Building a new deck is an exciting project to start. But many homeowners find themselves asking: How close to the property line can I build?
It’s a great question and one everyone should ask before getting started. Decks are considered permanent structures, so like your house, you must follow specific distance guidelines. These are in place to ensure you (or anyone for that matter) don’t accidentally build onto neighboring properties.
Today, we’ll cover property lines and what you need to know and do before the build.
How Close to the Property Line Can You Build?
The truth is, there’s no single right answer. It depends on your local municipality, homeowner’s or condo association, neighborhood, or individual property. For example, some neighborhoods have their own rules, such as Cherry Hill in Canton, MI. Homeowners can build a deck right up to the side property lines; however, this is rare in other areas.
Some newer developments also use a percentage of the lot’s width and depth to determine how much space you must leave between your structure and property line.
But even if you have a smaller backyard, there’s probably no need to worry. We’ve never run into a situation where we weren’t permitted to build a deck at least 10 feet deep. In fact, many decks in the Southeast Michigan area are 14-18 feet deep or more.
As far as the width of your deck, you’re able to build a deck the same width as your home in any scenario. Many municipalities even allow you to build up to 4 feet past the side of your house. And in rare cases, you’re able to build as wide as you like, up to as little as 3.5 feet away from your property line (as is the case in Ypsilanti, MI) on one side of your yard.
Finding Guidelines for Your Property
There are two simple ways to determine how close you can build a deck to your property line.
Call Your Local Zoning Department
The easiest way is to call your local zoning department. If you live in a smaller municipality, the zoning and building departments may be the same.
Mortgage Survey or Plot Plan
You can also look at your mortgage survey, which is sometimes referred to as a plot plan. You usually get this with the paperwork you receive when purchasing a home. But if not, your local building department will likely have a copy on file.
Property Lines & Setbacks
You know your property line is simply the legal boundary that separates your property from your neighbors. But what about setbacks? Well, It’s the minimum distance in which your structure must be “set back” from the property line.
Your mortgage survey will show your home and property lines as well as your setbacks. In many municipalities and neighborhoods, you’re able to build up to any rear or side setback. And in some rare cases, you can even build into the setbacks. But if it’s still unclear, make sure to check with your zoning department to be 100% certain.
Before Getting Started
Before you can build, you’ll need all the necessary permits and approvals. Ideally, your deck builder will handle this process for you with your local building and zoning departments. And also with your homeowners or condo association if you live within one.
If you’re going the DIY route, you’ll need to make sure you’re clear about your property lines and how much of a setback you need. After that, you’re clear to measure everything out and get started, as long as you have your permits, of course!
It also doesn’t hurt to give your neighbors a heads up about your project, especially if it’s close to your property line. That way, if they have any concerns, it’s much easier to work through it before you’ve started building.
If you’d like to build a deck larger than what’s permitted, you can usually apply for a variance. Then your case will be assessed at a local zoning department hearing. To be successful, you need to prove that a deck smaller than you’d like is causing you “hardship.”
We’ll be honest, it’s not often we hear of variances getting approved, but it’s not impossible. But in these cases, the homeowner should work directly with the zoning department for a better chance of success.
The Bottom Line
It’s critical to follow the established guidelines for how close you can build to your property lines. As well as have all the necessary permits and approvals before starting the project. Doing the research and planning ahead of time reduces the chances of issues coming up in the middle of your deck build. Or worse yet, having to tear it down after it’s complete and being hit with a hefty fine.
Hiring a reputable deck company eliminates doing much of this process yourself. And you can be confident you’ll be enjoying your new deck for years to come.
Are You Ready to Get Started?
If you’ve decided it’s finally time to build a deck, let’s talk!
At Custom Deck Creations, we build composite decks for clients across Southeast Michigan. We work with you to design your dream deck that meets your needs and budget, and we take care of all the permits and approvals for you. Feel free to check out some of our most recent builds, and get in touch for a free, over-the-phone estimate.
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