So, you’ve decided that it’s time to turn your back yard into the paradise you’ve always dreamed of by building a deck. After much deliberation with your better half, you decide to take the project on yourself – after all, Bob down the street built his own deck, and he’s not nearly as bright or as capable as you are. Plus, he didn’t have your secret weapon: a really handy brother-in-law.
The first step is to come up with a design, and answer the numerous questions that go with it: how big? how high? do I attach it to the house? floating or on piers? what type of material? where to put the stairs? what type of railing? do I need a railing? and so on and so on. Then you remember that disagreement you had with your neighbour last fall and it hits you. Do I need a permit? What if I build without a permit and that neighbour reports me to the city and they make me tear it down? Or worse, I try to sell my house at some point and the potential buyers check with the city and find out that there wasn’t a permit pulled for the deck. Who wants to buy a house for which they could be liable if there is ever a problem resulting from a bad deck design that would never have passed inspection?
No problem, you go on to the City of Ottawa website and check out the requirements. Can’t be that complicated, right? You soon realize that there is a lot of information and it isn’t quite as concise as you had hoped.
The following is a brief outline as to what it all means and why these specific requirements came to be in the first place.
You will need a permit if:
- Your deck is more than 600mm (24″) off the ground. At some point, somebody came up with the precise measurement of 600mm (24″) as being the distance you could fall off of something, like a deck, and seriously hurt yourself. Especially in a back yard setting where there may be rocks, stone retaining walls, etc., to land on. Therefore, if your deck is going to be more than 600mm off the ground, the City of Ottawa (and the province of Ontario) wants to make sure that you have adequate safeguards in place to make sure that anyone that occupies your deck is protected.
- Your deck is attached to your house. Attaching a deck structure to your house structure is obviously something that needs to be done properly, especially with today’s construction methods. For example, with the use of engineered floor joists, it is not uncommon for the web section of the rim joist of your home to be 3/8″or ½” OSB, where you would normally expect to find a 2×8 or 2×10. Attaching the ledger board of your deck to OSB is never going to end well, despite using the appropriate lag bolts and spacing. The City of Ottawa (and the province of Ontario) wants to make sure that the structural connection between your deck and your house is sound.
- Proximity to the property line. Picture yourself laying in your lounger on your beautiful deck that you had a permit for and specifically built to code, only to look up and see your neighbour watching you because his deck is four feet off the ground and snug up against the other side of your six foot fence. You may be fond of your neighbour, but now we have a problem. The City of Ottawa (and the province of Ontario) wants to make sure that your privacy is protected.
- Floating or piers. If you plan on attaching your deck to your house, but you decide to save a few bucks by putting the deck supports on deck blocks (also called pyramid blocks), there could be a serious problem when winter comes and your deck experiences frost heave but your house hopefully doesn’t (if it does, you have more to worry about than deck permits). The City of Ottawa (and the province of Ontario) wants to make sure that if you attach your deck to your house that you also place it on the proper piers/footings.
The Ontario Building Code also defines the minimum requirements for a multitude of other factors, such as joist size, beam size, handrail requirements, etc. Do your homework before you build, and should you have any further questions, please contact C3 Ottawa Renovations for more information.