Robert Lamoureux | Is a permit needed for a shade structure?

Robert Lamoureux
Robert Lamoureux

Question: Hi Robert, thank you for answering questions every week. I have been a long-time reader and have learned so much from you. I’m uncertain if this question has been asked and want to add shade to my backyard but don’t know if I need a permit. I am considering the cost of building a pergola vs. purchasing one let’s say, from Costco.  

Either way, do I need a permit to have one of these in my yard? I know we get high winds at times and I don’t want any issues with either causing safety problems. If I build one, what do I have to note for it to be safe?  

— Derick M.  

Answer: Derick, great question, thank you for writing in. With the cost of materials right now, you may end up getting a good deal with a shopping trip but be sure to evaluate the quality of the item you purchase, if that’s your choice.  

Building a pergola can be done, no problem. However, you will need to get a building permit and have it inspected for safety. You will need to go to the city’s building and safety department with your drawing and simple description of what you intend to build, and they will guide you from there.  

Especially due to winds but also stability in and of itself, something like this needs to be done properly for safety reasons. The city will approve your plans once they are suitable, then you will be free to begin construction. You will be instructed on when to call for inspection and will not be permitted to continue to the next phase until each one is signed off on.  

It’s a bigger project than making a purchase, of course, but you have the freedom to customize and perhaps build something that will last longer than a prefab structure. Many things to consider but if you do your homework you’ll be able to make a suitable choice for your situation. 

Note that purchasing does not require a permit, though you’ll still need to secure it due to weather. Good luck. 

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