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Building Development Division

Residential Deck


A building permit is required for construction/alteration or any new residential deck, any structural alterations to an existing residential deck, or guardrail replacement on an existing deck. This guide provides a step by step process to acquire zoning approval required to obtain building permit application, building plan review, process fee calculations, and inspection procedures for Decks. Steps 1-3 may be completed at the Development Services Building, 5 County Complex Court, Prince William, VA, 22192. Step 5 may be completed by telephone or online.

STEP 1: Zoning Approval

The Zoning Division counter is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

  • You must have your plans/plats approved by the Zoning Division before applying for a Building Permit. 
  • No approvals are issued after 4 p.m.
  • See Zoning Approval: Decks for more information.
  • Contact the Zoning Division at 703-792-6830 or [email protected] for further information.

STEP 2: Building Plan Approval and Requirements

The Building Plan Intake Counter is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. To have your simple residential deck plan reviewed the same day by a Residential Plan Reviewer, you must arrive by 10:30 a.m.

  • Provide two sets of Zoning Approval (from step 1) with the location of the deck highlighted to the Building Plan Intake Counter.
  • Provide two sets of plans on 11" x 17" (minimum) paper drawn to a scale of ¼" = 1’ with a framing plan (view from above), showing all Joists sizes and spacing, beam sizes and spans, elevations (front and side views), cross sections, all typical connection details, and stair and guardrail details.
  • No plans are required when you choose to use our Typical Residential Deck Design. (You may not use the Typical Residential Deck Design for customized decks.)
  • Decking composed of foreign lumber, plastic, or manufactured materials may be substituted only when the product has an approved evaluation report from ICC-ES or from an accredited testing laboratory.
  • Complete the Building Permit Application Form and the Electrical Permit Application Form (if required for outside lights.)
  • Obtain fee pricing.
  • Contact Building Plan Intake at 703-792-4040 or [email protected] for further information.

All residential decks that are not reviewed the same day by a residential plan reviewer are required to be submitted via Prince William County’s ePortal system. Consult the Customer Electronic Plan Review (ePlans) Guide for information on how to prepare and submit documents for electronic plan review and the electronic plan review guide for building ePlan submission guidelines.

STEP 3: Building Permit Issuance

The Building Permitting Services Counters are open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

  • A Building Permit is not required if all portions of the top of the deck’s flooring is within 16.5 inches from the finished grade unless it carries extra load such as a hot tub. All decks, however, require a Zoning Approval (see Step 1 above).
  • Obtain building permit after your plans are approved, or revise your plans and resubmit if they are rejected.
  • If the homeowner is the permit applicant and will be responsible for the work, the homeowner must complete the Statement of Exemption.
  • If the contractor is the permit applicant and will be responsible for the work, the contractor must provide a copy of his or her Virginia State Contractor License and Prince William County Business License.
  • See further information on Hiring a Contractor.
  • Pay for permits based on the approved Building Development Fee Schedule.
  • Contact Building Permitting Services at 703-792-6924 or [email protected] for further information.

STEP 4: Public Utility Requirements

  • Call Miss Utility at 811 or 1-800-552-7001 before excavating, to ensure that the construction does not interfere with underground utility lines. “Miss Utility” is a free service to anyone who is planning to excavate. Utility companies support “Miss Utility” to prevent damage to their buried lines. Various companies will mark the path of underground utilities on the property. If you fail to contact Miss Utility and damage occurs, you will be liable for all repair costs.

STEP 5: Inspection Steps and Procedures

  • Post your permit in a location that can be seen by the building inspector from the road in front of the house.
  • To schedule inspections, go online to www.pwcgov.org/ePortal or call the Automated Phone System at 1-866-457-5280.
  • You must schedule a 102 pier/deck footing inspection of the hole for the footing before the footing is poured.
  • If footing hole is approved, start construction of the deck. If not approved, correct the deficiencies and call for another inspection.
  • Any deck 42” or less from grade to the bottom of the lowest floor framing member requires a concealment inspection before decking, stair treads or trim that conceals structural elements or connections is installed. See PWC Policy 4.2.8 Residential Floor Framing Inspections which also applies to decks.
  • Do not conceal structural elements, connections or attachments with trim or coverings prior to a 114 or 198 concealment approval or a 151 or 199 final approval. Trim and coverings are not required to be installed to schedule a final inspection.
  • Schedule a 151 or 199 final inspections when ready.
  • See Policy 4.1.1 Deck Inspection Access for information on final inspections for decks without stairs.