One of the most frequently asked questions about constructing a backyard storage shed is, “Do I need a building permit?” The short answer is, probably yes, but it’s slightly more complicated than that and here’s why: Building permits are issued by the local building department to ensure that the structure conforms to the National Building Code. However, individual towns have the right to alter and amend certain codes to satisfy their specific location, weather, and topography. 

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And complicating the issue is that many people think that you only need a building permit for a shed over a certain size; meaning that no permit is required to build a small- or medium-size shed. That’s untrue in nearly ever municipality, but there’s a difference between applying for a permit and obtaining a permit. Regardless of where you live or how small or large your shed will be, you must always apply for a building permit. It’s then up to the building inspector to determine if you need a permit. And in a vast majority of cases, you probably will. 

When you go to the building department, be sure to bring along a set of building plans that show specific construction details, such as overall size, type of foundation, siding, roofing, window and door placement, and lumber sizes and spacing for framing the floor, walls and roof. The inspector will need this information to ensure that the structure will conform to all local and national building codes.  

Be aware that you may also have to get approval to build from the inland wetlands commission, health department, and zoning board. And finally, every town charges a building-permit application fee. Sometimes it’s a standard amount of $15 to $25, but often the fee is based on the overall cost of the shed. For example, the fee might be $10 per $1,000 of cost. So, the application fee for a $3,000 shed would be about $30.