Adding A Rear Deck To A Townhouse In NYC

by | Last updated Jul 23, 2023 | Houses, Renovations, Townhouses

Can you add a rear deck in the backyard of a townhouse in New York City?

You can add a rear deck to a townhouse in NYC as long as the proposed deck complies with all code and procedural requirements. You will need an architect to file with the Department of Buildings (DOB) and obtain approvals. If the townhouse is landmarked, your architect will also file with the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). 

I am Jorge Fontan, an architect in New York and owner of Fontan Architecture, a Manhattan based architecture firm. In this post we are going to review a few of the key points for adding a backyard deck in NYC. We will cover some basic requirements and protocols using a previous project of ours as an example.


Adding A Deck to A Townhouse in NYC

Below is a photo of a steel deck with concrete pavers we added while renovating a townhouse in Brooklyn. The exterior masonry wall was opened to accommodate the new door with an exposed steel lintel above the opening.

Brooklyn Townhouse Deck Addition

Brooklyn Townhouse Deck Addition


Hiring an Architect for Your New Deck

If you want to add a deck in New York City you will need to hire an architect. You will want to start with a brief consultation with an architect to get an idea of what it will take to complete the project. At my office, I always have a lot of questions for potential clients before I take on a project. This preliminary call may be enough to help the architect understand the scope of work and your goals, and for you to understand what you are taking on in the project.


Permits for Building a Deck in NYC

You must get permits to build a deck in New York City. You will need an architect to file with the NYC Department Of Buildings (DOB) before you can obtain a permit to build a deck. There is a high likelihood you will need a land survey as well. When the work is being performed, your team will perform “special inspections” as required by NYC DOB. At completion of the work the design team will sign off the job for closeout.


Landmarks Approval for a Rear Deck in NYC

If your building is Landmark Status you will also need to file with the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). If the deck is not visible from the street, this will be a much more straightforward process. If it is going to be visible, the level of complexity will increase.


NYC Yard Requirements for Decks

One very important document for deck regulations is the NYC DOB TPPN 4/03. This applies to the first floor or parlor floor of a townhouse “above a cellar or basement” (or below this point). Please see a few terms defined below and key points, but first I will paraphrase.

TPPN 4/03 Interpretation

New York City Zoning Regulations have yard requirements. You can build a deck within the required yard as long as it does not exceed 8 feet from the building face. The stairs do not count for the 8 foot allowance. If your deck is not within the required rear yard, then it can exceed the eight foot depth.


Additional Stipulations For Decks:

  • If the deck is built with combustible materials it must be at least 3 feet from a property line.
  • There can be no storage or usable space underneath.


An unenclosed, unroofed, relatively level paved or planted area adjoining a building; a raised embankment with the top leveled for walking or seating purposes.


An unenclosed, unroofed entrance with steps to a building located at or below the floor level of the first story above a cellar or basement.


An open-air passage connecting two buildings or building to a garage.

Decks, porticos, verandas, etc… :

Shall be viewed in the context of the above definitions.


Balconies in NYC

Balconies are located above the first floor. In certain instances balconies can encroach on a required yard.

R1, R2, R3, R4, & R5

In the above listed districts a balcony at the second level or higher can penetrate a required rear yard if it is at most 50% the width of the building face.

R6, R7, R8, R9, & R10

In the above listed districts a balcony at the third level or higher can penetrate a required rear yard if it is at most 50% the width of the building face.


Townhouse Steel Decks

At our office every deck we have designed on the rear of a townhouse in NYC has been made of steel. This is most likely what you will be doing if you are planning to build a deck.


Brooklyn Townhouse Rear Deck

Brooklyn Townhouse Rear Deck


Building a Backyard Deck in NYC

If you are planning to add a deck in your rear yard you will need to hire an architect and a contractor. I recommend you start with calling an architect to discuss your project. We also have another post if you are interested in reading about Adding a Roof Deck to a Townhouse in NYC.

If you would like to read more about working on townhouses, we have another post on Renovating a Townhouse in NYC that covers a broad range of topics.


Thank you for reading our blog post on Adding a Rear Deck to a Townhouse in NYC.

I hope this was helpful. If you would like to speak with an architect about a specific project you are planning, you can contact us at Fontan Architecture directly.


Contact Fontan Architecture


Jorge Fontan

Jorge Fontan

This post was written by Jorge Fontan AIA a Registered Architect and owner of New York City architecture firm Fontan Architecture. Jorge Fontan has earned 3 degrees in the study of architecture including two degrees from the City University of New York and a Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. Jorge has a background in construction and has been practicing architecture for 20 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.