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Do I need a Permit when Building a Shed

The short answer to the question is: it depends on where you live and your attitude towards taking risks.

Generally speaking, your municipality or town will be the primary factor when contemplating whether or not to obtain a permit for building a shed.

Initial Permit Application (actual)

The “permitting” requirements and procedures may vary greatly even among towns within the same state.

Questions to Ask Yourself

When contemplating whether or not to obtain a permit for building a shed, consider the following questions:

  • Local Regulations
    • Is a permit explicitly required for sheds of your intended size and use? What are the penalties for building without a permit if one is required?
  • The size of the shed
    • Is it below the maximum size allowed without a permit? Does adding utilities (like electricity or plumbing) change the permitting requirements?
  • Shed’s intended purpose
    • Is it simply for storage, or will it be used as a workspace, office, or other function that might change its classification?
  • Location of the shed
    • Will your shed be located on a residential or commercial property? Are there setback requirements from property lines or other structures? Could the location affect drainage, utility lines or easement?
  • Planning to add utilities to the shed
    • Will you need electricity, plumbing, heating, or cooling? Do these utilities require separate permits or inspections?
  • Homeowner’s association (HOA) rules and/or covenants
    • Even if the municipality doesn’t require a permit, does the HOA have its own set of rules?
  • Property value and taxes
    • Could building the shed (with or without a permit) impact the assessed value of your property? Might you face issues when selling your property in the future if you didn’t obtain the necessary permits?
  • Safety concerns
    • Are you confident in constructing a safe and durable shed without oversight from a building inspector? Could there be liability concerns if someone gets injured in or by the shed?
  • How long do you plan to stay in the home?
    • If you’re thinking about selling in the near future, having unpermitted structures might be a concern for potential buyers.
  • Financial implications
    • While there’s a cost associated with obtaining a permit, have you weighed that against potential fines or the cost of having to modify or remove the shed later on?
  • Potential disputes with neighbors
    • If neighbors have concerns about the shed, having a permit can offer some peace of mind that you’re in compliance with local regulations.
  • Homeowner’s insurance implications
    • Will your homeowner’s insurance cover the shed, especially if it’s built without a required permit? Could there be issues if the shed causes damage or injury?
  • Future modifications or expansions to the shed
    • Obtaining a permit now might make future modifications easier and more straightforward.

Permit Application Process

The permit application process can vary depending on the jurisdiction, the complexity of the project, and the specific type of permit being sought. However, a general outline of the process might look something like this:

Step #1 – Preliminary Research

  • Zoning and Code Review
    • Check local building codes and zoning ordinances to determine if your project is allowable and what regulations you’ll need to follow.
  • Local Building Department
    • Visit or call your local building department or municipality’s website. They often provide guidelines, requirements, and sometimes even checklist for what’s needed in a permit application.

Step #2 – Preliminary Design & Planning

Create a basic plan or drawing of your project. For more complex projects, professional plans might be required. For some projects, you might need to involve architects, engineers, or other professionals.

Step #3 – Completing the Application

First, obtain the appropriate permit application form, either online or from the local building department, then fill out the form with the required information about the property, the property owner, contractor details (if applicable), and the specifics of the project.

Attach any required plans, diagrams, or other documentation. This might include site plans, floor plans, elevation drawings, or even structural details.

Providing a comprehensive document will minimize the risk of your permit application being rejected.

Step #4 – Application Submission & Fee Payment

Submit the application to the local building department or the designated office, along with any associated application fees. These fees can vary based on the type, size, or cost of the project. On a DIY shed estimated to cost around $1,000 USD, my permit application fee was $45.

Step #5 – Review Process

The building department will review the application and the plans. They might ask for corrections, clarifications, or additional documentation.

Depending on the project, various experts might review the plans (e.g., a fire department might review commercial building plans for compliance with fire codes).

Step #6 – Inspection(s) During the Building Process

Generally, if the size of the shed is less than small (say 100 square feet or 11 feet wide by 9 feet deep), inspections during the build will not be required.

On a larger shed or structure, inspections might be required at various stages. For example, there might be a foundation inspection, a framing inspection, and a final inspection.

If you are adding utilities, there will most likely be a separate inspection for those utilities as well.

