This is one of the necessary things you must consider before building or buying a shed. If you need a permit, you’ll need to have it before you start building or shopping for a shed. In addition, even with a pre-built shed, you’ll need to supply a foundation for it yourself, and there may be restrictions on the type of foundation required.
What’s the Maximum Shed Size Without a Permit Can You Build?
This will vary with the local zoning laws. This is why it’s important for you to contact your local building authority to make sure of the requirements in your area before constructing or buying a shed.
The limitations will normally be listed as square footage in the zoning regulations, with the most common limits running from 100 to 120 square feet. These limitations can run from 60 to 200 feet, however, so you can see that this is something you need to know. Any shed size that will fall within that parameter will be acceptable.
Something small, such as a 6 x 8, will be well within any limitations and you won’t have to worry about it. In some places, you can build a shed up to an 8 x 10 without a permit.
There may be other limitations you need to check. Some size restrictions aren’t so much a matter of square footage per se as a percentage of the lot size. There may also be a height requirement, which probably won’t be a problem unless you plan a tall, pitched roof.
If you live within a homeowners association area, they probably have their own restrictions, such as placing the shed in a place where it won’t be seen from the street.
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Other restrictions may include:
Intended Use. If you are going to use your shed for an office or living space, you’ll probably need some sort of inspection or permit.
Electricity or Plumbing. Any shed that will have electricity or plumbing run to it will need a permit unless you live in a really rural area with no restrictions. The local authorities will want to inspect your build to make sure that all requirements in regards to the utility are adhered to and may require that you have a licensed electrician or plumber doing the job.
What Information Do You Need When Applying for Your Permit?
You will need a detailed blueprint or building plans. If you get plans from an online source, make sure that the plans you choose include measurements. You’ll also need information on the type of foundation you plan, the kind of siding and roofing materials you want, and the size and placement of doors and windows.
The right kind of detailed plans should include all the measurements you need. The plans need to be this detailed because some localities have restrictions on the kind of roof or foundation you can use due to local weather conditions, such as frequent storms, high winds, or heavy snowfall.
Another plan should include a drawing showing where you plan to place the shed on the lot. This doesn’t have to look like an architectural drawing, but it should have the distance between your planned shed and any lot lines, fencing, other buildings including your house, trees, underground pipes such as natural gas piping that supplies your home, sewer or water lines, and overhead utility lines.
You should also check with the local authorities to find out if there are any underground utility lines, including natural gas lines or buried cables. Many municipalities have limitations on how close your shed can be to any of these. A few photos to be included with the permit application can help, as they can assure the authorities that your planned building site is not in a low place prone to flooding or has other problems.
You’ll need to pay a fee for the permit, and it may take some time for it to be approved, depending on how backed up the permit office may be or how much they have to go over. You also may or may not need to have an inspector at one or more building stages. You can get more information in my article Can I Build a Shed Without Getting a Permit?
What Will Happen if You Build a Shed Without a Permit?
You might get away with this for a time, but inevitably you’ll be found out. People notice construction projects, and if you have a neighbor who is cranky or just plain nosy, your project won’t last for long. Don’t count on escaping if you bought a pre-built shed, either. You’ll have to provide a foundation for it.
Once your violation is discovered, consequences vary greatly depending on the local ordinances. Fines can range from $250 to $2,500 per day until you rectify the situation, such as getting the permit as you should have done to begin with. They could assess a flat fine and give you a certain time period to comply.
Other possibilities include the authorities placing a lien on your property to assure compliance or even requiring you to tear down the shed. However, if there’s another problem, such as building an unapproved foundation type or other violation, you may just have to tear down or move your shed.
You may have heard the saying, “ignorance of the law is no excuse,” and it certainly will apply here. You can fight the charge, but you’ll likely just end up paying court or other legal fees on top of your other problems. In some places, you can even be jailed if you balk at rectifying the situation. If your just wanting a shed for storing stuff check out my article Do You Require a Building Permit For a Storage Shed?
When is a Permit Not Needed for a Shed?
If your shed falls within the locality’s size limitations and is located in an acceptable place with the proper foundation according to zoning laws, you won’t need a permit. It’s still absolutely necessary to find out the requirements for your area first since these requirements vary so much from place to place.
Is There Any Way to Bypass Getting a Building Permit?
If your shed is going to need a permit, there’s really no way to bypass this. You’ll eventually get caught, unless you’re extremely lucky or you live in a really rural area with a few acres between neighbors, in which case there probably aren’t any building restrictions anyway.
Some people try to run electricity or plumbing to a shed themselves. While this is doable for some people with electrical knowledge, you can run into other problems later. For instance, if you ever have an electrical fire in the shed, your insurance company will turn its back on you.
Even with an electrical fire in your home, the adjuster may blame it on the unpermitted electricity running to the shed as having caused an overload leading to the fire. Guess how much they’ll pay then – about as much as you’ll get for a flood in your shed caused by a break in a do-it-yourself plumbing job. If your wanting to add a plug or light to a shed, will you need a permit? Check out my article Do I Need a Permit to Wire a Shed? for more information.
The bottom line is that you should check with your local building or zoning authority to find out not only size restrictions but placement and any other restrictions. Check with any homeowners association rules as well. Just bite the bullet and get your needed permits and permissions. This way, you can get that off your mind and not risk having a problem later.