Do You Need a Permit to Build a Shed - Shed Regulations & Permissions
Updated: Dec 12, 2022
Sheds and various other outdoor structures are an excellent solution if you’re looking to create extra storage space, a home office, man-cave, or play space for the kids. However, it’s not just a case of buying the materials and getting your project underway.
In many cases, you may have to navigate local zoning restrictions, HOA (Homeowners Association) guidelines, property lines, and various other permissions. You might even need a building permit. In this post, we’ll help you get over these hurdles so you can get your shed construction project off the ground.
What is a Shed Building Permit?
A building or shed permit is a piece of paper that gives you, the homeowner, permission to construct a building on your property.
To find out whether you need one, it’s best to contact your local city officials. They will be able to give you a definitive answer as to whether you need a shed or building permit.
In this article, we’ll give you some additional information so you’ll be able to approach your city officials armed with everything you need.
Do you always need permission to build a shed?
The regulations that apply to the construction of outdoor buildings vary considerably from one location to another.
However, generally, for a shed that’s around 6’x 8’ or 8’x 10’, it’s not likely you’ll need a building permit. If you’re planning a shed that’s any bigger than that, you’ll likely need a building permit.
There will also be a variety of local zoning restrictions, building codes, Homeowners Association requirements, local bylaws, or environmental protection laws you must comply with.
Factors That Determine if You Need a Permit for Building a Shed
Several common factors can determine whether you need to obtain an approval or a building permit for a shed you want to build in your backyard.
Location and size of the shed
In most states, cities, and other locations, the need for building permits is determined by the size of the construction. For example, if it’s over a certain height or size. Generally, smaller sheds such as those with the dimensions 6’x 8’ or 8’x 8’ are ok to build without a permit.
Anything larger, such as 16’x 20’ or 16’x 24’, could be completely restricted. As well as the shed’s size, where you plan to locate or place it has a vital role to play in the approval and permit process. For example, the shed’s proximity to surrounding structures, your property’s location, and various other concerns. Check our resource for more information on how to choose your shed location and placement.
Building Code Standards
Building code standards vary from one location to another. For example, if the area is prone to regular heavy rainfall, flooding, and similar issues, it will require a different type of building compared to an area with year-round warm and sunny weather.
Part of the process of applying for a building permit is demonstrating that the building is going to last and is constructed using the correct methods and materials.
If you live in an area that’s prone to severe weather events such as hurricanes or tornados, you might need to anchor your shed to the ground. Likewise, regions that experience seriously cold weather may need to use a specific method for the shed foundations.
Set Back Stipulations
Another critical restriction to keep in mind is the distance between a property line, shed, home, or other nearby structures.
Electrical, utility, and various other modifications
If you’re planning to include electricity, wiring, or some other kind of utility modification, additional approval and a building permit is often a requirement. But, again, it depends on what you’re going to build internally or run into the construction.
If you’re going to use your shed as a home office, business, or living space (check our guide on living in a shed), you may need a building permit.
If your home is in an HOA, you should always check first if you want to make any changes to your property, including building a shed. Every HOA has different regulations and rules.
You may find there are restrictions in place relating to the type of foundation you use.
How do zoning and building codes fit?
Building codes are different for each city, state, and county. However, every local building code is based on the IBC or International Building Code. This code is recognized nationally, although there are some locations where local amendments are limited and more restrictive.
In the IBS, it is stipulated that homeowners are allowed to build one detached structure that will be used as a tool shed or storage shed without the need for a building permit. It should be no more than 120 square feet. That being said, some local codes specify that you’ll need a building permit if the shed is more than 60 square feet.
Zoning laws and local codes are similarly varied. However, they deal more with quantitive and aesthetic features. How many plumbing fixtures are also specified in zoning laws.
Zoning codes relate to the land your building is going to be constructed on. You might not need a building permit, but your shed will have to comply with any local zoning codes.
How to Get a Shed Permit?
Getting shed permits is a relatively simple process as long as you’re prepared.
Get your paperwork ready: You’ll need to provide a comprehensive construction plan, details of the plumbing and wiring, value, labor, including all shed construction costs, floor and elevation plan, beam and walls cross-section, description of the shed, its anticipated value, location of any easements, drainage patterns, and driveway.
Contact your Local Zoning Department and Planning Department: You’ll find that most cities provide online portals where you can apply for and pay for your building permit.
Complete an application and provide the necessary documentation.
Pay the required fee and book an appointment for an official to come and view your construction and property.
If your application is denied: If your shed plans fails to meet the requirements, you will have to ajust your plans and apply again.
During the inspection: After construction your shed will need to be inspected. The process will be smoother if you have all the necessary documentation prepared and be available if there are any questions the inspector needs to ask. Each state, city, county, and town will have its own inspection process. You might find the inspection is carried out more than just once.
Final approval: You will likely have to call the city official or check using the online portal. As soon as the inspector signs off, your shed is approved and ready to use.
