A building permit is required for all decks. At any time during the planning or construction of your deck, call or email Building Inspection. Staff would be happy to answer your questions and suggest solutions to your problems.

Process Overview

  1. Determine Zoning

    Before developing a parcel of land, you need to know if the parcel is zoned for your desired use. You also need to know if there are any special development considerations. Zoning will be able to help you with this information.
    Our staff will inform you of the requirements and next steps.

    Find out the zoning for your property.

    Who to Contact

    Zoning at Building Inspection: (608) 266-4551

  2. Review Requirements

    • Decks less than three feet above ground can extend up to the lot line in most cases.
    • Decks three or more feet above the ground must meet the setback rules for your district. Call (608) 266-4551 for zoning requirements in your area.
    • Use weather-resistant materials, such as treated lumber.
    • Footings must be able 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. The guardrails must be at least three feet high.
    • Stairs with more than three risers need a handrail with a guard that prevents passage of a 4 3/8-inch ball. The guard must be in place on all open sides.
    • Deck boards may be replaced without a permit
    • Replacement of the stairs, joists, beams, columns, guardrails, or any combination should either have a permit obtained or have situation specifics checked with Building Inspection Staff.

  3. Submit Building Plans

    Where to Go

    Building Inspection Permit Counter by appointment only
    Madison Municipal Building
    215 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd Suite 017
    Madison, WI 53703

    What to Include
    • A site plan, if your deck is over three feet high. This drawing must show the:
      • whole property
      • deck’s location and size
      • deck's distance from lot lines and other structures
      • measurements of the lot, house, deck, and any other structures
      • distances from the house and deck to the lot lines and any other structures
      • above items drawn to scale, such as 1″=20′
    • Construction drawings that show:
      • deck size
      • post locations, beam sizes, joist size and spacing
      • the above items drawn to a common scale, such as 1/4"=1'
    • Deck application form
  4. Obtain a Building Permit

    For decks, we can review your plans and issue a permit on the spot if the design meets the required codes. You can make an appointment to come to our office.
    The City charges for building permits to cover the cost of plan review and inspections. The permit fee for most decks under 250 square feet is $75. Staff will calculate your exact fee once they have approved your plans.
  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

    Once we issue your permit, we will give you the name and phone number of the inspector for your area. The Building Inspector will work with you to be sure the work is done correctly.

    You must schedule an inspection
    • after you dig your footing holes AND
    • before you install the footings
    These inspections make sure that the materials and the work are up to code. If any work does not pass inspection, you must correct it and call for a reinspection.
  7. Completion

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

Related Forms & Handouts