“spare yourself loads of trouble by planning it right”
Decks are no longer just square surfaces with wooden railings; they’ve become extensions of the home, an extra room (or rooms) that are available during the sunny half of the year for every conceivable activity. Who needs a cottage when we can have our own summer getaway in the backyard?
Spring has arrived at long last, and we’re all starting to look at our outdoor spaces with sparkling eyes. Where will we entertain this year? Does that muddy corner in the backyard need a remodel? Or is that old deck finally on its last legs? If it’s time to tackle your outdoor renovation project, then read on to spare yourself loads of trouble by planning it right.
Whether you’re thinking of building your deck yourself or hiring a contractor, the first step is the same: You’ve got to find out what your local zoning department will allow you to build. Depending on where you live, there will be different restrictions and requirements such as setbacks and lot coverage that will outline the scope of your project. It is crucial to get these specifications before spending weeks planning or building your deck, or you may end up wasting a lot of time and money.
Getting the information is easy: most building/zoning departments will help you with a simple phone call. You can leave a message at your local department with your address and question, and a city representative will call you back in 24 hours with the necessary information.
If you find the restrictions too stringent for the deck you really want, you can take a further step: go through a Committee of Adjustment to request changes to some of the zoning requirements. This process will take a few months (at least 4) and usually carries a higher price tag – hence the importance of planning ahead. With Committees of Adjustment there are no guarantees that they will approve your request, but if the changes are important to you it is worth a try.
What are some of the zoning requirements and restrictions that you’ll hear about? Setbacks and lot coverage are two of the more important ones. Setbacks determine how far from property boundaries you can build. Lot coverage will determine how big your deck can be. It’s a calculation of the proportion of your property you can build a deck on – and careful: lot coverage counts stairs into the square footage as well.
Knowing your setbacks and lot coverage in addition to any other zoning restrictions is the first step to designing your deck. Once you know where and how large it can be, you or your contractor can begin planning that beautiful addition to your home: your deck. And if you start now, you can begin enjoying it this very summer!
Good luck planning your deck.