Enclosing Your Patio: Is It Feasible?
By Chris Parker
May 2, 2019
Sometimes, the outdoor patio you have doesn’t get as much attention as you thought it would, and you find yourself wishing, “If only that patio was enclosed, I could…” Maybe you’re just not a patio person, or you value more livable space inside your home. Although it seems like a simple add-on, enclosing your patio can be complicated. So, while you daydream about what an enclosed patio can do for your home, let’s look at what you should keep in mind.
Things to consider about enclosing your patio.
Do you live in a single-family home? In a condo? In a townhouse?
The first thing to consider is the zoning for your property. Typically, if you live in a single-family home and your patio is already covered with a roof, chances are, you can enclose it. However, if it isn’t currently covered, then an architect may need to verify if enclosing it would violate required setbacks or lot coverage. These setbacks will vary per zone and jurisdiction.
But what if you live in a condo or townhouse? Well, if you do, then things are not so clear-cut. If you are in a condo, in addition to a single-family residence’s concerns, you should consider the following.
- The condo/townhouse owner covenant. Nearly all condos, and some townhouses, have “architectural consistency” clauses that either restrict you from making any changes to the exterior appearance of the building or limit the aesthetic implications. You should ask your condo association for the bylaws if you don’t already have these on record. If you live in a townhouse, your property title should include your covenants.
- What is above you or below you? When enclosing your patio, the type of materials you use to enclose your patio play a part in its structural impact. If you are on the ground floor and earth is below you, it’s likely the existing foundation can support the additional weight and using heavier flooring materials, such as tile. However, if you are on an upper floor, over an underground parking structure, or have a cantilevered deck, the patio may not be designed to support the additional weight of walls, windows, and flooring. It is important to ask a structural engineer what would need to be done to reinforce the floor without impacting your neighbors.
- Floor Area Ratio. Floor Area Ratio (FAR) is the ratio between the total floor area in a building and the area of the property in which it sits. Jurisdictions use FAR to control the density of a neighborhood. Many townhomes and condos are constructed with this in mind, so it’s good to check whether there is any remaining floor area available for you to enclose your patio without exceeding the FAR.
Do I need a construction permit?
- Single-Family Home: If you are in single-family home, submitting plans “over-the-counter” and getting a same-day construction permit is possible, as long as there are no other site-related restrictions that could complicate things, such as building height, building setback, an Environmentally Critical Area (ECA), or lot coverage. If you are unsure about these things, the city permit help desk can help answer some of these questions, or an architect can verify this for you.
- Condo/Townhouse: If you live in a condo, you will have to go through a full plan review. The plan review can take months and would require more extensive drawings and time for an architect to process.
If you decide to enclose your patio, it is highly recommended to provide insulation and high-efficiency windows to make your home cozy and dry year-round. When adding new walls or a roof to enclose your patio, if is also very important to include waterproofing to protect your home from mold, cold drafts, etc. The detailing is key, and an architect or contractor can help you protect your investment.
Enclosing your patio isn’t always clear-cut, but with proper planning, it could be well worth your effort to finally realize your dream of having that new hobby room, office, reading room or a larger living room.