This is a question we get asked often. The answer for pergolas is different than for 3-season screened porches and depends on the specific building regulations where you live. In New England, these regulations are generally set by the local municipality. Most have a “code enforcement” department that you can contact to ask if you will need a permit. They will ask you how large the screen porch kit or pergola kit will be, and if it will be attached to an existing structure.
Free Standing structures (i.e., not attached to your dwelling) that under a certain size will generally not need a permit (the size threshold will vary by municipality). Attached structures of any size generally will need a permit. These rules may, or may not, apply to pergola kits depending on your municipality. Ask. Don’t guess.
Obtaining a Building Permit
Obtaining a building permit is a simple process. Any DYI homeowner can do it. You will need the following:
- A plot map showing your existing structures and property boundaries. Most people will have a plot map from the purchase of their home. If you do not, or can’t find it, go to your municipal office and ask for a copy of the tax map showing your property. Then enlarge the portion of the tax map showing your property on a copier so your plot fills a letter size page.
- Sketch the location and shape of your pergola kit onto the plot map. It will need to be to scale.
TIP: If there is no scale bar on the plot map, you can measure the distance between two visible points on the plot map and the same two points on your actual property. Then divide the actual property distance in feet by the plot map distance in inches. This will provide a foot per inch ratio to use as a scale.
The code enforcement office will use this information to verify that your project meets minimum property line setback requirements and the sketch will become part of your application. They may ask you for more information, but usually this is all you will need, in addition to a completed application form and payment of a fee.
If your municipality does require a building permit, then your pergola kit may also require an inspection by a code enforcement officer at some point in the assembly process. You should find out if an inspection will be required when you obtain your building permit. Our pergola kits are designed to meet applicable code requirements in most of New England.
The final step in the code approval process will be an onsite inspection. Remember that the code enforcement officer’s primary mission is to ensure that your finished pergola kit will be safe for you, your family and guests. Embrace this!
So, to summarize:
- Find out if you will need a building permit and obtain one if needed.
- Find out if your pergola kit will need to be inspected once installed.
- Do all the above BEFORE ordering.
- Follow our step-by-step installation instructions carefully.
- Embrace your code enforcement officer’s mission to ensure your structure will be safe.
If you are a do-it-yourself homeowner like me, and this is your first time dealing with a building permit and code enforcement, then you might be a little apprehensive. Don’t be. We will be here to help you every step of the way. And if this is still too much potential stress, then ask about our assembly services. We will do all the above for you, and you can enjoy the end product with the knowledge that it meets local building safety code requirements.
Will I Need a Building Permit for a Screen Porch Kit?