Permits for Fence Installation: Do You Need One?

Preparation Key in Making the Job Run Smoothly

Even great fences profit from a shrub planting.
Don't think that you can get away with building a fence like this without a permit. David Beaulieu

Yes, you may need to get a permit for fence installation. If you do not want to run into problems once the job is underway, it is critical that you be all squared away with the powers that be. You can then focus on getting the actual building done properly, without fear that a building inspector will show up and throw cold water on your project. As with so many other undertakings in life, part of the key to success is getting the preparatory work done properly.

Permits for Fence Installation and Other Things to Take Care of Before Work Begins

Before rushing into fence installation, you need to do a little homework on building permits, possible restrictions on erecting a barrier at the proposed site of the installation, and whether or not hiring a surveyor is called for. You also have to find out if utility lines lie underground where you propose to dig.

Building codes and local zoning ordinances may restrict your fence installation, both in terms of height and design. Free spirits are rarely unequivocally happy about restrictions, but some of the restrictions in this case are sensible. For instance, fencing on a corner lot should not be so high as to obscure drivers' views at the intersection of the two roads your property abuts -- this would create a safety hazard. At the risk of breaking bad news to you, checking on these restrictions may require that dreaded jaunt down to city hall.

Here are some other matters to check on prior to fence installation:

  • In some locales (especially highly populated areas), you will need to obtain a building permit prior to the fence installation. How do you find out if you need one where you live? Ask your town's building inspector.
  • Have a surveyor determine precisely where your property boundary lies, unless you are already positive about the location in question. Alternatively, just make sure the fence lies well within the confines of your own property, rather than near the border.
  • You need to determine the location of underground gas, water and power lines prior to digging. Use the Dig Safe phone number to check. It is free, whereas if you damage a power line while making a fence hole, repairing that damage most certainly will not be free.

One construction expert observes that the "type of materials, height, and location of the fence" are all factors used to determine whether or not you will need a permit for fence installation. A fee may be required at the time that you submit your application. Even if your application is accepted, you are not out of the woods. Some municipalities will give you a list of inspections that must take place during installation. Successfully passing these inspections sets you up for one, last inspection that puts the government's seal of approval on your structure.