Will a deck support a home addition?

Answered by Jeffrey Anderson ~ October 30, 2012 ~ No Comments

My landlord wants to extend our kitchen, but he wants to build it on top of the existing deck. With no other support. Is that safe? Would it be up to code?

Jeffrey Anderson

It's difficult to answer your question without seeing the deck framing, but I doubt very much that the structural supports will carry a kitchen. Most decks are constructed to carry the weight of people and possibly a small roof and even then they can sometimes become overloaded.

At least once a year I read about a deck collapsing due to too many people congregating on it during a party. Sometimes it's due to faulty framing, but it can also be caused by there simply being more weight placed on the structure than it was designed to handle.

However, all of this should be a moot point as I would certainly hope that your landlord intends to get a building permit for the kitchen addition. This type of remodeling project always requires a permit. And before issuing the permit, the building officials are going to want to see a drawing of the proposed addition. The drawing ought to show exactly how the structure will be supported -- all the way down to the sizes of the concrete footings or piers in the ground.

The drawing should be done by an architect or draftsperson and submitted to the building department so the structural details can be reviewed by an official there who should have an engineering or construction background. I won't say that unsafe building methods never get past these professionals, but it is very rare. If they approve a building plan and pass its inspections, they normally assume a little liability if it should happen to be found structurally unsound.

I would watch for your landlord or their contractor to post a building permit on the front of your home. Almost all jurisdictions require that the permit be displayed in clear sight when any construction is taking place. If you don't see the permit and your landlord gives you the run around as to its existence, one phone call to your local building department should remedy the situation. Local jurisdictions frown very severely on these types of remodeling projects taking place without proper approvals.

If your landlord gets a permit and you still have some questions as to whether the supports for the addition are adequate, ask to be present when the building inspector does their inspection. They are normally very helpful … after all, your tax dollars are helping to pay their salary.

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