Step #7 – Approval & Issuance

If the application is approved, the building department will issue the permit. This might be a physical document or a sticker that should be displayed at the project site. In US, it will be a medium-sized yellow paper with permit application number and the address.

Remember, having the permit means you’ve been given permission to start the work, but it also means you’re obligated to build according to the approved plans and follow the latest local building codes.

Saying things like I did not know that I needed to use 2×6 for floor joists” will not be accepted by your inspector!

Step #8 – Completion & Final Documentation:

Once the project is complete and has passed all inspections, you may receive a certificate of occupancy (for habitable structures) or a final approval document.

Keep all paperwork related to the permit and the project. This can be important for future renovations, insurance claims, or if you decide to sell the property.

Step #9 – Appeals or Modifications

If the permit application is denied, there might be an appeal process or a way to modify and resubmit the application. If changes are needed during construction that deviate from the approved plans, you might need to submit those changes to the building department for approval.

Property Tax Implications

In my town (New Jersey, USA), installing a small shed (under 100 square feet) on a movable skids is considered to be a “temporary structure”, which means it does not increase my property taxes.

However, if I decide to pour a concrete pad and and build the same small shed on it, it is considered to be a “permanent structure” which will increase my property taxes.

This is further complicated if you live in areas will high wind or frequent hurricanes. Those jurisdictions will most likely REQUIRE you to attach outdoor buildings on concrete pads with hurricane straps.

Important Takeaways

If you in a rural community in Montana, you most likely will not require a permit to build your shed. However, in most suburb situations, it is generally advisable to lean towards obtaining a permit if there’s any doubt.

Approved Permit Application (actual)

It’s always important to understand the specific requirements and processes of your local jurisdiction. Some municipalities might have additional steps, or they might require different documentation based on the project type or local regulations.

Remember, building a shed without necessary permits can lead to headaches down the road, including potential fines, mandated removal of the shed, or difficulties when selling the property.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Who is responsible for securing the building permit?
    • Typically, if you purchase a pre-built shed from a company, they take on the responsibility of obtaining the necessary permit. However, if you purchase a shed kit and plan to assemble it yourself, the onus of obtaining the permit usually falls on you. Do keep in mind that not all companies will handle the permit process. Some may only offer guidance or resources to help you obtain the permit on your own.
  • How do I determine if my shed requires a permit?
    • The requirement for a permit often hinges on local zoning and building regulations. Therefore, before purchasing or constructing a shed, it’s imperative to consult your local zoning office or building department. Both the size and the nature of the shed’s construction often dictate whether a permit is necessary.
  • Can I build a small shed without needing a permit?
    • While many believe that smaller sheds may not require permits, it’s a misconception. Even for small structures, it’s essential to verify with local authorities. Building without the necessary permissions can lead to penalties, fines, or even mandated removal of the structure.
  • What are the costs associated with obtaining a building permit for a shed?
    • Permit costs can range widely, from as low as $400 to as high as $2,500 or more. These costs are influenced by factors like local regulations, the shed’s dimensions, its intended use, and more.
  • What is the typical duration for acquiring a permit?
    • The time frame can vary. While some permits might be approved within a week, others could take a month or even longer. Having a complete and well-prepared application—including shed plans and clear, concise information—can expedite the process.
  • Do building permit requirements differ across states or municipalities?
    • Absolutely. Building and zoning requirements can differ significantly between states and even between cities within the same state. Always refer to local guidelines when planning any construction.
  • Will obtaining a permit affect my property taxes?
    • In certain jurisdictions, adding a shed or any structure can potentially increase the assessed value of your property, possibly leading to higher property taxes. It’s advisable to consult with your local tax department to understand any potential implications.
  • What happens if I build a shed without a required permit?
    • Building without the required permits can result in penalties, the necessity to retrofit the shed to meet codes, or even the requirement to dismantle the shed entirely.
  • Are there specific design or material requirements when seeking a permit?
    • Some jurisdictions might have standards related to the appearance, placement, or materials of sheds to ensure they fit the character of the area or meet safety standards.
  • Can I appeal if my permit application is denied?
    • Most municipalities offer an appeal process for denied applications. However, it’s essential to understand the reasons for the denial and address those when appealing.
  • Do I need additional permits for utilities like electricity or plumbing in my shed?
    • If you plan to have utilities in your shed, additional permits and inspections might be required. Check with your local building department for specifics.

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