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What‌ ‌Size‌ ‌Shed‌ ‌Can‌ ‌I‌ ‌Build‌ ‌Without‌ ‌A‌ ‌Permit?‌ ‌Here’s‌ ‌The‌ ‌Answer!‌

You can usually build a shed up to 100 square feet without a permit, but this depends on your location. Local cities have regulations for shed size, placement, plumbing, electricity, and usage. Getting a shed permit could save you from fines, liens, Homeowners Association penalties, or complaints.

Are you ready to start building your new garden shed? If so, you’re probably thinking about interior design and shed placement to get the most out of your structure. 

However, it is essential to consider the legality and restrictions of building your new shed. This can depend on your location, and it can be overwhelming with the wealth of information available. 

In this guide, I answer the question, “What size shed can I build without a permit?” I take a detailed look at the regulations, restrictions, consequences, and costs of obtaining a shed permit so you won’t get caught out!

What Size Shed Requires A Permit?

An Infograph on shed sizes and its dimensions

You will usually need a building permit if your storage shed meets the following criteria:

  • It is larger than 8×10 or 100 square feet (depending on the location)
  • It is the second shed on your property
  • You want to have electrical, plumbing or mechanical
  • You intend to use it as a living or sleeping space
  • You want to use it to run business activities 
  • You live in an environmentally sensitive or hazardous area 

You may be subject to additional city planning or Homeowners Association (HOA) restrictions. Therefore, I always recommend contacting these bodies directly if you have any doubts. 

What Happens If You Don’t Get A Shed Permit?

There may be consequences if you don’t get a shed permit and your structure meets any of the above criteria. 

You May Get A Fine

Hammer and gavel on a greyish-white background.

The most concerning consequence of not getting a shed permit is that you might get an expensive fine from the city. If someone notices that something is amiss with your shed, they may send an inspector to investigate. 

The fine amount always depends on your location. However, for example, these are some different penalties for not getting a shed permit:

  • You may need to pay $1,500 or spend 15 days in jail in Buffalo, New York. These penalties can increase if you fail to get a permit after paying the fine or serving time. 
  • In Portland, Maine, the government could charge you from $500 to $2,500 per day without a building permit. 
  • In Bedford, New Hampshire, you have to pay $275 per day that your shed exists without a permit. 
  • In the state of California, it could cost you up to $5,000 for building without a permit. 

Remember that these fees usually do not include associated legal fees. If you have to go to court or want to dispute the fine, you can expect it to cost significantly more. 

Some of these penalties are very expensive and may include jail time, so it’s always worth paying for a permit and avoiding the consequences. They may be more lenient if you did not commit the crime on purpose, but you should not rely on this. 

You May Be Subject To A Lien

A 'Claim of Lien Form' with a pen
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If the city finds out that you have a shed without a permit, they may send you a letter with your fine or other consequences. However, if you don’t get the letter or throw it away, they can take further steps

They may put a lien on your house. This means that the city owns a small part of your property, depending on how much the lien is. You can pay it off and regain full ownership, but there could be negative consequences if you don’t pay it. 

Not paying a lien means that the municipal government could take your property and force you to sell it to pay off the amount you owe them. This doesn’t happen very often, but it can be a possible consequence if you don’t pay it back. 

You May Face Homeowners Association Penalties

A Homeowners Association (HOA) enforces rules within a neighborhood and you may face penalty from HOA if you build a shed without a permit.

A Homeowners Association (HOA) is an independent organization that enforces rules within a neighborhood. For example, it may dictate that houses need to be a particular height and distance from each other to maintain a uniform look. 

If you build a shed that doesn’t meet your HOA’s regulations, it may penalize you. The exact amount can depend on your local HOA, but you could expect it to be at least $25. If you are part of an HOA, I recommend checking directly with your local representative. 

Your Neighbors May Complain

An man raising a closed fist in anger.

If you build a large and tall shed, it could obstruct the view of your neighbors. Especially if you live in a densely populated residential area, it is essential to consider how your decisions influence the people that live around you. 

Your neighbors may not be able to do anything legally, but it could create an uncomfortable atmosphere in your neighborhood. By taking the time to get a permit and construct your shed correctly, you can avoid this unpleasantness. 

You May Have To Move Or Reconstruct Your Shed

A driverless forklift with a house, trees and grass in the background
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When you apply for a shed permit, the city will evaluate it to ensure that the structure will be safe. If you go ahead without these evaluations, you may construct a shed that is unstable or that will fall in on itself over time.

