How Long Does it Take to Get a Permit for a Rooftop Deck in Washington, DC?

Posted in: Deck Permits, Deck Contractor Permits, hire a decking contractor, deck builders, building permits, deck contractors, decks in Washington, D.C., rooftop decks in Washington, DC, building a deck

James Moylan

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

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Building a rooftop deck in the Washington, DC, area is a great way to add style, sophistication, and value to your home, but the permit process can be challenging and, at times, frustrating. So, how long should a DC homeowner anticipate waiting for permits on a new rooftop deck construction, and what factors affect that wait time?

Download your FREE deck building checklistGrowth Is Outpacing Residential Deck Permitting Staff in Washington, DC

Washington, DC, is currently undergoing a tremendous amount of growth, and with that comes an increase in the amount of construction jobs. There has not been, however, a significant increase in the amount of staff to process all those permit application requests. In that situation, the result is pretty predictable: it’s taking longer to get your permit approved than it has in the past. 

To compensate for this influx of permit requests, many DC departments are outsourcing a lot of the permit-related work. Conversely, this outsourcing can slow the process of obtaining your permit down because you’re not guaranteed to have your permit reviewed by someone who is adequately familiar with DC’s specific codes and regulations. This in turn leads to delays while the permits are adjusted to meet DC code if it needs to be adjusted more than is necessary as a result.

As a general rule of thumb, a homeowner can anticipate waiting at least twelve weeks to obtain a permit, but again, many factors can affect this wait time. This is important to remember both when you're working with a local deck contractor and when you're building a deck yourself.

Permit Application Process 

While it might take longer to receive your permit in the DC area, the application process for a rooftop deck permit isn’t anything out of the ordinary. The steps are essentially as follows:

  1. Submit your permit application online
  2. Wait for someone to get back to you at each step of the review 
    1. Historical Group
      • If you’re in a historical area, your first review will be through the historical group to determine the feasibility of your project.
    2. Zoning
    3. Structural Review
  3. Make adjustments and changes to your plans, per the suggestions and mandates of each review group.
  4. Send the permit back for further review.
    • This process goes back and forth until each review group greenlights the permit.
  5. Receive your approved permit.
    • Note, every time you have to send your application back for revisions, it can significantly delay your permit because it will need to go through the review process all over again.

Jurisdiction and Zoning Changes

In certain DC jurisdictions, it used to be possible to walk into a permit office and to obtain your permit that same day. Now, every jurisdiction requires the online application. Additionally, there’s extra paperwork and requirements, and taken together, the process has systematically become slower in every jurisdiction.

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Zoning is also potentially problematic to the permitting process. Not only are there a large number of specific zones within the DC area, but they can unexpectedly impact your project. For example, even if your home is not within a historic zone, you could potentially still have to go through a historical review process. This will determine whether your project impacts views from a historically designated area or structure. These kinds of bureaucratic hoops are necessary but do slow down the process.

Uncertainty is the Only Certainty

In the Washington, DC, area, the permit process has simply become highly unpredictable. It could take as little as thirty days to obtain your approved permit, or it could take over one hundred days. It depends on many unpredictable factors, including, but not limited to, who is actually looking at and reviewing your permit at every stage.

While your professional deck building firm will be navigating this permit process (not you, as the homeowner), it’s still helpful to know going in to your project that this can take a long time. While there aren’t any guarantees concerning your permit, if there’s one takeaway here, it’s that you should start planning your home project as early as possible. This can help compensate for any potential delays at the permit office. Contact us for a free estimate for your own project today!