Deck Building FAQs
Thinking about building a deck? See some frequently asked questions below to help you get started or print our Deck Guide (PDF).
Do I need a permit to build a deck?
Yes. All decks with a floor height of 16 inches above the finished grade requires a permit. Decks that are under 16 inches above the finished grade are considered patios and are exempt from building permits. An additional zoning permit may be required depending on the location of the building. Contact the Planning Department at 540-382-6128, ext. 1117 if you feel you meet the exemption for zoning permits or to inquire about additional details.
What is required to be submitted with my permit for a deck?
- A copy of the plat for the property, and
- A deck construction plan or you may choose to build from DCA-6 in lieu of plans.
What are the guidelines for building a deck?
You may choose to use DCA-6 2015 or a plan is required. If you choose to use the DCA-6 Deck Construction Manual, the deck must be constructed to that detail. Variances may be permitted if approved by the building inspector prior to the inspection. Also, a copy of your plat is needed for review by the Planning Department.
Do I need a permit to replace an existing deck?
Yes and no. Any deck or porch over 16 inches above finished grade will need a permit to replace an existing deck, but if the deck is less than 16 inches above the finished grade, it will not need a permit.
What types of deck structures require a building permit?
The following requires a building permit for a deck:
- New decks or porches over 16 inches from the finished grade,
- Replacing an existing deck,
- Front porches,
- More than one support post replacement,
- Any structural element replacing more than one support post,
- Covered porches or decks, and
- Replacing more than three risers.
What structural changes may be performed to a deck without a building permit?
The following does not require a building permit for changes to a deck:
- Replacing deck floor boards,
- Handrails on decks or porches,
- Decks or porches that are 16 inches or less from the finished grade,
- Replacing balusters,
- Concrete patios less than 16 inches from the finished grade,
- Replacing only one support post (replacing more than one post requires a permit), and
- Replacing less than three risers.
Can I build my own deck?
Yes. If you meet the requirements for an exemption as outlined in the Code of Virginia Title 54.1-1101, you do not have to hire a licensed contractor. In most cases, a homeowner would not have to hire a contractor. The permit holder is responsible for the work performed under that permit and should have a clear understanding of code requirements and specifications as well as come prepared to answer questions to clarify aspects of the project. An Affidavit of Owner will need to be filled out and notarized if you are the owner and will be applying for a permit.
Does a contractor have to be licensed to build a deck?
Yes. A minimum class C license with proper classifications is required, and a business license is required as well.
Should I obtain the permit for a deck or have my contractor?
Once you have determined that you need a permit, you will need to assign a permit holder. The permit holder is ultimately responsible for the work performed under that permit. An owner, contractor or authorized agent can complete and sign the permit application. The person applying for the permit should understand terms, material requirements, code requirements, and specifications, and be prepared to answer questions to clarify aspects of your project.
Please be aware of the following scenarios if you submit a permit incorrectly:
- If you are the property owner and will be performing the work yourself, you will be the permit holder. By signing the permit application, the property owner acknowledges they own the property and have the authority to undertake the improvements or alterations.
- If you apply for a permit as the property owner, then you knowingly hire an unlicensed contractor, you are committing a Class I misdemeanor under Title 54.1-1115 of the Code of Virginia.
- If a contractor is bidding or practicing without a state contractor’s license they are committing a Class I misdemeanor under Title 54.1-1115 of the Code of Virginia.
- By hiring a licensed contractor, you make yourself eligible for monetary relief from the Contractors Transaction Recovery Fund in case of improper and dishonest conduct.
- For further information about the limits of Class A, Class B and Class C state contractor’s licenses contact the Board of Contractors at the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation.