you will need to submit a completed application form, two copies of the construction plans (printed to scale), three copies of the land survey with the deck area drawn on each copy, and a $50 application fee. When your permit is issued, one copy of your plans and land survey will be returned to you.

What needs to be included in the construction plans?

A minimum set of plans will consist of elevations and cross section details (see sample deck plan on reverse). All plans must be drawn to a scale not less than ¼ inch per foot and all dimensions must be accurately figured.


Why do I need a survey and how can I obtain one?

Surveys are required to ensure that your project complies with today’s zoning codes and is the best way to avoid property boundary disputes with neighbors. Oftentimes, the city may have a copy of your survey on file. If not, check your records. Some homeowners may have previously acquired this document in conjunction with the home purchase. Otherwise, the services of a qualified Land Surveyor should be obtained. A number of firms are listed in the Yellow Pages. 

What is the Design Review Board, do I have to appear before it, and when does it meet?

Design Review Boards were created to review and approve the exterior design and aesthetic aspects of building projects. The applicant must appear before the Design Review Board in order to answer any questions or concerns they may have. Meetings are held on the 1st and 3rd Thursdays of each month and the deadline for applications that require Design Review Board approval is Tuesday of the week prior to the meeting. Deadlines were established in order to ensure that enough time is allowed to notify applicants, board members, publications and other interested parties that may wish to attend.

What is the likelihood the Design Review Board will approve my deck?

Very likely if the proposed design enhances the look of your home. The main purpose of the Design Review Board is to promote good design and continuity, which often impacts the overall appearance and property value of a neighbor-hood. Attention to details such as adding trim and skirting, ensuring graspable stair rail widths, and staining in a complementary color greatly increases your chances.

How long does it take to get the permit?

That depends. For example, if a project was approved on a Thursday night meeting of the Design Review Board and assuming all requirements were submitted at the time of application and no other meetings are required, your permit should be ready for pickup the week following the meeting. The number one reason this timeline may not be met is the applicant’s failure to submit required information at the time of application. Our office will contact the applicant when the permit has been approved and is ready for issue.

How much will a building permit cost?

A deck permit is a flat fee of $80.

Are there any location restrictions?

Yes, please contact the Planning office at (414) 479-8957.

Are there any other restrictions?

Yes. Decks may never be built over a city easement. If a deck is more than 2’ above grade, a minimum of 3’ high guardrails are required. If a fence is placed on a deck, a permit for the fence may be required. If a deck is to be attached to the home, 4’ minimum frost footings are required. Pressure treated against decay or a species of wood naturally resistant to decay must be used for wood framing.

Safety Tip

Why not give Diggers Hotline (800)242-8511 a call prior to excavation?


For job locations west of 92nd Street, e-mail Inspector Michael Niedermann or by phone (414-479-8909). For job locations east of 92nd Street, e-mail Inspector Joseph Tillmann or by phone (414-479-8908). Inspectors are available between the hours of 8:00-9:00 a.m. weekdays for code-related questions. Permit-related questions may be directed to the clerical staff (414-479-8907) anytime 8:00 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. weekdays. The City Code and the State Code are also available for reference online.