One of the first questions asked about building a pergola is whether or not a pergola permit is needed. Pergolas are open structures with an open covering that is not considered a complete roof. They do not alter your home’s structure. Their posts do not penetrate deep into the ground if they are not secured above ground. They are usually located in the back or side yard, with front yard versions that are smaller and placed over a front entrance gate. Therefore, a pergola does not usually require a building permit. However, we cannot offer legal advice, and every state & city has different requirements so please check with your local laws, building codes, and zoning rules prior to construction.
It is much more likely if you live in an area governed by a Homeowner’s Association (HOA) that you will need to get clearance to build a pergola. HOA rules frequently restrict things like setback from a fence or structure and they are very particular about protecting property owner’s views.
Be prepared when you check with your local official
To ease the process of speaking with your public official or HOA, you’ll want to be prepared with your pergola plans. This means you should have your design, materials, measurements, location, etc. chosen ahead of time. Have the proper documentation and even pictures with you to show. The more clear you are about what the pergola will look like, the better they will understand.
For example, a typical pergola cover is not a roof, so don’t call it a roof. That is, of course, unless you are truly putting a roof on your pergola.
Another determining factor will be whether or not you are attaching to an outside wall of the house.
Do I need a soil sample?
Not normally, however, it is important to make note of the frost level in your area if you intend to secure the posts by digging into the ground and pouring concrete footings. If you have frost it is critical that the footings extend below the frost line to prevent upheaval and shifting of the structure.
What if I am buying a pergola kit?
Pergola Kits are an efficient way of building your pergola, and sometimes city officials prefer you use a kit rather than building a pergola from scratch. This is more out of concern for safety and construction quality from their perspective. For instance, some states require that you pass a basic construction test before being granted a permit to do any building on your own. Others may always want a licensed contractor to do any work. Many others require nothing at all which is why you should always check before embarking on any project. No need to waste time and money if you don’t need to!
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If you’ve decided that you really want to add a pergola to your property, then your next step is to check out our Guide to Building a Pergola in One Weekend.
- 5 Tips Before You Build a Pergola
- Site Preparation to Build a Pergola
- Pergola Plans – Free, Flexible & Easy to Follow