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Patio Covers May Not Need Permits

We'd like to cover our patio. Do we need a building permit for this?

In most cases, in the City of San Diego, you no longer need a permit for a patio cover. However, in certain areas, such as the Coastal Zone, you still need a permit. To make sure, call (619) 446-5000 before you build. If you live outside of the City of San Diego, check with your local city or county.

However, just because you don't need a permit doesn't mean you can build it every which way. Why? Because most patio covers don't stand alone they use your home for support. Improper installation can cause structural problems in your house. A poorly built patio cover can collapse in the wind, pull stucco from you home or overstress the walls and supports if it is not connected properly.

If it isn't attached to your house or any other structure, a permit isn't needed it is at least six feet away from another structure, and it has less than 300 square feet of roof area (including eaves and overhangs).

I have a small back yard and if I build a cover over my patio, it will almost touch the property line. How close can I build my patio cover to the property line?

In most cases, no structure can be built closer than four feet from the property line -- that includes patio covers, sheds and other accessory structures. In some cases, a variance can be obtained but you'll need approval from your neighbors. For more information in the City of San Diego, call (619) 446-5000.

One note: the concrete slab of the patio can, in most cases, go right to the property line. One solution for our friend with the small back yard is to only cover part of the patio.

Now that I have my nice new patio, I'd like to add one of those pass-through windows to the kitchen. Do I need a permit for this?

Are you moving or changing the shape of the window? If so, yes, you do need a permit. Any time a window is enlarged or any type of structural work is done, a permit is required. The inspector will check to see that the structural integrity of the window and wall are maintained after the change.

I'd like to expand my patio slab. Do I need a permit for this, too?

No, concrete "on grade" -- poured directly on the ground -- does not need a permit or inspections in the City of San Diego. However, if you're pouring concrete around the footings (base) of the patio cover, you may want to wait until after the cover has been framed. If it needs a permit and inspection, footings are items the inspector will check.

What about inspections?

If a permit is needed, so is an inspection. The job is not complete for legal purposes until it receives an approved final inspection.

The inspector will review the ledger (connection to house), and post footings usually in one visit. A final inspection is also made to ensure the job was completed properly.

Can I convert my patio to a room?

Yes, a patio can be converted to a room, but not without a permit and major work. If you use plastic windows and screening to enclose your patio, it is not considered a permanent room.

However if glass windows and walls are used to enclose the entire patio cover, it legally becomes a room. Once it is converted to a room, it will need to comply with current codes. Typical modifications include electrical outlets installed on each wall, and insulation placed in the ceiling and walls.

I saw a kit for a gazebo at the home improvement store. Does this need a permit?

Structures such as gazebos, play houses and tool sheds, less than 120 square feet of roof area (including overhang), and more than six feet away from another structure, don't need a permit. This includes most gazebos. However, many homeowners install electrical outlets, lighting or other items, work which always needs a permit. Give us a call before you build at (619) 446-5000 to find out if you need a permit.

In addition, if the floor of the gazebo is a deck more than 30 inches high at any point, a permit is needed.