Whether or not you need a permit to build a shed on your property will depend on where you live. The majority of people will need to obtain a permit before they can build and have to follow building code guidelines. These will state what the shed can be used for, what size the shed can be, and where the structure can be placed on the property.
Many cities and counties have inspections by an official representative before building, during the construction, and upon project completion. In some areas, you may only need a permit if the building is going to be larger than a specified size. Example: In the state of Texas, if you are constructing a shed that will be two stories high, or will exceed 200 sq. feet, then you will have to have a permit.
How to Find Out if You Need a Permit
Homeowner’s Associations (HOAs)
You likely need a permit if you are a part of an HOA. Almost any changes to a property have to be approved by the board. But in your homeowner’s book of covenants, conditions, and restrictions, you should find the answer. Speaking to your neighborhood property manager can also help you find out all the steps you need to take to get a permit to construct a shed on your property if the handbook isn’t clear.
If the HOA doesn’t have any existing standards for shed construction, the members may vote on your proposal to build.
HOA guidelines may include the following:
- A list of materials that are accepted
- A list of acceptable colors
- Limits to the size of the shed according to the purpose
- Restrictions on what part of the property the shed can be on
- The distance you must keep from your neighbor’s property line
- Usage guidelines for the shed
If you don’t get permission or don’t follow the guidelines, you may be reprimanded with a fine or told to remove the building. And remember: even if you live an HOA, you also need to be following any city or county rules, too.
City or Municipality
Contact your city building and permit office to find out if you need a permit to build the shed. This contact can be made by phone or in person, or you may find all the information you need on the city website.
It is far better to waste a little time and find out you do not need a permit than try to build without one. The consequences of building without a necessary permit can be severe. Neglecting to obtain a permit from the city could result in fines, higher permit fees, or the complete halting of the project. It could also create an issue down the road, when you try to do something else to your property or sell it, and it is discovered that you have a “nonconforming” shed or shop on your property.
County regulations and ordinances are much like city ordinances. Finding out if you need a shed permit is as simple as calling the county building and permit office. If you are still looking for the number to this office, you can contact the county clerk’s office, and they will be able to point you to the correct office.
Whether or not you need a permit, you must report the construction of a shed to the county tax assessor so they can inspect your property and make the appropriate changes to your tax records and property description.
If you are in a rural area, the county codes might be the ones you need to focus on. And for many, the codes around size and placement are less-strict in a rural area….. but they are still concerned that you do the project safely.
Standard Codes and Rules About Shed Construction
Distance from Neighbor’s Property Line
Each city and state will have different rules concerning how far something can be constructed from your neighbor’s property line. A distance of at least five feet will be required in most areas. There may also be guidelines and restrictions determining the distance a shed can be established from:
- A road
- A fence
- A pool
- Another structure
Call your city or county offices or visit their website and find out all of the guidelines and zoning codes you need to know before you buy a shed kit or decide to build a shed.
Shed Size and Height
The height restrictions and limitations will change according to the state or city you live in. In some cases, the height restriction also differs between urban and rural areas.
Backyard storage sheds are typically under 10″, and often, they are no higher than 8′. This height is usually acceptable to most city and county ordinances.
Anything over 15′ in height is likely going to have to be permitted. Often power lines are only 14.5 feet from the ground.
The purpose of a shed may determine if you need a permit or a special permit. If you are storing items in the structure, you may be able to build without a permit in some areas. If you plan to use the shed as a workroom or business, you may need a different type of permit and approval.
And, if you want the shed to be an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) then you might have an entirely additional set of rules to deal with.
Anchoring and Foundation
People who live in areas with a threat of high winds or tornadoes may find that they are required to anchor a shed. In areas where the temperature drops below freezing in the winter, there may be ordinances for your shed’s foundation.
Many cities and counties have rules that you need a permit for any type of excavation. Imagine you are digging as part of some site prep so you can make a nice shed with a poured concrete floor. The fact that you are excavating might require a permit. Because excavating can change the grade of a property (and impact your neighbors’ drainage) and there is always a chance to hit power or sewer lines, many municipalities like to have the ability to permit any excavation, even if it is just for a shed.
Electricity in Your Shed
As with many permitting matters, whether you need a permit to put electricity in a shed or accessory building on your property varies depending on where you live and the specific regulations of your local government.
Many local governments require a permit for any electrical work that involves adding new circuits or modifying existing ones. This includes adding electricity to an accessory building or shed. The permit process typically involves submitting plans to the local building department, having them reviewed and approved, and having an electrical inspector come out to inspect the work once it’s complete.
Depending on where electricity currently runs in your yard, some level of permitting might be requiring to dig and extend the wiring to the area of your shed — something that has lots of safety implications.
Obviously, this also means that you need to have already gotten proper permitting for the shed overall.
While it may be tempting to skip the permit process, doing so can lead to potential safety hazards and can also result in legal consequences. If the electrical work is done improperly and causes damage or injury, you may be liable for any resulting damages.
Overall Garage + Shed + Accessory Building Capacity
A regulation I am seeing more and more in some cities is a limit on the total combined garage, shed, and other storage building capacity.
If a city says that you can have a total combined storage capacity of 800 feet, for example, then it doesn’t matter how you use it, but you can’t go over the limit. You could have a 20×30 garage, but that only leaves 200 square feet for all sheds, combined. Or if you have a 20×40 garage in that instance, you might be precluded from being able to do a shed at all, without a variance.
Zoning ordinances and building codes differ from city to city, county to county, and state to state. A building permit is more than likely necessary in all urban areas. Rural areas where you own more than five acres may not require building permits. The best bet is to call first and prevent any possible violation of building codes or restrictions in your area.