Does a Greenhouse Need a Permit

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Owning a greenhouse can be such a rewarding experience. Planting seeds early means harvesting early and, in the case of a good greenhouse, harvesting more. But when building a greenhouse, you should be careful to make sure what you’re doing is completely legal. In some places, you may need a permit to build.

So, does a greenhouse need a permit? Many places require permits to build things like greenhouses for many reasons. It may be to preserve a certain aesthetic appeal to the area. It may be to maintain structural quality in the area. Getting in touch with your local building department to find out building & zoning laws will tell you if your greenhouse needs a permit.

Either way, you’re going to have to consider a few different authorities and a number of laws before starting off your greenhouse project in some places. In this article, we’ll talk about who might need a permit to build a greenhouse, and how you might go about getting one.

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Who Needs a Permit?

Whether you need a permit to build a greenhouse will differ depending on where you are and which authorities you’re zoned under. It’s impossible to tell any one specific reader, or all readers, whether or not they need a permit to get started building.

That being said, we can give you a few rules of thumb. If you’re living in one of these two areas, you might just find your answer here-

Urban Areas

Most of the time, people living in urban areas are going to need a permit to build a greenhouse. Getting a permit to build can be a lengthy process, and many times it stops potential DIY home-hackers from following their greenhouse dreams. Here’s how you do it:

Usually, you’ll have to appeal to a county organization to get a permit to build a greenhouse. To do this, you’ll have to find your local building department. After this, simply contact them and inquire about getting a building permit.

Urban areas are highly regulated and heavily zoned, meaning that individuals looking to build structures have to live up to some pretty strict regulations. These regulations may have to do with your structure’s:

  • Building quality/integrity.
  • Aesthetic appeal.
  • Building materials.
  • Environmental effects.
  • Height and width.

All of this is to ensure that areas maintain a specific aesthetic appeal, integrity, and level of safety. These regulations are often hard to work around, but if you know them before you start your project, you likely won’t have much trouble. Call your local building department to find out about them.

Suburban Areas

Suburban areas are a little less likely to experience regulations by county entities, although builders living in suburban areas should still call a building department to inquire. Instead, suburban homeowners often run up against their local HOA regulations or neighborhood requirements.

Many neighborhoods, just like the urban areas we mentioned, like to keep a tight aesthetic. They want houses to match, they want lawns mowed, and they want hedges trimmed. You may have entered into a contract stating that you would do all of this when you moved into your home.

Just like there might be regulations on how high your grass can be and how close to the street you can build a fence, your neighborhood may have regulations regarding whether or not you can build a greenhouse.

How a greenhouse might affect the aesthetics of your neighborhood, we’re not sure. Neighborhood regulations can be particular, pedantic, and downright pesky. You should check with whatever contracts you may have signed when you moved into your neighborhood to find out if there’s anything extra you need to do before starting the building process.

Things might get a little confusing, and the process may be quite lengthy and aggravating, but, in the end, if you stick it out, you’ll probably be able to find a way to get your project done.

Rural Areas

Rural areas are places like farmland, forested land, and otherwise underdeveloped areas. Usually, they’re sparsely populated and used for things like hunting and farming. People living in rural areas also have the greatest chance of being able to get right to building without needing any kind of permit.

Rural areas have so few regulations regarding building because the demands of agriculture mean that landowners often have to establish new infrastructure to continue with their business. Production would grow much more slowly if every time a farmer wanted to build a barn or a chicken coop he had to apply for a permit and wait for a response from the county. Instead, lots of rural areas take a laissez-faire (hands-free) approach to infrastructure on privately owned land. If you need an agriculture or accessory building, you can probably build it.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put in your research, though. You should still check in with local building officials and see whether or not your area requires building permits. You still, for example, might have to meet certain environmental requirements. We do not recommend building without knowing local regulations.

For really any project, we recommend laying out plans and having an idea of where you’re going to go beforehand. This way, if you have to submit plans to a local building authority, you won’t be blindsided. You’ll just be that much closer to being able to do your work.

What Factors Should I Consider When Planning a Greenhouse?

To meet the regulations in your area, you should probably consider a few factors when you’re still in your planning stage. This is mostly to make sure you don’t have any trouble with building authorities, but also to make sure you’ve got an idea of where you’re going and how you’re going to get there.

First, you might consider the height and width of your greenhouse. Knowing how tall your greenhouse is going to be and how wide it is can help you with a number of things. For one, certain plants need a certain amount of space. Knowing how much space you have going in can help you determine what you can grow.

Knowing the dimensions of your greenhouse will also help you to determine exactly how much material you’re going to be needing to get your greenhouse operational. Trust us, you don’t want to experience having to constantly run back and forth between home and the store.

Not. Fun.

You might also consider the environmental impact of your structure. This is an ethical, legal, and personal concern for some landowners.

For one, you might find yourself bumping up against local regulations if your structure doesn’t conform to them. These regulations are meant to keep the local ecosystem intact and prevent anyone from doing too much damage to the local environment.

As for the ethical standpoint- everyone has to live on the land, so why not take care of it? We realize that a greenhouse isn’t likely to hurt anyone that bad, but you’d still be smart to ask what you might need to do before growing or building.

Lastly, environmental concerns are personal as well as ethical. If you have a pond or a stream on your property, for example, you might have to worry about algal bloom.

If you’re using lots of fertilizer in your greenhouse, and your greenhouse is leeching into your property’s water, you may experience algal bloom. Algal bloom is when algae completely overrun a pond or other water source.

Algal bloom happens in the presence of an overabundance of nutrients- think fertilizer. To prevent this from happening, you’re going to want to make sure you’re not leaching fertilizer into your pond. This could completely destroy its ecosystem and all the hard work you might have put into it.

Thus, it’s obvious why you should watch your environmental impact.

How Much Might It Cost to Start Building a Greenhouse

Greenhouses can be expensive. Or- they can be cheap as dirt. It all depends on what kind of greenhouse you build and whether you’re doing it from scratch or using a kit. Here are a couple of estimates on how much it might cost you to build a greenhouse:

If you’re building an especially small greenhouse with cheap materials- flimsy wood, etc., you might be able to get the project done for as low as $200. This is cheap, considering how big of a return you get in what you can grow.

Think also about how much you can skimp on materials. Since you’ll be the only one eating what you grow, think about using discarded wood and pallet wood, which you can easily find lying around at construction sites and loading docks.

Doing all of this might reduce the costs to just the cost of plastic. Pretty sweet, right?

If you’re going all out, though- and props to you for keeping standards- you might see costs ranging in the low thousands. This can, of course, be mitigated by using recycled materials where you can. But, overall, greenhouses can get expensive.

All in All

All in all, it’s impossible to tell any one reader whether they need a permit. To find this out, you’ll have to check with your local building authorities.

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