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What is an Accessory Building?

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picture of garden gazebo

A garden gazebo is the perfect place to escape without having to leave your property.

Photo © Lisa Hallett Taylor
Definition: Accessory buildings are detached structures such as garages, sheds, playhouses, storage buildings and other similar residential structures. Legally, most accessory buildings are not permitted to be used as sleeping quarters or as living space. They also can't be used to store commercial vehicles.

Other facts about accessory buildings:

  • They must be limited to two plumbing fixtures.
  • Are usually open-air structures, such as gazebos and trellises
  • For zoning purposes, pools and spas are also considered accessory structures.
  • Must be detached from the residence by a minimum distance of six feet. (This varies according to city or county planning departments.)
  • Usually limited to one story.
  • Zoning laws dictate maximum heights; 12 feet is a common limit, except if the structure has a sloped, pitched, gable or hip roof.
  • In most municipalities, building permits are often required for all accessory buildings or structures greater than a certain square footage of floor area (or roof area for trellis type structures); for instance, 120 feet is a standard.
  • Electrical/plumbing permits are required.
Also Known As: Accessory structure, structure, outdoor structure, gazebo, trellis, arbor, pool, spa, playhouse.

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