Building Codes for a Patio

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Local building codes govern the construction and design of patio structures.

When building or remodeling a patio, ensure that your structure's specifications meet all the pertinent local codes. While precise requirements vary by state, county or even municipality, most ordinances regulate such features as patio enclosures, means of egress and structural soundness. Many states and local code enforcement bodies refer to the International Building Code (IBC). However, keep in mind that the IBC's guidelines do not apply universally; your area could use an old version of the IBC, enforce further addenda or use a different code, entirely.


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Patio Covers

The International Building code requires that all patio covers be detachable from dwellings. They must serve exclusively for recreational purposes, never used as carports, garages, storage rooms or habitable spaces. Patio covers may use insect screen, approved plastics or glass. Plastic material must be translucent or transparent and no more than 0.125 inches in width. Patio covers must be single-story and extend no more than 12 feet, vertically. They may feature enclosure walls, provided that open or glazed areas constitute at least 65 percent of the total area beneath a height of 6 feet, 8 inches from the floor.


Openings to the Outside

All buildings require sufficient openings to provide light, ventilation and an emergency exit route. These openings may open onto the patio provided that it meets certain conditions. The patio cannot be fully enclosed if it serves as a building's mandatory openings for emergency egress. If the patio serves as an emergency exit route, it must satisfy all the additional requirements of emergency egresses. Among its means of egress requirements, the International Building Code requires that exit doors measure at least 32 inches wide and that swinging doors measure no more than 48 inches wide. All exit doors must measure at least 80 inches in height.


Structural Requirements

The International Building Code requires that any patio cover sustain both dead loads and live loads up to set levels. In engineering terminology, dead loads refer to continuous, unchanging forces on a structure, such as the structure's own weight. Live loads refer to forces that can be expected to act upon the structure at some points during its regular operation. In the case of outdoor construction, common live loads include snow fall or high winds. The IBC expects patio covers to withstand vertical live loads of up to 10 pounds per square foot. Patio covers also must withstand wind and seismic forces to the same standards as other exterior structures.