What's required to permit a detached pergola?

Eric

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Apr 16, 2023
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I reached out to several building departments to ask about permitting requirements for detached pergolas. I was particularly interested in how different codes/offices would approach an issue involving pre-installed concrete footings and what permitting options might be available to a homeowner facing this scenario (a question inspired by this Reddit thread).

In most jurisdictions, it looks like a permit isn't required if the pergola (or similar structure, like a gazebo) has a footprint of less than 200 square feet. Not every jurisdiction has an exemption like this or the exemption may be more restrictive (e.g., 120 square feet for Lincoln, CA). As you'd expect, the structure is still generally subject to zoning rules (e.g., setbacks) regardless of the exemption, and a building permit may be required if installation of utilities (e.g., electrical) is proposed.

Responses by permit office:

Broward County, FL - Building Code Division (1/12/24):

For Unincorporated Broward, signed and sealed engineered drawings from a Florida licensed design professional are required for a detached Pergola. Pre-installed concrete footings must have been permitted at some point through us. If they weren’t, they must be incorporated in the signed and sealed pergola drawings and testing must be performed by the owner that shows size, reinforcement and concrete strength in order to demonstrate to us that they meet code.

Columbus, SC - Planning & Development Services (1/8/24):
The type of permit one needs to install a pergola will depend upon the square footage of it. If it is greater than 200 sq. feet in size, then a bldg.. permit will be needed. If it is less than 200 sq. feet, then only a zoning permit is needed. The homeowner can pull the permit to install, if he or she resides at the address and is doing the work themselves.

Honolulu, HI - Department of Planning & Permitting (1/6/24):
Yes, a permit will be required as this will be considered a new structure and it will most likely include ground disturbance. Yes, there are professionals who can submit building plans and zoning requirements on behalf of a home owner. Sorry, we are not allowed to recommend any. Yes, pre-installed footings will have had to have been permitted by us.

Kenner, LA - Inspections and Code Enforcement (1/8/24):
Yes, it is required to obtain a permit to install a pergola. The following should be included when submitting for such a project:
  • Completed building permit application, attached for your use.
  • Property Survey for the subject site.
  • Site plan of where the pergola will be placed on site. Please include the setbacks from all property lines and neighboring structures (ex: shed, garage, house).
  • Please include the proposed height of the pergola.
  • Please include the ID for whomever signs the building permit application.
All information can be emailed to kennerpermits@kenner.la.us for proper processing and distribution. Should we have any questions regarding the submittal, we will let you know.

In regards to who can submit the permit, permits can be submitted by the owner, an agent for the property, a design professional (architect or engineer if using one) or the contractor. We do not have, nor could we supply, a list of professionals who perform this task.

Based on the information we have thus far, the only issue I see at this time with pre-existing concrete pavers is if they are located so that the pergola would not meet the required setbacks. The pergola would need to be setback a minimum of 3 ft from the side and rear property lines and 6 ft from the house, with a roof-to-roof separation. Please note, accessory structures cannot be located within any utility servitudes, which would be shown on the required survey.

Lincoln, CA - Community Development Department (1/8/24):
If the structure is under 120sqft and there is no electrical or plumbing to the structure it doesn’t require a permit, but you will need to reach out to our planning department to check set back requirements (Planning@lincolnca.gov) . If the homeowner is planning on hiring a contractor then that person can submit on there behalf or they would have to fill out the owner builder form with a possible authorized agent (that form does need to be filled out in person with both the owner and authorized agent present with ID’s, we will also take the form notarized by a notary). If the structure is over 120sqft it will require a permit and the existing footings will need to be shown on the plans, proof that it was previously inspected will need to be submitted as well. If you have any additional questions please feel free to contact us here in the Building Division.

North Las Vegas, NV - Land Development & Community Services Department (1/9/24):
A permit is required for a detached patio/pergola as long as the structure is over 200 sf. If the detached structure is less than 200 sf then a permit is not required, however any added electrical will require a permit and you will want to make sure to meet the minimum setbacks.

Phoenix, AZ - Planning & Development Department (1/4/24):
1. Section 105.2.1 Building 2215705 1. One-story detached accessory structures used as tool and storage sheds, playhouses and similar uses, provided the aggregate floor area does not exceed 200 square feet (18.58 square meters). Commentary: Additional similar uses include, but are not limited to, ramadas and gazebos. If utilities are provided to a detached accessory structure exempt from permit, a permit is required for the installation of the utilities.

2. Who you choose to do business with and how that business is conducted is solely up to you. You can reach out to the Registrar of Contractors to search for licensed contractors.
The permit specialist who responded indicated that they'd sourced the above code exemption/commentary from the Departments "Work Exempt from Permit" document. That document is included as an attachment to this post.

Tuscon, AZ - Planning & Development Services (1/8/24):
The permit application should include a construction plan set with a site plan and structure details. See the Porch Sample at: https://www.tucsonaz.gov/Departments/Planning-Development-Services/Permits/Residential-Permits

The plans should identify any existing items such as the foundation, although it requires rebar reinforcement that is usually inspected prior to pouring concrete. A pergola not exceeding 200 SF may be permitted with a compliant site plan without construction plans.
 
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Attachments

  • work exempt from permit (Phoenix, AZ).pdf
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Wow, you really did your research! It's incredible that so many departments responded to your inquiry with a detailed explanation about their permitting laws. It appears that many areas are relaxed about smaller pergola structures.
 
Great job on the article @Eric. You really went above and beyond to find the info on this. I was curious myself and did research for Michigan, and it seems they allow the building of pergolas without the need for a building permit. But, the floor can't exceed 200 square feet. Which falls into a lot of what you found in your article. Found that info here in case anyone wants to check it out: case text
 
Definitely interesting. I like the fact that you may be able to build a detached carport without a building permit. That could be really helpful for my situation. I will need to do more due diligence and check the building codes for my local area, but I really like this idea.
 
Definitely interesting. I like the fact that you may be able to build a detached carport without a building permit. That could be really helpful for my situation. I will need to do more due diligence and check the building codes for my local area, but I really like this idea.

Hi Linux - nice to see you on here :). Right, sounds like it all depends on whether your jurisdiction has an exemption for detached accessory structures and, if so, what the maximum square footage covered is. Half the jurisdictions I reached out to said their exemptions cover structures up to 200 square feet but one (Lincoln, CA) said their exemption only covered structures up to 120 square feet. Most one-car DIY carport kits appear to be in the 10'W x 20'L range so seems like you'll definitely want to know whether an exemption's available and what the size limit is before planning your carport further.
 
Hi Linux - nice to see you on here :). Right, sounds like it all depends on whether your jurisdiction has an exemption for detached accessory structures and, if so, what the maximum square footage covered is. Half the jurisdictions I reached out to said their exemptions cover structures up to 200 square feet but one (Lincoln, CA) said their exemption only covered structures up to 120 square feet. Most one-car DIY carport kits appear to be in the 10'W x 20'L range so seems like you'll definitely want to know whether an exemption's available and what the size limit is before planning your carport further.
Yes, that’s important. Another issue could be city rules against impervious surface (concrete) that exist in Poway because of the disruption in drainage and environmental impacts. If your carport or detached patio has concrete under it (or a solid roof for rainwater collection that I wanted to do 😬), that could be an obstacle to keep in mind.
 
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