A building permit is required for all decks. At any time during the planning or construction of your deck, call, write or visit Building Inspection. They’re happy to answer your questions and suggest solutions to your problems.

Process Overview

  1. Determine Zoning

    Before developing a parcel of land, you will need to determine if the parcel is zoned for your desired use or if there are any special development considerations for your project.

    Zoning will be able to tell you the zoning of the property or if there are any special considerations for your project. If your project requires special handling, our staff will inform you of the requirements and next steps.

    Find out the zoning for your property.

    Who to Contact

    Zoning at Building Permits: (608) 266-4551.

  2. Review Requirements

    • Decks less than 3 feet above ground can extend up to the lot line in most cases.
    • Decks 3 feet or higher above the ground must meet the zoning setback requirements for your district. Call (608) 266-4551 for zoning requirements in your area.
    • Use weather-resistant materials such as treated lumber.
    • Footings must be adequate to support the load. Building Inspection staff will help you determine the type of footing to use.
    • Footings for decks must be at least 48 inches deep to prevent frost heaving.
    • Guardrails must surround any deck that is more than 2 feet above ground and they must be a minimum of 3 feet high.
    • Stairs of more than 3 risers require handrails with intermediate rails, balustrades or latticework spaced so that a 4-inch ball cannot pass through.
  3. Submit Building Plans

    Where to Go

    Building Inspection Permit Counter
    Madison Municipal Building
    126 S. Hamilton St.
    Madison, WI 53703

    Hours: Monday – Friday, 7:30 am – 4:30 pm

    What to Include
    • If your deck is over 3 feet high a drawing (site plan) showing your deck’s location, size and distance from lot lines and other structures will be needed. The site plan must show the entire property and be drawn to scale. Using a scale of 1″=20′ usually works best. Show the measurements of the lot, house, deck, and any other structures. Also show the distances from the house and deck to the lot lines and any other structures. View the site plan example
    • All decks require construction drawings showing the deck size, post locations, beam sizes, and joist size and spacing.
  4. Obtain a Building Permit

    For decks, your plans can be reviewed and a permit issued by City staff immediately if the design meets the required codes.

    The City charges for building permits to cover the cost of plan review and inspections. The permit fee for most decks under 420 square feet is $35. Staff will calculate your exact fee once they have approved your plans. A fee schedule is available at the Permit Counter.

  5. Start the Work

    Be sure to display the permit where it can be seen from the street during construction.

  6. Call for an Inspection

    When your permit is issued the Permit Counter staff will tell you the name and phone number of the Building Inspector for your area. The Building Inspector will work with you to be sure the work is done correctly. It is your responsibility to schedule an inspection after your footing holes are dug and before the footings are installed.

    On-site inspections of your project during construction assure you that the materials used and the work done are up to code. If any work does not pass inspection, it must be corrected and reinspected.

  7. Completion

    After your final inspection, your project will be considered complete.

Related Forms & Handouts