As far as construction projects go, decks don’t seem to be all that complicated. If there’s no plumbing, electricity, or painting to contend with, they can be built in just a few days. As a result, many people end up simply getting the work done by a local contractor or even doing it themselves, never once involving the government. It’s just a simple project—why would they bother?
Unfortunately for those homeowners, their decks are illegal.
What the New York City building code has to do with your deck
Just like any other major construction project, decks are subject to government regulations and must adhere to the city’s building code. To ensure proposed decks meet these specifications, homeowners must petition the Department of Buildings for a permit and hire a licensed engineer or architect to design the project. Homeowners can build the deck themselves from the approved plans, but must hire out for any electrical or plumbing work.
What rules and regulations do I need to follow?
Decks can extend up to 8 feet from the building into the rear yard, but there must be at least 3 feet between the sides of the deck and the property line. The entire deck must be encased in safety railings at least 42 inches high, with no more than 5 inches of space in between the rails or posts. If the deck is elevated, it needs bracing at the column and beam connections. The entire deck should be able to support at least 40 pounds per square foot.
What defines a deck, anyway?
One last important thing to note–will your deck have a roof? If so, it’s not a deck… at least according to the Department of Buildings, anyway. They’re classified as rooms instead, in which case none of the above applies. Rooms which follow completely different construction code provisions.
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