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Wood Deck Construction Guide

2009 Virginia Residential Code (VRC)

Permit Required

A building permit is required for construction of all residential wood decks.
Permits may be obtained at one of The Permit Centers:


Permit Application

The Permit Application shall include the following:

  • A Building Permit application completely filled out and signed. If the owner of the property is constructing the deck, the owner must also sign the Property Owner Affidavit.
    Building Permit Application
  • Two copies of a plot plan showing the size and location of the deck, designating set back dimensions from all lot lines and buildings on the same lot, wetlands, flood plains, and Chesapeake Bay Preservation Areas.
    Sample Plot Plan
  • Two complete sets of plans for the deck shall be provided. The plans should include two copies of each of the following:
      • A plan view of the deck, exterior house wall, and stairs from the deck showing the overall deck dimensions noted. Please include the location of all existing windows and doors in the vicinity of the deck. Glazing in locations specified as “hazardous locations” in Section R308.4 will be required to be changed to safety glazing. View the “2009 VRC Safety Glazing Requirements.”
      • Two copies of a framing and foundation layout plan, showing:
          • The locations and sizes of footings and deck posts, including the center to center dimensions between deck posts;
          • The location(s) of girders, specifying the nominal size and number of plies to be used to construct the girder (e.g., (2) 2×10 or (2) 2×8) and dimensions of the span between girders, or if the deck is to be attached to the house, between the girder and the house;
          • The nominal size, orientation and spacing of deck joists (e.g., 2×8 @ 16” o.c. or 2×10 @24” o.c., with a double-headed arrow indicating the orientation).
      • A section view of the deck, which includes the footing sizes, wood structural materials used, guardrail dimensions, the height above finished grade, and method of attachment to the structure including flashing details.
        Click below for sample plans:
        Cantilever Deck Plan
        Flush Deck Plan
        Freestanding Deck Plan

Note that decks are required to be designed for a 40 pound per square foot live load and a 10 pound per square foot dead load. Please also note that stair stringers are required to be attached to wood decks as noted in “Residential Wood Deck Stair Stringer Attachment Details.”
Residential Wood Deck Stair Stringer Attachment Details.

The American Wood Council in their “Prescriptive Residential Wood Deck Construction Guide” provides information that may assist in preparing the plans, and in building the deck. It includes maximum span information for joists and girders; details for connection of the deck to the house; connections of the girder to posts; and guardrail and handrail details, as well as many other recommended details. The “Prescriptive Residential Wood Deck Construction Guide” can be downloaded at: When decks are to be attached to the house, the house band board / rim joist and sill plate to which the deck is to be attached shall be pressure-treated. Alternately, the deck shall be built freestanding with appropriate lateral bracing to provide stability. Attached decks shall be flashed with an approved material, such as 20-mil vinyl flashing. Aluminum flashing is not allowed, due to deterioration from contact with the treated wood.


Permit Fees

Permit fees for decks are calculated based on the estimated cost of the deck.  Permit Fee Calculator


Deck Footings

Soils Investigation Report:
Some soils have the capability of significant volume change when the moisture content of the soil changes, such as in a drought condition. This volume change, or “shrink/swell“ activity may cause damage to residences and their attached structures. Henrico County, as part of its Geographical Information System, has mapped the locations of soils types throughout the county that are identified as having moderate or high shrink/swell potential. When permit applications are submitted for locations within these designated areas, a soils investigation report will be required, with some exceptions, such as those noted below. A soils investigation report is the report of an investigation performed by a geotechnical engineering service that identifies the characteristics of the soil to expand and/or contract with changes in its moisture content, and specifies the bearing capacity of the soil and an appropriate footing size and depth. Such geotechnical services are available from private engineering firms. Associated costs are the responsibility of the applicant.

A Soils Investigation Report is required:

  • If a deck is to be built by attachment to the house band / sill plate of a residence located in a moderate or high shrink/swell potential area.
  • If a deck larger than 400 square feet is to be built “freestanding”, with no attachment to the house where the residence is located in a moderate or high shrink/swell potential area. Note that any future conversion to a use other than a deck will require that a soils investigation report be submitted and the footing / foundation to be re-constructed in accordance with the report.

A Soils Investigation Report is not required

  • If a deck less than 400 square feet is to be built “freestanding”, with no attachment to the house where the residence is also located in a moderate or high shrink/swell potential area
  • For a deck to be built in an area not designated as having moderate or high shrink/swell potential soils.

A soils investigation report previously obtained for construction at the same lot is acceptable for submittal with the deck permit application.

To determine whether a soils report will be required at a specific location, please contact a staff member of The Permit Center at (804) 501-7280, or e-mail the Permit Center at [email protected]. Please have the complete address of the property available.

Footing Design:
Size: Footings shall be designed to support the required live and dead loads using the soil bearing capacity determined by the soils investigation report, or as noted for the soils type in Table R401.4.1 of the VRC, as follows:

For soils that are sand or sand mixtures, the presumptive load bearing value of 2000 pounds per square foot is appropriate.

For clay or clay mixture soils, the presumptive load bearing value of 1500 pounds per square foot is appropriate.

The footings shall be solid concrete of appropriate size for the tributary design load, or a solid 12″x12″x8″ masonry block spaced so as to limit the total tributary design load on the block to either 1500 or 2000 pounds as noted above.

Depth: For frost protection, the minimum footing depth in Henrico County is 18 inches. However, VRC section R403. 1.4. 1, Exception 3 allows decks that are not supported by a dwelling, i.e. ”freestanding” decks, to be constructed with a minimum footing depth of 12 inches, assuming that the soil at this level possesses the minimum soil bearing capacity noted previously.

Note: Before you begin excavation of any footings, please contact Miss Utility to verify locations of all utility lines in the area of construction by dialing 811 or 1- 800-552-7001. It’s the LAW, and may save you a lot of trouble and/or danger.



Requesting Inspections:
Inspections may be requested thru our Automated Permit System at (804) 501-7770 or online. If an inspection is requested before 7:00 am, it will usually be performed the same business day. Inspections requested after 7:00 am will usually be performed the next business day. The approved Permit Plan Set is required to be on the site and available to the Building Inspector for all inspections.

Footing Inspection:
Decks require a footing inspection after all excavations are completed, and before the footings, whether concrete or block, are installed. The inspection code for a Deck Footing Inspection is 095.

Framing Inspection:
If the deck floor framing is within 12″ of grade, a framing inspection should be requested before the deck boards are installed. This enables the Building Inspector to verify framing, appropriate connections and flashing. The inspection code for a framing inspection is 130.

Final Inspection:
A final inspection is required when the deck is complete, with all handrails and guardrails installed, and before use. Note that any glazing that is required to be safety-glazed, as noted previously, is required to be installed for the Final Inspection. The inspection code for a final inspection is 190.

Contact Us

Building Inspections

Physical Address
Department of Building Construction and Inspections
4301 East Parham Road
Henrico, VA 23228

(804) 501-4360
Automated Permit System
(804) 501-7770

Mailing Address
Department of Building Construction and Inspections
P. O. Box 90775
Henrico, VA 23273-0775

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