Besides posing a danger to your health and any belongings inside the shed, this can also be costly. You may need to reconstruct the shed, move it, or buy a new one altogether. 

Therefore, you might spend a lot more than if you paid for a shed permit and an inspection in the first place. 

How Much Does A Shed Permit Cost?

Shed permit costs can depend on your location and the size of your shed. However, generally speaking, you can expect to pay between $50 and $145

This is a comparatively small expense, especially considering how expensive the fines can be. Therefore, I believe it is always in your best interest to check if you need a building permit, even if you think you won’t. 

How To Apply For A Shed Permit

You can follow these steps to apply for a shed building permit successfully. 

Ready Your Paperwork

A floor plan upon a table  being held in place by a hand

You will usually need the following paperwork to apply for a shed permit:

  • A detailed lot plan:
    • Dimensions of your land and the shed
    • Easements 
    • Distances between structures and property lines
    • Drainage and sewerage positions
  • A construction plan:
    • Foundation plans
    • All proposed construction dimensions 
  • Diagrams of electric wiring and plumbing
  • The lot value, including construction and labor costs
  • A floor plan
  • An elevation plan
  • A cross-section of your walls and beams 
  • A description and the anticipated value of the shed 

Contact Your Local City Zoning & Planning Department

A concrete portion of a building facade with City Hall sign

You may need to call your city hall or use their online webpage. Most cities have online portals that allow you to apply and pay in the same place. 

You will likely need to fill out a detailed application form and provide your other documentation. Once you pay the fee, you may be able to schedule an appointment for an inspector to view your property. 

Help With The Inspection

A female engineer working with her laptop upon a makeshift table

You can help the inspection go more smoothly on the day by assisting the inspector. Have all your paperwork ready and be on hand in case they have any questions. 

You may also want to send your pets and kids away for a few hours so the inspector can conduct their business without interruptions. The fewer distractions and difficulty, the faster the inspector can finish their job and hopefully grant you a shed permit!

Wait For The Outcome

Building permit sign in a residential home construction site.

You may need to check your city’s online portal or call them to find out the outcome of your permit application. If all goes well, you will be allowed to build your new shed!

Can I Get A Shed Permit After Building It?

Maybe you had no idea that you needed to apply for a shed permit before you built it. Or perhaps you intended to do it and simply forgot. If this is the case – don’t panic! In most cases, you can apply for a retroactive shed permit

You can contact your local city or Building Department, and they will send someone out to evaluate the shed. The inspector will want to see all necessary paperwork and will inspect the shed for any structural concerns. 

If everything is compliant, you should be able to submit all your paperwork and the results of the inspection to the city. Then, you can pay for the permit, and your shed will be legal. 


What Are The Regulations For Building A Shed?

There are various regulations for building a shed, including its height, inclusion of platforms, the occupied volume of the structure, yard coverage, and proximity to your house. The exact details of these regulations may depend on your council, city, or Homeowners Association.

Can I Build A Shed Against My Fence?

You generally cannot build a shed against your fence. If the fences are your property lines, you may have to build the structure 10 feet (3 meters) from the back fence and 15 feet (4.5 meters) from the side fences. However, this also depends on your city restrictions.

How Do You Get Around Building Codes?

You may be able to get around building codes by making your shed less visible. If you build down the back of your yard and obstruct the view with trees, it is unlikely that inspectors will notice problems from the road. However, this won’t work if inspectors have probable cause

A Complete Guide To Shed Permit Regulations

In summary, this article answers the question, “What size shed can I build without a permit?” In most places, you can get away with a shed that is less than 100 square feet. However, the inclusion of electricity, plumbing, the placement, and its purpose could need a permit.

It is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to shed permits. A small fee and reaching out to your local city hall could save you hefty fines down the road. 

Do you have any questions? Please ask me in the comments and share the article if you found it helpful!

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About The Author

Nadya Jones

Nadya is a writer, entrepreneur, and designer based in Raleigh. She writes in her blog, the one you are visiting right now, where she shares her love for landscaping, gardening, and outdoor design. Her husband Brett provides her with a lot of inspiration and behind-the-scenes content. Together, they work on creating beautiful outdoor spaces that serve as an extension of their home and inspire others to do the same. If you are interested in landscaping, gardening, or outdoor design, be sure to check out the blog! Also, follow Nadya on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Flickr!

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