Tent Requirements / Safety Information

9th Edition Code Requirements



Tents (with sides) that are 400 square feet or less and Tent Canopy’s (without sides) that are 700 square feet or less DO NOT require a building permit, BUT, they need to be fire resistance.

Tents that are more than 400 square feet and Canopy’s that are more than 700 square feet DO require a permit filed through the Building Department. The applications are available at the Building Department or use the application that follows.  A certificate of fire resistance is required and a fee is required. The fee is determined at the time of submittal.

Code Requirements

With the spring, summer and fall seasons and the history of New England weather has demonstrated that weather patterns change almost instantaneously in this region. With special events, graduations and wedding season and fall festivals, many people will erect tents to help shield guests from certain weather and hot sun. This notice is intended to remind residents of the need for permits for certain types of tents.

In accordance with the Ninth Edition of the Building Code, Section 3103.1 of the 2015 International Building Code IBC establishes criterion for temporary structures, directing the reader to the International Fire Code (IFC) for specific requirements pertaining to the use of temporary tents.

The IFC defines a TENT as a structure, enclosure or shelter, with or without sidewalls or drops, constructed of fabric or pliable material supported by any manner except by air or the contents that is protects.

IFC Section 2403.2 establishes that tents and membrane structures having an area in excess of 400 square feet (37 m2) shall not be erected, operated or maintained for any purpose without first obtaining a permit and approval. The section continues to allow certain exceptions to this requirement as follows:


1. Tents used exclusively for recreational camping purposes

2. Tents open on all sides which comply with all of the following:

         2.1 Individual tents having a maximum size of 700 square feet (65 m2)

        2.2 The aggregate area of multiple tents placed side by side without a fire break clearance of 12 feet (3658 mm), not exceeding 700 square feet       (65 m2) total.

       2.3 A minimum clearance of 12 feet (3658 mm) to all structures and other tents.

Previous editions of the code required permits and approvals for most tent structures measuring 120 square feet or greater and did not afford many exceptions. Current code requirements are a bit more permissive. The reason, in part, for less restrictive requirements in this version of the code is in recognition of the difficulties that are associated with gaining approvals for tents structures on short notice.

Although permit requirements are somewhat less restrictive, the Department of Public Safety cautions all tent users to take tent safety seriously; making sure that guests and patrons have adequate access to, from and within the tent by means appropriately sized, clear aisle ways and that the use of incendiary products are limited in accordance with local fire prevention restrictions.