To help you a little bit more, here are a few tips that will make the application process more manageable:
Requirements: It pays to determine the local zoning department requirements ahead of your application. Try to find someone who knows about local buildingcodes and zoning codes for their guidance.
The plan: When you decide on the details of your shed, think about what you’re going to use it for, the size, whether you want any extras such as a loft area. Include all these details in your plan.
Consider hiring a shed-building professional: Shed building companies, like Urban Sheds, can help you with the application process. This can be very useful as building codes,zoning, and building permits vary considerably between locations.
Retroactive applications are possible: You don’t need to panic if you’ve built your shed and suddenly realized you need a building permit. In many cases, a retroactive shed permit is an option. Your best course of action is to get in touch with your local Building Department. They will make arrangements for an inspector to come and evaluate your constriction and check the paperwork. If everything is in order, you’ll be able to complete the application, pay the permit fee, and you’ll have a legal shed.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Shed Permit?
It depends on the complexity of the shed building project, but in general, building permits can take from one week to two months.
How Much Does a Shed Permit Cost?
The shed permit costs depend mainly on the size and your location,
You can expect to pay a minimum of $50, but no more than $145.
Don’t there are also several ancillary fees that may need to be paid, depending on your location and the surrounding environment.
For example, if your shed is going to be close to your septic tank, you may need to seek approval from your local health authorities. You’ll have to pay a separate fee that could be as much as $300.
Can I Build a Shed Without Planning Permission?
Permits exist because they ensure you and your neighbors are safe. If you build a storage shed without the necessary permit, you run the risk of the following:
Complaints from your neighbors
Lien of the property
Penalties imposed by the Homeowner’s Association
You may be forced to move or reconstruct your shed
What is the Biggest Size Shed Without Planning Permission?
This is a difficult question to quantify as requirements vary considerably.
However, in most places, you won’t need planning permission for a storage shed that is smaller than 100 square feet or 8’x 10’ in size.
Are There any Fees and Consequences if You Build a Shed Without Permission?
If you build your storage shed without getting the correct permissions, there may be consequences.
You may have to pay a fine.
If someone happens to notice you’ve built a shed and something is amiss, they could report you to your local Building Department.
An inspector will be sent out to investigate, and you could end up paying a sizeable fine or even spending time in jail. In some jurisdictions, a first offense could lead to a fine of up to $50,000. If it’s your second offense, the fine could be as much as $100,000. Let’s give you a few examples of the penalties you may have to pay:
Buffalo in New York: $1,500 or 15 days jail time
Portland, Maine: Between $500 and $2,500 daily
Bedford in New Hampshire: $275 daily
California: A maximum of $5,000
In addition to the penalties, you might also have to pay for a lawyer to defend you.
You may be subject to a lien
If you choose not to pay the fine or ignore it, the city could decide to put a lien on your property. What this means is that they own a part of your house, and you can only regain full ownership if you pay it off. If you decide not to pay a lien, the municipal government may take the property, forcing you to sell to pay the lien.
You may have to pay Homeowners Association Penalties
How much you’ll have to pay depends on the individual Homeowners Association, but typically, it’s a minimum of $25.
Your neighbor or neighbors might complain
There’s not a lot your neighbors can do about your shed legally, but it may lead to a very uncomfortable atmosphere or relationship where you live.
You may be forced to rebuild or move your shed
If your shed is not evaluated by the city, you could potentially build one that’s unsafe, unstable, or likely to fall over at any time. This could be a danger to you, your family, neighbors, and your belongings stored in the shed. If you have to rebuild the shed or move it, such an undertaking could be costly.
How to Check the Exact Shed Permission Requirements in My Area?
Shed permission requirements vary by city or town, state, or region and can be highly localized. This means you have to do your research starting with your local building department. If you’re going to do the research yourself about whether you need a permit, you need to contact your local county, town, or city zoning department.
The best place to look for your local laws is at the office of your city or town government. The offices of the mayor, city attorney, or department of housing are also good places to start. You might also find local ordinance materials at your local public library. Local zoning laws are also being posted online more often.
If you want to challenge local zoning restrictions with regards your new shed, you'll need the advice of a lawyer.
When it comes to building a shed on your property, it is much smarter to be safe rather than sorry. In other words, do everything you can to research the local requirements and make the necessary preparations to apply for a building permit before starting the construction of your shed.
The fee you have to pay for building permits is much less than the hefty fee your city hall could insist you pay. There is always the option of building a smaller shed or two small sheds rather than one large one requiring a building permit. Knowing the answer to the question "Do I need a permit to build a shed" means you can make an informed choice.
1. Can you build a shed against a fence?
Generally, it’s not possible to build a shed against a fence. If the fence marks the property lines, your structure has to be a minimum of 15 feet from any side fence and 10 feet from any back fence.
2. What are the shed building regulations?
You have to comply with various regulations if you want to build a shed in your backyard or on your property. The regulations apply to the height, the volume of the construction, number of platforms, how close it is to your house, and yard coverage. The details of the regulations vary depending on your city, council, or the Homeowners Association.