Expert Advice

How to Draw Your Own Plans for a Deck Permit

Discover how you can create a deck plan for your ideal outdoor space with a little help from Trex. 

January 11, 2024

Before starting any deck build, whether you plan to build it yourself or hire a professional contractor, you’ll need a building permit. This permit ensures your new deck is designed to code standards for structural integrity and safety. In order to secure a permit, you will need to submit deck plans. The good news is you don’t need a degree in architecture to draw deck plans for building permit. In fact, many homeowners choose to create their own plans. However, it is important to approach this task with care and attention to detail to ensure that your plans are compliant with local regulations. In this article, you will gain important information and tips for how to draw plans for a deck permit.

Can You Draw Your Own Deck Plans for a Permit?

A great deck starts with a great plan. Your plan can be as rudimentary as a sketch done with pencil, measuring tape and graphing paper or a more elaborate rendering using computer-aided design (CAD) tools. Whichever route you take, it is key to ensure your plan is to scale. For example, every 1/4" on your design could relate to 1' on the actual deck. It really comes down to what is required by your local building department.

There are a variety of online tools available to help homeowners bring their deck visions to life. From template deck plans to deck design programs, there are lots of great resources out there to help you feel like the Mies Van der Rohe of your deck project.

Ultimately, when it comes to deck drawings for permit, here’s what building departments are looking for:

  • Compliance: Residential deck plans for permits are used to make sure the deck design complies with all local building codes, zoning regulations and safety standards. Along with those compliances being met, authorities are also looking for load-bearing capacity, setback distances and railing heights. All these standards vary based on your location.
  • Clarity: A deck site plan provides clear and precise visual representations of the proposed layout, dimensions and materials. This ultimately gives permitting offices the project scope and a sense for the overall impact on the surrounding environment.
  • Documentation: Any deck plans sent to the permitting office are used as documentation, making it easier to track changes and modification during construction.

Do you need an Architect to Draw Plans for a Deck?

In most cases a professional architect is not legally required to draw residential deck plans for permit. However, plans for large or complicated projects, such as a rooftop deck, may require the seal of a licensed architect or structural engineer. The same may apply to a deck that must blend with local architectural styling. Check with your local building authority to be sure.

While working with an architect to draw deck plans for permit may add cost to a project, it also can provide tremendous peace of mind. Architects are trained in the mechanics and art of building and structural design. They are well-versed in the building codes required for construction and skilled at drawing deck plans that comply with local regulations.

What is Required for Deck Drawings for a Permit?

Drawing deck plans doesn’t have to be complicated, but your plans do need to comply with local building codes. To find out what is required to apply for a deck permit, reach out to your local building department to obtain a copy of the codes and regulations specific to your area. Many municipalities offer information packets that outline the items that need to be submitted at the time of application. Some even offer easy-to-use deck templates that guide you through the required information and steps for drawing residential deck plans for permit.

To issue a decking permit, a permitting office typically needs the following:

  • A completed application (which can be found either on the building department’s website or at their office)
  • At least two sets of building plans
  • Multiple copies of the site plan drawn to scale
  • Contractor license (this isn’t required if you’re building the deck yourself)
  • Payment for the decking permit and review fees

Once the above information and payment have been submitted, it can take several weeks to get everything approved so be sure to account for this process in your project timeline.

How to Draw Deck Plans for a Deck Permit

When drawing deck plans for permit, it’s imperative to include certain details to show a comprehensive overview of the project. The most effective deck plans for building permits clearly show that the finished deck will be compliant with local building codes and zoning regulations. A complete set of deck building plans will include two elements – site plans and elevation plans.

Site Plans

A site plan is a set of drawings that functions as a map of the building site. A site plan of the property can be obtained through different measures such as local building department, city records or having a company do it for you. If the site plan is available from the municipality then the deck plan can be drawn in to show where and dimension from the property lines. This plan should be drawn to scale and contain the following:

  • Property boundaries – Indicate the deck’s location in relation to property lines, neighboring structures and relevant setback requirements.
  • Deck dimensions – Include precise measurements of the deck’s length, width, height and elevation off the ground. Provide accurate dimensions for substructure components as well, such as footings, beams, joists and posts.
  • Location of existing structures – Identify the location of the house, garage, pool and any other major structures such as pergolas, fencing or outbuildings.
  • Access points – Mark access points on the planned deck, including stairs, ramps, or any other means of entry and exit.
  • Utilities – Highlight the locations of water, gas and electric lines, as well as well and septic systems. Building these into your site plan will help to facilitate future customization of your deck.

In addition to the above, include construction details that illustrate how the deck will be built. This may involve cross-sections, framing details and connections. Also, clearly specify the materials and finishes you plan to use. This information is crucial for ensuring compliance with local regulations.

How to Draw Elevation Plans for a Deck Permit

When applying for a deck permit, you will also need to submit an elevation plan. This blueprint-style drawing provides a view of the planned deck from the side and shows the heights of the various components, their vertical arrangements and other information not easily conveyed on the site plan.

Elevation Plans

As far as how to draw a blueprint for a deck, a good elevation plan should include the following:

  • Initial assessment – Determine the desired height and placement of the deck. Be sure to consider the existing topography, nearby structures and any potential obstacles, as it’s important to address them before construction begins.
  • Elevation sketch – Include information about the deck’s height from the ground, the vertical dimensions of foundational components (footings, beams, joists, posts, etc.) and additional features like stairs, railings and attached structures.
  • Annotations – Label all the elements on the elevation plan, including dimensions, materials to be used and any other relevant information.

The details required for the site and elevation plans may seem daunting, but they achieve the goal of providing as much information as possible to the permitting office, as well as a potential contractor, and can help to streamline the approval and building process.

Use the Trex Deck Designer Tool to Design Your Own Deck Plans

The Trex Deck Designer is a helpful resource for creating deck plans for permit. The intuitive interface allows individuals to experiment with different layouts and has the ability to generate 3D renderings and detailed materials lists, which are actively itemized for cost estimation and planning. The tool also aides in code compliance by providing accurate design documentation that can be submitted to authorities to ensure a more efficient permitting process.

In Conclusion

Understanding how to draw deck plans for a permit is an important step in turning your vision into an outdoor space that family and friends will enjoy for years and decades to come. And while drawing your own deck plans is possible, it’s essential to recognize your own limitations. If you’re uncertain about any aspect of the design or if your deck is more complex, consider consulting with an architect, structural engineer or a professional deck contractor. Their expertise can help ensure the safety and compliance of your project. To locate an expert in your area, use the Find a Builder tool


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